LYONS, Ill. (AP) — A man suspected of covering up the deaths of his mother and sister nearly a year after their bodies were found buried in the backyard of their suburban Chicago home has been arrested for a felony, officials said Thursday.
Lyon Police Chief Thomas Herion says Michael Lelko, 45, will be formally charged with two counts of concealing a death. He said a federal investigation was also underway that could lead to federal charges related to his alleged cashing of his mother’s $1,000 monthly Social Security checks for years after her death.
Herion said Lelko was not charged in the deaths of Jean Lelko, 79, and Jennifer Lelko, 44, because the medical examiner’s office could not determine how either is. deceased.
Herion said Michael Lelko’s 41-year-old brother was still under investigation, but as of Thursday afternoon had not been charged. Both were in custody on Thursday and Herion said if John Lelko was not charged within 48 hours he would be released. Herion said John Lelko could face obstruction charges because he initially told police his mother and sister were alive and living elsewhere, even though he knew they were both dead .
Thursday’s announcement comes about eight months after police discovered the bodies in the backyard during a welfare check at the residence. Both bodies had been buried in plastic bins sealed with duct tape.
Herion said Michael Lelko told police his mother died in 2015 after his sister pushed her down the stairs and he buried his sister in the yard in 2019 after she fell ill and either died. He said Lelko said the sister died of COVID-19, although Herion said he did not believe COVID-19 existed in 2019, and Illinois officials said they believed that the first COVID-19 death in Illinois was in March 2020.
“When I interviewed Michael, he admitted he buried his mother and sister in the yard,” Herion said. “John has made no statement regarding his involvement in this.”
Herion said charges were not filed for several months because the bodies were not positively identified until this year. Both men were taken into custody when the bodies were found, but were released without charge.
The charges mark the latest chapter in the bizarre story that began with an audit of the home, located in the community of Lyons, about 14 miles (22.53 kilometers) southwest of Chicago, after he was was determined that there was no running water. Herion said there was no working toilet at the house and several bags of urine and feces were found inside.
Herion said items such as Star Wars toys were piled up to the ceiling when the bodies were found, and the house was so cluttered the brothers were going in and out of the windows.
It was not immediately possible to determine whether Michael Lelko had retained the services of a lawyer. Messages were left with the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office and the Lyon Police Department.