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Judge’s Slain Husband Mourned

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Times Staff Writer

Michael Lefkow rarely left for a stroll without his trademark fedora. On his last outing Saturday, the murdered lawyer’s gray snap-brim sat atop an oak casket as his widow, U.S. District Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow, stood by and 500 mourners filed past squads of police and federal marshals to pay their final respects.

With the killers of the judge’s husband and mother, Donna Humphrey, still at large five days after their execution-style murders inside the Lefkow home, security was rigidly enforced around St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, the suburban Chicago parish where the Lefkows were devoted churchgoers.

A delegation of federal judges arrived in a chartered bus guarded by armed marshals. Yellow crowd-control tape cordoned off the 99-year-old limestone Gothic Revival church. Mourners waited in lines that stretched a city block, entering only after visual inspection by police and church officials.

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When a caravan of federal vehicles pulled up to the church behind a gray hearse Saturday morning, a U.S. marshal wearing a bulky bulletproof vest vaulted from the lead car, securing the area before the judge and her four daughters emerged.

The judge appeared weary at her first public appearance since the murders Monday. Protected along with her daughters by a security detail at an undisclosed location for the last five days, she has described the murders in telephone interviews as a hit and vowed to return to the federal bench.

Comforting her weeping daughters, the judge smiled wistfully when white-gloved pallbearers wheeled her husband’s coffin into the church on a metal cart.

A memorial service for the judge’s mother is to be held later in Denver.

The bristling law enforcement presence and the judge’s vulnerability weighed even on the Rev. Jacqueline Schmitt, a family friend who eulogized Michael F. Lefkow in a plaintive sermon during the 90-minute Requiem Eucharist.

Describing Lefkow and Humphrey as martyrs and their killers as petty thugs, Schmitt said: “Those who kill martyrs think that by committing this violent act they are wiping out the truth. We know this is not possible.” Before the service, Schmitt said the killings were a “terrible assault on the principles of American democracy and openness.”

Still without clear suspects, authorities have issued a $50,000 reward in the case, convened a federal grand jury and released sketches of two men who were spotted in a car near the Lefkow home before the murders and are now wanted for questioning.

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Investigators have pressed for information from members of a white supremacist group headed by Matthew Hale, an East Peoria, Ill., man who was convicted last year of trying to arrange Judge Lefkow’s murder. Awaiting sentencing in a federal detention center in downtown Chicago, Hale has been questioned by investigators about the slayings.

Although Hale’s contacts with followers has been curtailed, authorities are trying to learn whether he has tried to reach them with veiled messages relayed in letters and conversations with his parents. FBI agents have interviewed Hale’s mother and seized telephone records, computer files and dozens of letters from a freelance court reporter who is a Hale follower.

A task force of about 30 FBI agents, federal marshals and police detectives in Chicago and dozens of other federal agents across the country are working on the case in round-the-clock shifts.

Several members of the task force joined other public officials who attended the service, including Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley and Chicago Police Supt. Philip J. Cline.

One by one, they offered their condolences to the judge, filing by the casket and Michael Lefkow’s favorite hat.

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