Orland Park

DUI Charge Dropped Against Retired Priest Accused in Fatal Orland Park Hit-and-Run

Rev. Paul Burak still faces charges that he caused, and left the scene of, a deadly accident

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Prosecutors have dropped a DUI charge against a retired priest accused of running over two Catholic school teachers — killing one of them — last year while leaving a Christmas party in Orland Park.

Rev. Paul Burak no longer faces the alcohol-related charge in connection to the Dec. 4 hit-and-run that killed Margaret “Rone” Leja, according to Cook County records.

Burak, 73, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to the remaining counts of causing and leaving the scene of a deadly accident, court records show. He was initially charged with aggravated DUI, but that charge was dropped by prosecutors Jan. 7.

"After a thorough review of the case, the defendant was charged with the most serious offense based on the law and supported by evidence," the Cook County State's Attorney's Office said in a statement.

In his initial bail hearing in December, prosecutors said Burak got into his gold 2016 Buick Regal, hit a parked car while backing out of his spot at the Square Celt Ale House & Grill and then struck two women as they walked on an access road. He continued driving without stopping, prosecutors said.

The women, both teachers at St. Micheal School in Orland Park, were taken to Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox, where Leja, 61, was pronounced dead. Elizabeth Kosteck, 54, was seriously injured and released from the hospital the next morning.

Burak, of Palos Heights, was arrested the next day and ordered held on a $10,000 bail. He was ordered to stay at home on electronic monitoring

In the hearing, one of Burak’s attorneys said Burak has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and glaucoma.

Burak told police that he takes medication for his Parkinson’s and blacked out after having a Manhattan and a glass of wine at the party, prosecutors said then. Burak allegedly said he knew the women were hit, but didn’t know how and thought he had hit a curb the night before.

Burak is due back in court March 18.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Burak is being sued by Leja's family. The suit accuses him of negligence and seeks unspecified damages, according to the report.

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