When the news broke last week that U.S. District Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow’s husband and mother were murdered in her Chicago home, public speculation immediately turned to Matthew Hale and his cult of white supremacist followers.
After all, the 33-year-old leader of the former World Church of the Creator sits isolated in a downtown federal jail cell, awaiting sentencing next month for trying to have Lefkow killed for ruling against him in a copyright case. And his followers had filled Web sites with hateful messages that included Lefkow’s address.
Instead, Bart A. Ross, a disturbed 57-year-old Polish immigrant whose long-standing civil lawsuit Lefkow recently dismissed, claimed he murdered Michael Lefkow, 64, and Donna Humphrey, 89. Ross killed himself during a traffic stop Wednesday night in West Allis, Wis. Chicago police said they were trying to match crime scene evidence with evidence recovered in Ross’ van.
The strange turn left one of Hale’s friends calling for the news media and police to apologize to Hale. “How dare the Chicago media retry and convict my friend again. He was innocent the first time,” said Kathleen Robertazzo, a Hoffman Estates woman who says she’s Hale’s “best friend.”
Talk radio also immediately buzzed with the suggestion that Hale and his group might be owed an apology.
But Russell Hale said he doesn’t think his son is owed one. “Everyone is just doing what they’re paid to do,” said the elder Hale, a retired East Peoria police officer.
No apology was forthcoming from authorities, who declined to talk about Hale Thursday. One Chicago newspaper columnist wrote on his Web log that it’s tough to apologize to Hale, given how much hate he and his followers have spewed.
Speculation about Hale reached a fever pitch Wednesday, when Hale’s former attorney revealed that Hale’s mother once asked him to pass along a coded message to one of Hale’s followers. The attorney refused.
Earlier this week, federal authorities refused to allow Hale’s parents to visit or call their son, who had been moved into an isolated cell. Last week, Hale issued a statement through his mother denying involvement by himself or his followers and condemning the murders.
It was unclear Thursday whether Ross’ letter and suicide will change Hale’s status at the Metropolitan Correction Center or allow him to resume calling his parents for 15 minutes once a week.
• Daily Herald staff writers Sara Burnett and Kara Spak contributed to this report.