Police: Letters link man who killed himself to murder of federal judge's family

Friday, March 11, 2005

CHICAGO -- A man who filed bizarre, rambling lawsuits over his cancer treatment shot himself to death during a traffic stop outside Milwaukee and left a suicide note claiming he killed the husband and mother of a federal judge who ruled against him, police said Thursday.

Bart Ross, a 57-year-old electrician from Chicago, committed suicide Wednesday in West Allis, Wis., after a police officer pulled him over because of a broken taillight on his van.

Chicago police superintendent Phil Cline said, "We're satisfied that there's information in the letter that would point us to Ross being in Lefkow's house."

A source close to the investigation said on condition of anonymity that the suicide note, found in Ross' van, contained the names of judges.

Cline also said authorities believe Ross is the same person seen by a witness near the U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow home on Feb. 28, the day Lefkow came home to find her 64-year-old husband and 89-year-old mother shot to death in the basement.

Last fall, the judge had dismissed a lawsuit in which Ross accused doctors of disfiguring him when they treated him for cancer in the early 1990s. .

The police superintendent would not speculate on what Ross was doing in the Milwaukee area. But at least one other judge who ruled against him lived there.

Cline said that after Ross killed himself, police and federal agents found a note in which he implicated himself in the murders of Michael Lefkow and Donna Humphrey and recounted the details.

WMAQ-TV in Chicago said it also received a hand-written letter signed by a Bart Ross on Thursday in which the writer describes breaking into the Lefkow house around dawn. The writer said he planned to wait in the basement all day for the judge, and kill her.

But he said the judge's husband discovered him around 9 a.m., so he shot him, then killed Lefkow's mother after she heard the gun and called out to her son-in-law, the TV station reported.

"After I shot husband and mother of Judge Lefkow, I had a lot of time to think about life and death. Killing is no fun, even though I knew I was already dead. I gave up further killings on about 1:15 p.m. on Feb. 28, 2005, and left Judge Lefkow's house," the station quoted the letter as saying.

Ross emigrated from Poland in 1982 as Bartlomiej Ciszewski, changed his name and became a U.S. citizen in 1988, according to the government.

Ross had waged a decade-long legal fight over his cancer treatment, which left his face disfigured. He battled with doctors, lawyers and judges, likening his treatment to the ghastly medical experiments done by the Nazis.

In a lawsuit dismissed by Lefkow last September, Ross claimed doctors at the University of Illinois-Chicago Hospital and its clinic had damaged his mouth and caused him to lose his teeth when they treated him for cancer from 1992 into 1995. He also blamed the justice system for his problems and demanded Congress impeach four judges.

Court records show Ross was also being evicted from his North Side home and was due Thursday in housing court.

The police superintendent cautioned that authorities were still analyzing evidence from the crime and searching his home. "We are not prepared at this time to definitely say that any one person in responsible for these homicides," Cline said.

After the slayings, suspicion immediately turned to white supremacist Matthew Hale, who was in prison for trying to have Lefkow killed for ruling against him in a trademark dispute. Hale denied having anything to do with the killings.

Investigators were also going through Lefkow's other cases for clues. Cline said Ross' name had been on the list, but the task force had not yet interviewed him because of the sheer volume -- more than 600 leads and hundreds of names.

A police officer in West Allis pulled Ross over after noticing his van parked in front of a school. Police said Ross fired the deadly shot before the officer reached the driver's window.

Terence Evans, who lives in the Milwaukee area and was on a federal appeals court that ruled against Ross in January, said U.S. marshals called him before dawn Thursday to alert him about the suicide note.

In Chicago, officers cordoned off the street outside Ross' last known address, a two-story home across from a high school on a tree-lined street.

Jinky Jackson, 34, a neighbor, said Ross was wearing a neck brace a month ago. She said she would greet Ross when she saw him, but he would not say hello back to her.

"He doesn't mingle with other neighbors," Jackson said. "He'd come home late and stay inside."

Associated Press writers Nicole Ziegler Dizon and Juliet Williams in West Allis, Wis., and Mike Robinson in Chicago contributed to this report.

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