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Article updated: 2/26/2013 4:30 PM

Attorney: Bankruptcy motive for Lindenhurst murder

By Lee Filas

Prosecutors want to introduce evidence that could show James Ealy was financially broke when he allegedly killed his boss at the Lindenhurst Burger King in 2006 and robbed the restaurant.

Lake County assistant state's attorneys Jeff Pavletic and Stephen Scheller asked the court to admit into evidence a 2002 federal bankruptcy that Ealy filed with his wife.

Scheller said that evidence shows that, due to financial struggles, Ealy had a motive to kill his boss, Mary Hutchinson, and steal $1,700 from the restaurant.

"The bankruptcy shows he was in need of money and gives him a motive to commit the robbery," Scheller said in a weather-shortened court hearing Tuesday.

Ealy, 47, of Lake Villa, has been accused of using his bow tie to strangle the 45-year-old Hutchison on Nov. 27, 2006, in the now-closed Burger King on Grand Avenue. Authorities say Ealy then stole $1,700 from the safe before fleeing.

Ealy was questioned the night of the murder, but was released by police. He was arrested again four days later and charged with the murder. He has been jailed without bond since.

Due to Ealy's previous convictions, legal maneuvering, previous court decisions and the state banning the death penalty in 2011, the case has been delayed time and again. Lake County Judge Daniel Shanes said both sides should plan for an April 15 trial date.

If found guilty of the murder, Ealy could be sentenced to life in prison.

The two sides were also expected to argue whether some of Ealy's past statements to police and his prior convictions should be allowed at trial. Both sides are expected to continue the arguments March 11.

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