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Blagojevich aide death is ‘apparent suicide’

/ Source: The Associated Press

The former chief fundraiser for ousted Gov. Rod Blagojevich tried to commit suicide last week after pleading guilty to federal fraud charges, four days before he died of a suspected overdose, authorities said Tuesday.

Christopher G. Kelly, 51, agreed to get help for the depression haunting him after his suicide attempt last Tuesday but ended up making a desperate plea for help to his girlfriend late Friday night. She found him sick in a suburban construction yard with bottles of painkiller. He died Saturday morning at a Chicago hospital.

"The determination has been made by our police department that Mr. Kelly's death was an apparent suicide," Country Club Hills Mayor Dwight Welch told reporters.

Kelly had been due to enter prison Sept. 18 to start a three-year sentence for tax fraud. He also expected to be sentenced Nov. 18 to five additional years, to be served consecutively, after pleading guilty to an $8.5 million fraud against two airlines for roofing work on their hangars at O'Hare International Airport.

Raised millions
The man who raised millions of dollars for Blagojevich and became one of his most trusted advisers was facing the prospect of even more time in prison. He was due to go on trial for corruption, along with the former governor, starting June. 3.

Country Club Hills police chief Regina Evans said investigators have discounted the idea that Kelly could have been the victim of homicide.

"There appears to be no evidence of foul play," Evans said. "There is presently no evidence whatsoever of involvement by other persons."

Hours after he pleaded guilty to the O'Hare charges last Tuesday, Kelly contacted girlfriend Clarissa Flores-Buhelos, with whom he had been living in a downtown Chicago apartment, Evans said. She said friends found Kelly in a yard used by his company, BCI Commercial Roofing Inc. They took him to a hospital but never went in. Instead, Kelly agreed to get help, Evans said.

"They agreed Mr. Kelly would seek help with his feelings of depression," the police chief said.

Evans said the friends were checking on him through Friday afternoon.

Then, sometime between 10:15 p.m. and 11 p.m. Friday, Kelly again contacted Flores-Buhelos by either phone or text and asked for assistance.

'I need help'
"I believe he said, 'I need help, come and get me,'" Evans said.

She said Flores-Buhelos arrived at the construction yard in the suburb southwest of Chicago and found Kelly in his black Cadillac Escalade.

Nearby was a trailer with a sleeping bag in it, along with photos of three young girls and miscellaneous food and trash. A person with knowledge of the investigation told The Associated Press earlier Tuesday that the photos were of Kelly's children. That person spoke on condition of anonymity because the matter is still under investigation.

Flores-Buhelos drove Kelly to Oak Forest Hospital, arriving at the emergency room at 11:15 p.m., the police chief said.

Kelly was transported later to John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital in downtown Chicago and died the following morning. Evans said exactly what might have happened to him would not be fully known until a toxicology report arrives from the crime lab in three to six weeks.

She said police found pills in Kelly's vehicle "but nothing in a prescription bottle ... there were multiple pills, different colors, different sizes."

A funeral Mass was scheduled for Wednesday morning. Blagojevich and his wife, Patti, will attend, according to the former governor's publicist, Glenn Selig.