Michael Lefkow and Donna Glenn Humphrey Murders: Is Bart Ross Dead or Alive?

Image Credit: Find a Grave/Erik Lander

Joan Lefkow, a federal court judge back in 2005, came home from work one day to discover a horrific sight. Michael Lefkow and Donna Glenn Humphrey, her husband and mother, were murdered in her house in Chicago, Illinois. Investigation Discovery’s ‘People Magazine Investigates: Law & Murder’ chronicles an unfortunate case where a desperate man ended up taking the ultimate step. So, let’s find out what happened then, shall we?

How Did Michael Lefkow and Donna Glenn Humphrey Die?

Michael Lefkow was a 64-year-old lawyer who was a Civil Rights activist during the 1960s. He met Joan Humphrey in 1965, and they married about ten years later. The couple lived in Spain for a while before moving back to Chicago. At the time of the incident, Joan’s mother, Donna, visited them from Colorado. The 89-year-old was described as an inquisitive person who was active in her local church and always helped people in need.

Image Credit: Find a Grave/Breadlady45 from Chicago

On February 28, 2005, Joan came home from work sometime in the evening to find Michael and Donna murdered in the basement. They had been shot several times with a .22 caliber firearm, including shots to the head. The authorities were called onto the scene, collected shell casings, and later examined doors for trace evidence. However, the case would catch an unexpected break just over a week later after a routine traffic stop in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Who Killed Michael Lefkow and Donna Glenn Humphrey?

Since Joan was a federal judge, the authorities initially looked into past cases of hers to see if anyone held a grudge. One person that stood out was Matthew Hale, a white supremacist who was already convicted for soliciting Joan’s murder and later sued her. While Matthew was in jail, the police checked out his associates outside. But on March 9, 2005, an unexpected sequence of events led to the true culprit in the case.

Image Credit: CBS News

That day, a police officer in West Allis, Milwaukee, pulled over a van for a broken tail light. However, the driver of the car killed himself as the officer approached. The driver was identified as 57-year-old Bart Ross, a Polish immigrant originally known as Bartlomiej Ciszewski. As the investigators worked on this case, they learned that Bart was the one who killed Michael and Donna, with physical evidence linking him to the murders.

Soon, it came to light that Bart had a problem with Joan, and she was the intended target. In the early 1990s, Bart was diagnosed with head and neck cancer, prompting radiation treatment at the University of Illinois at Chicago Hospital. Radiation meant that the doctors had to remove his teeth before it started. Bart then had to get a surgery done to remove a part of his jaw once the cancer was back. However, he had filed medical malpractice suits over the years claiming the treatment disfigured his face.

Over the years, Joan ruled against Bart four times before dismissing his case in the end. He tried to have his plea heard for over a decade but was unsuccessful. Bart claimed he lost his family, job, and his home during that period. The dismissal was also upheld on appeal in January 2005. When Bart’s car was examined, they found a suicide note that had him admit to Michael and Donna’s murders. It described specific details only the killer would have known.

Another handwritten letter sent to a news station described how Bart broke into Joan’s home during the early hours and waited in the utility closet to kill her. However, he shot Michael after the latter discovered him. Then, Bart claimed to have shot Donna when she heard the gunshot. The letter further stated, “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 letter found in the car also contained the names of other judges who upheld the dismissal. On the day Bart killed himself, a parking ticket was issued close to the Milwaukee federal courthouse; those two judges had their offices in the building. Surveillance footage from the court captured Bart walking around. There was physical evidence as well that tied the 57-year-old to the crime. DNA from a cigarette butt found in the Lefkow residence matched Bart, and a shell casing from his home matched the ones at the scene.

How Did Bart Ross Die?

Image Credit: Chicago Tribune

On March 9, 2005, an officer in West Allis saw a van parked close to a school and decided to check it out. But the driver, who was later identified as Bart, peeled away and made an illegal U-turn. Upon noticing that he had a broken tail light, the policeman pulled the van over. Then, the officer heard a gunshot and saw that Bart had shot himself in the head with a 9mm handgun. After his death, Joan said, “I guess on one level I’m relieved that it didn’t have anything to do with the white supremacy movement because I feel my children are going to be safer. It’s heartbreaking that my husband and mother had to die over something like this.”

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