Christopher Kelly, a top fundraiser to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich and a key figure in the federal corruption investigation, died Saturday.
The Cook County medical examiner's office confirmed that the body of Christopher Kelly of Burr Ridge was brought to the morgue from Stroger Hospital. The preliminary cause of death was salicylate intoxication, according to the medical office. Salicylates are common drugs found in aspirin, topical ointments and stomach medicines. An autopsy is scheduled for Sunday.
Country Club Hills Mayor Dwight Welch told the Tribune that Kelly was found in a lumber yard near 173rd Street and Cicero Avenue Friday night and was stabilized at Oak Forest Hospital before being transferred to Stroger Hospital at 5:15 a.m. Saturday morning. Stroger officials told NBC5 he was transfered there because doctors thought it was best to send him to a hospital that had a trauma center. He was pronounced dead at Stroger at 10:46 a.m.
Police were investigating Kelly's death as a suicide, but were going to be especially thorough, Welch said. Local and state police and the FBI searched for clues at the lumberyard, but no further information was available, according to the mayor.
Last week, Kelly pleaded guilty to two counts of mail fraud for his part in an illegal scheme that landed him $8.5 million in contracts at O'Hare International Airport. He was set to report to the Metropolitan Correctional Center on Sept. 18 to serve up to 5 years in prison in addition to the earlier June sentence of 3 years for tax offenses.
Kelly was indicted with the former governor on separate charges in April.
In court last week, Kelly expressed remorse.
"I'm deeply sorry.. to the people who I have embarrassed by my actions... I know they're wrong," he said in court.
NBC5's Mary Ann Ahern reported that Kelly's death is likely a blow to the prosecution, who were pressuring him to cooperate in the Blagojevich case.
The former governor has been traveling on a book tour but released a statement through his publicist.
"I am deeply saddened to hear that Chris has died," the statement read. "My heart goes out to his wife Carmen, his three daughters Grace, Jacqueline and Claire and his entire family. They are in our prayers."
Blagojevich and Kelly were best friends, Ahern reported. In his recently-released book, Blagojevich called Kelly a person he relied on.