Former Wheaton man gets 40 years for soliciting murders
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Gordon Vanderark will be about 96 years old before he's eligible to get out of prison in a case that began with a DUI and ended with him soliciting the revenge killings of a DuPage County judge and prosecutor.
The former Wheaton man was sentenced Friday to a maximum 40 years for the murder-for-hire plot concocted while he served a lengthy prison term for his 10th DUI.
"He, in essence, attacked democracy," Assistant State's Attorney Joe Lindt said.
Vanderark, 55, was convicted in May of soliciting a prison buddy in 2011 to kill his wife as well as Assistant State's Attorney Audrey Anderson and Judge Blanche Hill Fawell.
Authorities said he wanted his wife dead because he believed she was draining his savings. The others were to be retribution for an earlier DUI case that resulted in a 22-year prison term handed down by Fawell.
Judge George Bakalis, who imposed Friday's term, acknowledged it could amount to a life sentence for Vanderark — but said the message was more important than the number of years.
"Every person in the Illinois Department of Corrections has to know if they do something like that, there's a very harsh penalty to pay," Bakalis said.
Vanderark offered $70,000 to fellow Centralia Correctional Center inmate Harold Myers to carry out the killings upon Myers' release, according to prosecutors.
In May, Myers testified Vanderark gave him personal details about the intended victims on a handwritten "hit list" and graphic instructions about how he wanted them tortured and killed.
Myers eventually warned Fawell in a letter and agreed to record his conversations with Vanderark.
On Friday, Anderson, who prosecuted Vanderark's last DUI case, testified she was "very upset and very concerned about my safety" when she learned of the plan, coincidentally on her birthday.
She said the threat prompted her to get extra security at home and work, and generally put her on edge.
"I'm always looking over my shoulder," she said.
Anderson said the most frightening part was not knowing whether she was in legitimate danger or who might be after her. But it also hasn't shaken her resolve as a criminal prosecutor.
"It makes me concerned about what I do but it reinforces what I do is important," she said. "Mr. Vanderark isn't going to change that."
Vanderark, who has 55 prior arrests, declined to make a statement before he was sentenced. Afterward, he turned and stared at Anderson briefly before a sheriff's deputy stepped between them.
Defense attorney Neil Levine had sought a minimum 20 years, arguing Myers facilitated the scheme and that a similar crime was unlikely to recur.
Levine acknowledged his client had a "tremendous" number of prior arrests but said none of them were for crimes of violence.
"Not one throughout his life," he said.
Vanderark has about six years to go on the 22-year DUI sentence. After that, he begins the 40-year term, of which he must serve at least 34 years.
State's Attorney Bob Berlin called the sentence a "deterrent to anyone who attacks our system."
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