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Chicago police: Suicide note claims link to family killings

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Police inspect the vehicle of a man who committed suicide during a traffic stop near Milwaukee.
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Chicago (Illinois)
Justice and Rights

CHICAGO, Illinois (CNN) -- A man who committed suicide when stopped by a police officer outside Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Wednesday night left a note confessing to the shooting deaths of the husband and mother of a federal judge, Chicago police said Thursday.

Bart Ross, an electrical contractor from Chicago, shot himself when stopped by a police officer in West Allis, Wisconsin. A note in his minivan included information that appeared to confirm Ross was in U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow's home the day of the killings, Chicago Police Superintendent Phil Cline said.

"There were things that weren't in the media," regarding the February 28 shooting deaths of Michael Lefkow, 64, and Donna Grace Humphrey, 89, in the note left behind by a person who signed the name Bart Ross, said Cline.

Chicago police sources identified Ross as someone who had appeared before Judge Lefkow in the past.

In the suicide note, Ross blamed a legal judgment for the loss of his house, job and family, police told CNN.

The Chicago Tribune reported Thursday that Lefkow had dismissed a medical malpractice lawsuit that Ross, who acted as his own lawyer, had filed against the University of Illinois over his cancer treatment.

The murder investigation continues, Cline said, and "we are not prepared at this time to say that any one person is responsible for these homicides. This case is by no means closed."

Cline said police think Ross is the older man depicted in a composite sketch derived from a witness who saw someone leaving the Lefkow home on the afternoon of the killings.

Police have searched his home for evidence, Cline said.

DNA and fingerprint testing was being conducted by the Illinois state crime lab and the FBI crime lab, he said.

Authorities had planned to question people whose cases had been handled by Lefkow, but had not interviewed Ross, Cline said.

Ross had no criminal record, Cline said.

Chicago station receives letter

There were also details about the slayings in a letter Chicago television station WMAQ received from a writer claiming to be Ross.

"I regret killing husband and mother of Judge Lefkow as much as I regret that I have to die," it read.

The letter writer said he broke into the Lefkow home about dawn on February 28 and was going to wait until the judge returned in the evening.

The letter writer claimed he shot Michael Lefkow in the head twice, and upon hearing Humphrey calling her son-in-law shot her twice in the head as well, Warren said.

"When you read this, I should be dead, so I am writing in past tense," said a typed statement accompanying the letter. "I was on my way to justice. For over 12 1/2 years I was violated the way Nazis and terrorist[s] violated people's rights and I was deprived 'to live' my life."

The letter lists doctors, attorneys and state and federal judges, including Lefkow, and calls them an expletive, "because they are all criminals like Nazis and terrorists like bin Laden and al Qaeda and don't know 'how to let live.' "

Neither WMAQ nor the Tribune could verify the authenticity of the letter. The station said the letter had been turned over to police.

Traffic stop near Milwaukee

On Wednesday night, police in West Allis, Wisconsin, pulled over a motorist for having faulty taillights, and he shot himself in the head, West Allis Police Chief Dean Puschnig said Thursday.

Authorities determined the driver died from a single gunshot wound to the head, Puschnig said.

One neighbor described Ross as frustrated with hospitals, doctors and the judicial system.

The University of Illinois Medical Center in Chicago said Ross was first treated for head and neck cancer in 1992. He filed "numerous lawsuits" against the medical center, "all of which were dismissed," the hospital said.

Ross was cancer-free when last treated in 1995, the hospital said, but "the treatment, while successful, does cause some disfigurement."

Ross' landlord had filed a petition to evict him, said Bill Cunningham, a spokesman for the Cook County Sheriff's Department. Deputies went to serve Ross with the petition on March 1 and March 3, but received no answer at his door, Cunningham said.

A neighbor said Ross had been seen in the neighborhood a few weeks ago, but investigators said police are looking into the possibility he was living in the minivan.

The Tribune reported that police also found 300 .22-caliber bullets in Ross' van -- the same caliber as casings found in the Lefkow home, Warren said.

CNN's Keith Oppenheim contributed to this report.

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