A murder trial nearly seven years in the making came to a conclusion Tuesday when Cook County Judge William Lacy found Wayne Weinke Jr., 57, guilty of first-degree murder in the 2006 death of his mother, Gloria Weinke.
Lacy revoked Weinke's bond and ordered him into custody after the hearing in a courtroom that was filled to capacity at Chicago's George N. Leighton Criminal Courts Building.
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Prosecutors said Weinke, known as "Bud," threw his 77-year-old mother over the railing and into the stairwell of her home at The Moorings in Arlington Heights during the early morning of July 18, 2006, after the two disagreed over his inheritance from an estate valued at between $8 million and $10 million.
Gloria Weinke, who had been diagnosed with cancer in 2005, lay at the bottom of the stairwell for 14 hours before a Moorings employee found her and called for help, prosecutors said during closing arguments last month. Prosecutors said the injuries she suffered substantially contributed to her death, while defense witnesses claimed that Gloria Weinke died of cancer.
Lacy spent about 30 minutes reviewing in painstaking detail testimony from the nine-day bench trial, including a videotaped deposition from Gloria Weinke stating her son Bud threw her over the railing. Lacy also recounted testimony from The Moorings employee who found her, the paramedic who treated her and the officer who investigated the incident, all of whom said she told them the same thing.
The judge also referred to testimony from Gloria Weinke and a family attorney who claimed Weinke "lost it" and "went ballistic" upon learning that his mother had changed the terms of her will, and that she intended to give her daughter Gail Deadwyler several pieces of mortgage-free property instead of dividing the estate equally among all three Weinke children.
Defense attorney Peter Hickey disputed prosecutors' claims, insisting no evidence tied his client to his mother's death. Weinke himself testified he was not at his mother's home that day and had nothing to do with her fall. The defense also suggested Gloria Weinke fell, and that she might have suffered from dementia or Alzheimer's and might have imagined the whole incident.
"That was no dream she related. That was a nightmare," said Lacy, who rejected the defense argument that Gloria Weinke suffered from diminished mental capacity, pointing out that she lived alone, drove her own car and worked three days a week at the family business where she handled payroll and accounting.
"Gloria Weinke was a strong, witty and intelligent woman. She was nobody's fool," Lacy said.
Weinke's own words confirmed his guilt, said Lacy, referring to a statement Weinke made to police in which he said: "if I did this I have to go talk to my mom and apologize."
"This is nothing short of damning," Lacy said.
Wayne Weinke showed no emotion during Lacy's speech, but wiped his eyes and appeared upset upon hearing the guilty verdict. Several Weinke supporters -- which totaled about 50 people -- sobbed quietly as Lacy announced his finding.
Weinke faces a sentence of 20 to 60 years in prison. He next appears in court on July 10.
"There's nothing happy about any of this. There's no joy in this," said Deadwyler, who was accompanied by about 20 friends and family members. "The man who murdered my mother needs to pay the consequences for his actions."
Asked about her brother's testimony, Deadwyler said he "came off as a desperate man trying to cover his tracks."
Her mother's death and her brother's trial have divided the family, says Deadwyler, who says she has no relationship with her brother or his two children, one of whom is her goddaughter.
"I miss them both very much," she said.
Neither Weinke's family nor his attorneys were available for comment.
This was a sad case all around, said Cook County Assistant State's Attorney James McKay, the lead prosecutor.
"The defendant is not an inherently bad man," said McKay. "He just made a very bad decision fueled by his greed and anger. And as a result a 77-year-old woman is dead."