A former Wheaton resident charged in a murder plot on a judge and prosecutor was granted a new attorney Friday.
Authorities say Gordon Vanderark offered $70,000 for the murders of his ex-wife, a man who has his power of attorney, DuPage County Judge Blanche Hill Fawell -- who put him behind bars for his 10th DUI -- and Assistant State's Attorney Audrey Anderson.
Judge George Bakalis on Friday agreed to appoint Addison-based private attorney Neil Levine to lead Vanderark's defense instead. At a prior court appearance, Vanderark's previous public defender said he was concerned about potential claims of ineffective legal counsel if the case advanced to an appeal level, because Anderson's sister is a high-ranking public defender.
State's Attorney Robert Berlin said Vanderark, 53, solicited the murders through a fellow inmate who then wrote a letter warning Fawell her life was in danger. The inmate subsequently wore a wire and recorded Vanderark discussing the plan in graphic detail.
Fawell sentenced Vanderark last December to 18 years in prison for his 10th drunken driving conviction, a case prosecuted by Anderson. Fawell later reduced the sentence to 16 years after Vanderark petitioned her to reconsider.
Once Vanderark was in prison, Berlin said, he compiled a "hit list" naming the foursome he wanted killed and propositioned the unnamed inmate.
Investigators also uncovered a letter in which Vanderark said he would pay $2,000 upfront and included a $70,000 promissory note for "services rendered" by the inmate upon his release from prison, Berlin said.
Prosecutors said records show that a man acting as Vanderark's power of attorney transferred money into the commissary accounts of both the defendant and the other inmate, who received about $2,000, between January and April.
Authorities said they were still investigating possible motives behind the inclusion of Vanderark's power of attorney representative in the alleged hit list.
In addition to 10 DUIs, Berlin said, Vanderark's prior criminal record includes theft, burglary and several forgery cases. State records show he was slated for parole from downstate Centralia Correctional Center in July 2020.
Vanderark is scheduled to appear in court at 1:30 p.m. Monday for an arraignment hearing.
• Daily Herald staff writer Josh Stockinger contributed to this report.