Police officer charged in contract killing

He hired pair to murder employee, prosecutor says

July 17, 2005|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

CHICAGO - A Chicago police officer of 14 years was charged with murder in connection with a contract killing of a driver for a funeral home owned by the officer's family, the police said Friday.

The officer, Edward Leak Jr., 42, had opened a $500,000 life insurance policy for the victim, Fred Hamilton, 35, naming himself as the beneficiary, the police said. Two other people, who prosecutors say were the gunmen, have been charged with murder. Telephone records and a confession from one of those men led the police to Leak, officials said.

Leak was arrested as he showed up for work at police headquarters Thursday. He appeared before Judge Raymond Myles of the Circuit Court of Cook County on Friday and was denied bond, standard in capital cases.

He is charged with first-degree murder and solicitation to commit murder for hire. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for Aug. 5.

Hamilton was found shot several times on the night of Feb. 3, 2004, on the South Side of Chicago. Officers caught John Brown, 33, running away from the scene, the police said. Brown's trial is pending. A second man, Alfred Marley, 44, was arrested earlier this year and pleaded guilty after giving a videotaped confession implicating Leak, said John Gorman, a spokesman for Richard A. Devine, the Cook County state's attorney.

Investigators found that there had been more than 600 telephone calls between Leak and Brown in the weeks before and after the shooting, Gorman and a lawyer representing Hamilton's family said.

The police said Hamilton had contacted Internal Affairs and said Leak was stealing money from his family's funeral home, Leak & Sons. A warrant was out for Hamilton's arrest on extortion charges, but he was killed before the police found him, Gorman said.

State Farm Insurance has been sued by Hamilton's estate for providing the motivation for the killing, said the family's lawyer, Fredrick B. Barder. The lawsuit accuses the company of issuing the policy without a representative ever having met Hamilton and without establishing that Leak had an insurable interest in Hamilton, Barder said.

Eric Dunham, a lawyer for Leak, said in court Friday, "There's no indication he was involved in this." Dunham said that the officer's family was shocked by the charges and that the case relied heavily on the statements of the confessed gunman, according to an NBC News report.

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