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Burger King manager’s accused killer filed for bankruptcy in ‘02

James Ealy

James Ealy

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Updated: April 28, 2013 2:20AM

The Lake Villa man accused of killing the manager of the Lindenhurst Burger King in 2006 had a financial motivation for taking almost $1,000 out of the store safe, prosecutors said Tuesday.

James Ealy is charged with first-degree murder for allegedly stabbing and choking Mary Hutchison, 45, of Trevor, Wis. Burger King employees reported finding her body on the floor near an open safe on Nov. 27, 2006.

Ealy was indicted by a Lake County grand jury in December 2006 and the case is set for trial on April 15. He was eligible for the death penalty until Illinois abolished capital punishment in 2011.

Prosecutors Stephen Scheller and Jeffrey Pavletic filed a motion Tuesday seeking to admit evidence that Ealy had filed for bankruptcy in federal court with his wife in 2002.

“The homicide was committed in the course of a robbery. (There is a) motive for the robbery. He filed bankruptcy and needed money,” Scheller said after Tuesday’s hearing.

Attorneys will argue this motion before Judge Daniel Shanes on March 11. Shanes kept Tuesday’s hearing short, noting “We have a blizzard going on outside.”

Defense attorneys Keith Grand and Jennifer Snyder have filed a motion seeking to suppress statements Ealy made to police on Dec. 1, 2006.

“The statements are not inculpatory, instead being a reflection upon the defendant’s life with a focus upon unnamed ‘mistakes’ and the defendant’s belief that he is viewed negatively by all except his wife,” Grant and Snyder wrote in their motion.

Ealy also spoke to police about his time in prison, they wrote. Ealy was convicted of a quadruple homicide in Chicago in 1982, but an appellate court threw out Ealy’s conviction.

Shanes previously ruled to bar evidence of the murders from the trial.

Ealy told police he had “made mistakes” his life, defense attorneys wrote in their motion.

Allowing prosecutors to introduce evidence of these statements would have a prejudicial effect, according to Grant and Snyder.

This motion also will be addressed March 11.

Ealy remains in custody at Lake County Jail without bond.

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