Brother-in-Law Killed Suburban Attorney Over Finances, Prosecutors Allege

The man charged with the murder of a prominent Chicago-area attorney was the victim's brother-in-law, prosecutors said Thursday, alleging that John Gately III carried out the fatal shooting after his sister told him she could no longer financially support him.

A judge ordered Gately, 66, held without bail on charges of first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder Thursday, according to the Cook County state's attorney's office, in connection with the death of 72-year-old Stephen Shapiro.

Shapiro, of north suburban Northfield, was Gately's brother-in-law, married to Gately's sister Joan Shapiro, Assistant State's Attorney Andreana Turano said at a news conference.

"For the last several months, Joan Shapiro had agreed to financially support the defendant, her brother, while family lawsuits were pending," Turano said, reading from the document prosecutors presented in court.

"She paid his landlord directly and provided him with a monthly amount," Turano continued. "Recently she began explaining to the defendant about budgeting issues and taking into account unforeseen expenses. She told him she would no longer just give him money."

On Sunday, the day before the shooting, prosecutors alleged that Gately drove his car into another sister's fence while backing up - an incident in which authorities said Joan and their sister claimed he had been drinking and used as an example to "discuss budgeting" with him.

The following day, Turano said Joan ran errands and left her phone at home, missing several calls from Gately.

That evening at around 7:17 p.m., prosecutors said Stephen and Joan Shapiro were at their home in the 200 block of Latrobe Avenue in Northfield, "listening to meditation after finishing a quiet dinner when the doorbell rang."

"Stephen Shapiro went to answer the door, while Joan Shapiro remained in the living room," Turano said. "The defendant asked, 'Where’s Joan?' After Stephen Shapiro had told him that she was not available, the defendant fired his gun multiple times. Stephen Shapiro yelled out, 'Johnny, no!'"

"Stephen Shapiro lurched into the kitchen area," Turano continued. "Joan got up from her chair and began to hide behind another chair. The defendant came into the living room, pointed his gun directly at Joan and stated, 'I am going to kill you.'"

Gately's gun did not go off, prosecutors alleged, and as he attempted to load or fix it, Joan Shapiro grabbed her cell phone and ran past him out the front door and down the driveway, yelling for help.

She hid behind a car across the street and called 911, Turano said, returning inside when she saw Gately get into his still-running car and drive away.

Stephen Shapiro was taken to Evanston Hospital where he was pronounced dead, officials said. He had suffered two gunshot wounds to the chest, according to prosecutors.

"Joan Shapiro then contacted her family members, warning them about her brother, the defendant, and telling them to leave their homes," Turano said, adding that police then surrounded Gately's home in the 1000 block of Tower Road in Winnetka.

Gately barricaded himself in his apartment, prosecutors alleged - at one point, "attempting to use a rope that he had tied to his balcony to escape."

He was taken into custody with the assistance of a SWAT team at around 10:35 p.m. that night, according to police.

Three fired .22 caliber cartridge cases were recovered from the Shapiros' home, prosecutors alleged, as well as two unfired rounds. Officials said two weapons were found at Gately's home, but neither were a .22 caliber weapon.

Gately was expected to plead not guilty on both charges, his attorney Michael Petro said at a news conference Thursday.

"John stated that he loves Joan and he loves Stephen very, very much," Petro said, adding, "He could not say an ill word towards either of them. He is really sorry to learn that Stephen had passed."

Stephen Shapiro was an attorney with the Mayer Brown law firm, where he was the founder and senior member of the firm's Supreme Court practice, according to the company's website.

"We are shocked and saddened to learn of the death of Steve Shapiro, our friend and colleague," John Tuerck of Mayer Brown said in a statement. "Steve joined our firm in 1972 and was promoted to partner in 1978, becoming one of the most accomplished appellate lawyers in the United States. Our thoughts are with Steve’s family at this difficult time."

Gately was next scheduled to appear in court on Aug. 30.

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