03/01/2005

Family of judge targeted by hate group murdered

March 1, 2005 -- The husband and mother of a federal judge who was targeted for assassination by World Church of the Creator (WCOTC) chieftain Matthew Hale were murdered inside her Chicago home, two years after white supremacists publicized her home address and photos of her family on the internet.

U.S. District Court Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow came home from work and discovered the bodies of her husband, Chicago attorney Michael F. Lefkow, 64, and her mother, 89-year-old Donna Grace Humphrey, around 6 p.m. Monday.

The victims reportedly had been murdered execution-style, each shot in the back of the head with a .22-caliber firearm.

"We don't know yet who carried out these grisly executions. But what's clear is that the members of the World Church of the Creator have been involved in a huge amount of criminal violence over the years," said Mark Potok, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project.

"Its leader is in prison for soliciting the murder of Judge Lefkow, whose home address was posted by a group member on the internet. So it is not difficult to surmise that a member or sympathizer of this incredibly violent group might very well have been behind the murders."

Last April, Hale, the so-called "Pontifex Maximus" of the white supremacist hate group, was convicted of asking a member of his group to murder Judge Lefkow. Hale was convicted of solicitation of murder and has been awaiting sentencing since last January. His sentencing is scheduled for April 6.

Judge Lefkow presided over a trademark infringement suit brought in 2000 against the WCOTC by a peaceful religious group that used the same name but had no ties to Hale. Lefkow ordered Hale to stop using its long-time name, and fined his group $200,000 when it failed to comply.

Hale's arrest on Jan. 8, 2003, for trying to arrange Lefkow's murder came after weeks of furious WCOTC internet attacks on the judge, who was branded a "probable Jew," and a "kike- and nigger-loving" traitor who was trying to destroy the group. A few days later, Judge Lefkow's home address was posted on the white supremacist online bulletin board Aryan Update, which is overseen by infamous white supremacist leader Tom Metzger.

"I am a Creator and we intend to protest rather loudly in front of this Jewess's house in the near future," wrote the anonymous poster, who also provided Michael Lefkow's work address.

Pictures of Lefkow's husband and children also had been posted earlier by WCOTC member Craig Cobb of West Virginia, on Stormfront, a white supremacist website.

The man Hale was convicted of soliciting, WCOTC security chief Tony Evola, turned out to be an FBI informant who was wearing a recording device. The FBI recruited Evola shortly after a member of Hale's inner circle, Benjamin Smith, went on a three-day shooting rampage in July 1999 that left two minorities dead and nine others wounded before Smith committed suicide.

Law enforcement authorities have long suspected that Hale, who spoke to Smith frequently in the days before the spree, knew in advance of Smith's orgy of violence.

Other Hale followers have been arrested for aggravated assault, armed robbery, witness intimidation and attempted murder. Hale took over the hate group formerly known as the Church of the Creator in 1995 after its leader, Ben Klassen, killed himself. Under Klassen, a "reverend" from the group murdered a black man in Florida and set off a bomb in a NAACP office in Washington, among other violent acts.

Following Hale's arrest in early 2003, Lefkow received police protection — including guards posted in unmarked cars on her block — but that protection reportedly lessened after Hale was convicted, even though the FBI issued a bulletin to law enforcement agencies nationwide following his conviction, warning of the potential for retaliatory violence from Hale sympathizers.