A day after Bart Ross shot himself during a traffic stop outside Milwaukee, police said DNA tests had definitively tied him to the murders of U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow's husband and mother.
Ross, an out-of-work electrician from Chicago with a long history of ranting against judges and lawyers, is believed to have shot Lefkow's relatives in a failed attempt to murder her, police said.
cancer of the jaw and bitter over legal defeats, may have been hunting down doctors and other judges he had dealt with.
"Results from DNA analysis by the state crime lab and the totality of the information gathered during this investigation now lead us to conclude that Ross alone is responsible for these homicides," Chicago Police Supt. Philip Cline said Thursday night.
The DNA that was found on a cigarette butt in the sink of Lefkow's home was matched late Thursday to samples taken from Ross' body, after the 57-year-old committed suicide in his van on a residential street in West Allis, Wis.
He had been living in the van since being evicted from his home two weeks before the killings.
The events that unfolded Wednesday night in the Milwaukee suburb abruptly changed the course of an investigation that had been mostly focused on white supremacist groups.
Ross is not believed to have belonged to any hate groups, or have any connection to jailed white supremacist Matthew Hale, who is in jail awaiting sentencing for soliciting Judge Lefkow's murder.
Ross, too, had courtroom conflict with Lefkow. Lawyers said he had appeared in state and federal courts in Chicago for more than a decade trying to get a medical malpractice case heard.
Usually appearing without a lawyer, he ranted about judges acting like "Nazis" and accused them of treason for keeping his case from proceeding.
Police said they found a suicide note in Ross' van in which he confessed to the killings and included a "hit list" of others he was targeting. A note similar to the one discovered in the van was sent to WMAQ-TV. That note spelled out in chilling detail how Ross had broken into Lefkow's home and lain in wait for the judge to come home.
The message said he planned to "get" Lefkow, who dismissed his medical malpractice lawsuit last year, "and then others, whoever I could get."
"Judge Lefkow was No. 1 to kill because she finished me off and deprived me to live my life through outrageous abuse of judicial power and decicration (sic) of the judicial office," stated the note sent to NBC5. "Judge Lefkow, to her neighbors, is a church going `angel.' To me, Judge Lefkow is a Nazi-style criminal and terrorist."
Judge Lefkow, who has been under guard since the Feb. 28 slayings, left Chicago Thursday for her mother's funeral in Denver. "I guess on one level I'm relieved that it didn't have anything to do with the white supremacy movement, because I feel my children are going to be safer," Lefkow told The New York Times. "It's heartbreaking that my husband and mother had to die over something like this."
With the case solved, officials can now say with grim certainty that the killings are the first in the U.S. where a judge's family members were killed in retaliation for the judge's rulings.
The note Ross sent to WMAQ said he shot Michael Lefkow using a gun with a homemade silencer after the judge's husband happened upon him in the basement's utility room. He shot the judge's mother, Donna Grace Humphrey, 89, after she called down for her son-in-law at least an hour later.
The note, signed by Ross, said he then left the Lefkows' house at about 1:15 p.m. Feb. 28 and approached the suburban Chicago home of Dr. Henry Briele, whom Ross had sued in his malpractice claim. He said he also approached the Glencoe home of another judge but did not write what happened at those two houses.
Police said neither of the men mentioned in the letter were harmed. All people on the list have been offered law enforcement protection, officials said.
Ross might also have been scoping out federal appeals Judge John L. Coffey of Milwaukee, who had ruled against Ross in 2002.
THE LEFKOW MURDERS: THE SUICIDE SCENE