Disfigured, increasingly destitute and desperate, Bart A. Ross spent the past dozen years battling the medical and legal system, convinced he’d been wronged.
The fight took the 57-year-old Polish immigrant on a revenge-seeking odyssey, culminating with the slaying of Judge Joan Lefkow’s husband and mother on Feb. 28, according to a note left by Ross before he killed himself near Milwaukee on Wednesday.
These chilling words awaited Chicago natives as they opened their eyes and their newspapers the morning of March 11, 2005. Ross’ suicide marked the shocking conclusion of an unsolved murder mystery that cast its shadow on the Windy City for nearly two weeks.
Reporting on an incredibly dark story, the Chicago Sun-Times served as a shining example of great deadline writing, illuminating the complex chronology of the Lefkow murders.
“The Sun-Times reporters told far more than just what happened,” said Paul Saltzman, Metropolitan editor of the newspaper. “Working on deadline, they pieced together a compelling portrait of the shooter, got the first interview with the cop who unknowingly pulled over a killer, and were first to report several exclusive angles — including that suspect Bart Ross had been seen circling Milwaukee’s federal courthouse about three hours before his death, apparently stalking judges based there.”
Saltzman praised the efforts of crime reporter Frank Main, who was the first to confirm Ross’ involvement; Natasha Korecki; and Shamus Toomey, but indicated they weren’t the only ones on staff who “outreported and outwrote the competition.”
For the judges, it was the speed in which the Sun-Times put the stunning news in perspective that set the series apart from other entries in the category.
“In summary, before Ross’ body had hit the autopsy slab, Chicago readers knew his life story and the back story behind a tragic double murder of a judge’s husband and mother,” said the judges.
The way the Sun-Times staff defied the conventions of time to present comprehensive coverage of the Lefkow killings still amazes one of the judges.
“Reading another journalist’s work is a lot like a magician watching another work,” said the judge. “I believe I have come to know most of the tricks of the trade. The Chicago Sun-Times pulled off some deadline feats that still have me scratching my head.”