Sep 13, 2009 12 Comments ›› Erik Wong
Country Club Hills Mayor Dwight Welch said Sunday that the girlfriend who took ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich aide Christopher Kelly to the hospital before he died of an apparent aspirin overdose Saturday is â€œlawyered upâ€ and no longer talking to police.
Authorities spoke to the woman, Clarissa J. Flores-Buhelos of Chicago, Saturday at the hospital. According to police, she said she and Kelly had been text messaging each other before she drove from the city to a lumber yard near 173rd St. and Cicero in Country Club Hills where she found him in his SUV. She told police she saw vomit inside and outside the SUV, and pushed him over to the passenger side of the vehicle and drove her to Oak Forest Hospital.
An autopsy for Kelly, 51, of Burr Ridge, is scheduled for today, a Cook County medical examinerâ€™s office spokeswoman said. Toxicology tests may delay any ruling.
Kelly was pronounced dead at Stroger Hospital at 10:46 a.m. Saturday.
While at the hospital, and sitting up, Kelly talked with a police officer and indicated that he had attempted suicide.
Officials are trying to identify a man who came to the hospital and tried to take the SUV but was stopped.
Kelly was Blagojevichâ€™s â€œgo-to guyâ€ who once masterminded the ex-governorâ€™s lucrative campaign fund.
Kellyâ€™s death came just four days after he pleaded guilty to a scheme involving $8.5 million in fraud at Oâ€™Hare International Airport. It was his second conviction this year â€” and he still faced trial along with the ex-governor in June.
Kelly had been indicted three times since 2007 but refused to become a cooperating witness. When he pleaded guilty to the Oâ€™Hare scheme Tuesday, Kelly spoke of feeling intense pressure by prosecutors to abandon his loyalty to Blagojevich and cooperate with the feds.
A source familiar with the investigation told the Chicago Sun-Times that Kelly, who was married, called a woman late Friday identified as his â€œgirlfriendâ€ and told her that he took some pills and was going to kill himself.
Oak Forest Hospital does not have a trauma unit, but doctors were able to stabilize Kelly. Doctors later decided Kelly could be better treated at Stroger Hospital, where Kelly was taken about 5:15 a.m. Saturday and later died, Cook County hospitals spokesman Marcel Bright said.
The black Cadillac Escalade believed to belong to Kelly was left at Oak Forest Hospital and confiscated the vehicle Saturday night.
Welch Saturday said his police department will lead the investigation, which will be treated as if it were a homicide.
â€œThat means no stone will go unturned. Weâ€™re doing it by the book, step one all the way through. Weâ€™re checking the GPS on the phones of everyone involved,â€ the mayor said. â€œWeâ€™ll be able to pinpoint exactly where people were.â€
Welch would not say whether detectives found a suicide note.
Kelly faced nearly eight years in prison and was to report to the downtown federal lockup by Friday. He was on a curfew, which included a requirement he be at his home between midnight and 6 a.m.
While Kelly had preliminary discussions with the government about flipping on Blagojevich as recently as this summer, he never signed on to any cooperation agreement with the feds.
He pleaded guilty to tax fraud charges earlier this year. That scheme was tied, in part, to Kellyâ€™s known gambling addiction. He admitted that he converted business funds to pay off gambling debts but did not report it properly to the Internal Revenue Service. Some of the illicit funds out of the Oâ€™Hare fraud also went to pay gambling debt, along with other debt Kelly had incurred, including a loan from convicted businessman Tony Rezko.
Blagojevich, in a statement released through his publicist, said: â€œI am deeply saddened to hear that Chris has died. My heart goes out to his wife Carmen, his three daughters Grace, Jacqueline and Claire and his entire family. They are in our prayers.â€
Kelly faced racketeering and extortion charges along with the ex-governor.
His death is not expected to change the trialâ€™s scheduling, but how or whether it would affect defense or prosecutorial strategy remains to be seen.
Allan A. Ackerman, a member of Blagojevichâ€™s legal defense team, told the Associated Press that he doubts Kellyâ€™s death â€œwill have any impact on the governmentâ€™s case at all.â€
Kellyâ€™s lawyer, Michael Monico, said late Saturday that he could not answer any questions about his clientâ€™s death.
Spokesmen from the FBI and U.S. attorneyâ€™s office declined comment.