Bereft Judge Thanks Sympathizers

Investigators walk past the home of U.S. District Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow, gray house on left, as the investigation into the murder of Lefkow's husband and mother continues Thursday, March 3, 2005 in Chicago.
A federal judge who found her husband and mother shot dead Monday is thanking people for their support in her "hour of need."

As the FBI announced a bulky reward for information in the case, Judge Joan Lefkow issued a statement Friday — thanking people who've reached out to share expressions of "grief and sympathy." She says it's helped her family "endure these dark days."

Lefkow adds that she'll never let "evil deeds" overcome "goodness and decency." She says she plans to return to her job and won't be intimidated by the killings.

Meantime, the case has drawn attention from top levels of government. The FBI director is getting updates three times a day, and President Bush has been briefed on progress.

The FBI announced a $50,000 reward Friday for information leading to the identification of anyone involved in the slayings of a federal judge's husband and mother, saying it hoped the money could inspire help from criminals or others who might keep quiet otherwise.

No one has been declared a suspect in the slayings, and "we don't know at this time who did this murder," FBI Special Agent Robert Grant said in announcing the award.

Asked about the need for the reward, Grant said it might help reach people who otherwise wouldn't come forward.

"There are people who are motivated by many different things, and some people are motivated by money, especially in the criminal element," he said.

He said investigators were looking at all angles, and white supremacists were one logical direction in which they were looking. White supremacist Matthew Hale is scheduled to be sentenced next month for soliciting an FBI informant to kill Judge Lefkow, who found the bodies of her husband and mother when she arrived home Monday.

"Obviously, Matt Hale and his prior conviction for threats to Judge Lefkow is an avenue of investigation that we're going to explore," Grant said.

Hale has denied any involvement in the slaying of Lefkow's mother and husband.

Hale issued a statement from prison through his mother, Evelyn Hutcheson, who speaks with her son by phone every week. "I want the perpetrator caught or prosecuted," Hale said.

"There is simply no way that any supporter of mine would commit such a heinous crime," Hale said. "I only hope they sincerely wish to apprehend this animal instead of railroading the innocent."

"Only an idiot would think that I would do this."

Lefkow arrived home after work Monday to find the bodies of her husband, Michael Lefkow, 64, and her mother, Donna Humphrey, 89, in the basement. They had been shot to death. Humphrey, who lived in Denver, was visiting her daughter.

Lefkow vowed to return to the bench. "Nobody is going to intimidate me off my duty," she told the Chicago Sun-Times in an interview published Thursday.

The judge said she always knew her job could put her at risk but never thought it would endanger her family.

"I think we all sort of go into this thinking it's a possibility, but you don't think it's going to happen to you because it's so unthinkable," she told the Chicago Tribune.

Police have released sketches of two "persons of interest," saying they want to interview them based on witness statements. One, a man in his mid-20s, was seen in a car near the home of Lefkow. The other, a man in his 50s, was wearing dark coveralls and a dark knit cap. Both are white.

Jail officials moved Hale this week from a cell with a radio and legal materials he used while serving as his own attorney to a cell with nothing but a bed, sink and toilet, his father said. He said jail officials gave no reason for the move.

The shootings came a month before Hale, 33, is to face a jail sentence of up to 40 years for attempting to arrange the murder of Lefkow, who presided over a trademark dispute involving the name of Hale's organization

Investigators hope that physical evidence found in the basement where Michael Lefkow and Donna Humphrey were slain will point to specific suspects.

Both victims had been shot multiple times, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner's office, and police found two .22-caliber casings at the scene. Investigators believe the victims were forced to lie on the basement floor before being shot.

A federal source said a shard of glass from a broken window in the home contained a fingerprint and was flown to Washington for examination. The source said police also were analyzing a bloody footprint left at the home.