Lake County prosecutors will not immediately be allowed to bring up the similarities between a 2006 killing at a Lindenhurst Burger King and 1982 slayings in Chicago that authorities believe were committed by the same man.
However, Assistant State's Attorney Jeff Pavletic said if defense attorneys representing James Ealy in his upcoming murder trial broach his overturned conviction in the Chicago killings, then a judge could reverse the ruling and allow evidence linking the crimes to be presented to a jury.
Ealy, 47, is scheduled to go on trial Oct. 1 on allegations he strangled Mary Hutchison to death on Nov. 27, 2006 in the Lindenhurst Burger King on Grand Avenue then stole nearly $1,700 out of the restaurant safe.
Ealy has been jailed without bond since being charged with murder in the killing of Hutchinson, his 45-year-old former manager at the now closed fast-food restaurant.
Pavletic said the crime in Lindenhurst mirrors that of the 1982 slayings of four people strangled to death inside their seventh-floor apartment at the Rockwell Gardens public housing project on Jackson Street in Chicago. A jury convicted Ealy of the killings, but a state appeals court overturned the verdict, ruling police lacked probable cause to initially arrest Ealy.
Pavletic said the victims in both crimes were strangled with cloth ligatures, and that Ealy used a similar strangulation technique in both homicide cases. Ealy, Pavletic added, knew the victims in both crimes. He resided in the same apartment building as the four murdered in Chicago, and worked for Hutchinson prior to her slaying.
Evidence from each homicide case was found in Ealy's apartment, Pavletic said, and the bodies of all the victims were left in rooms with the doors closed.
Defense attorneys argued that there were dissimilarities between the 1982 case and Hutchinson's murder, and that the crimes' only real connection was that the victims were strangled.