Michael Lelko (left) and his brother John wear hospital gowns after being treated at a local hospital in August. (Photo by Steve Metsch)

Michael Lelko (left) and his brother John wear hospital gowns after being treated at a local hospital in August. (Photo by Steve Metsch)

Lyons police investigate backyard burials

By Steve Metsch

Excavation was set to begin Saturday morning in the backyard of a house in the 3900 block of Center Avenue in Lyons, searching for two bodies reportedly buried there, Police Chief Thomas Herion said Friday.

Lyons police and the West Suburban Major Crimes Task Force are investigating. Police said the case began when they conducted a well-being check on the home because the Lyons Water Department showed no water had been used at the home in more than a year.

No criminal charges have yet been filed against the residents – Michael Lelko, 45, and brother John Lelko, 41 – who have apparently been living in squalor for years.

Michael Lelko told Herion he buried the bodies of his mother, Jean Lelko, and sister Jennifer Lelko in the backyard.

“You don’t expect (in) an interview, ‘Yeah, I buried my mother and sister it the backyard.’ It doesn’t happen every day,” Herion said.

Michael Lelko, Herion said, “was very detailed about how he packaged the bodies and where he put the bodies.”

The brothers – still dressed in the bright blue shirt and pants they were issued at MacNeal Hospital when police took them there for evaluation on Thursday night – talked with reporters Friday outside a local pizzeria.

Police had put them up at a motel on Harlem Avenue and they were upset over televised reports Thursday night.

Michael Lelko said he feared telling the police that his mother, Jean, had died in December 2015, and his sister, Jennifer, had died in November 2019.

Michael said John did not assist with the burials.

Michael said Jennifer had pushed Jean down a flight of stairs in early 2015 and his mother suffered a head wound that may have contributed to her death.

“I took my mother’s body and my sister’s body and gave them the best proper burial I could in our backyard,” Michael said. “You only get so deep because of the bedrock.”

The house, with overgrown landscaping and a seldom-used white convertible in the driveway, is at 3950 Center, just south of Ogden Avenue.

While no charges are filed because “right now we don’t have a crime,” Herion said in a news conference Friday that charges are possible.

Herion said it was a felony to conceal a death, and a Class 3 felony if a death is determined be a homicide. Police are treating these as homicides pending investigation, he said.

Cook County has no death records for the women, Herion said.

Herion said he “never saw such conditions” as he encountered inside the house Thursday.

“It was deplorable,” he said, noting that bottles filled with urine were strewn around the house.

Police wore hazmat suits when they entered, and found John Lelko “sleeping in a situation no one should sleep in,” Herion said.

Herion said Michael Lelko told him he was financially unable to afford a proper burial, which is why he decided to bury them in the yard. The brothers said they are unemployed.

“We have to call it a crime scene by statements we currently have,” Herion added.

“There were calls to the police by the mother up to a month before she passed,” Herion added. No calls were about violence in the home, he said.

A woman who has lived next door for two years said she avoids the brothers “because they are weird.”

Asked how someone could bury bodies in the backyard with houses nearby, she said, “it’s very dark back there at night.”

Martha Aranda, who’s lived across the street for a year, said Thursday was the first time she saw John Lelko.

When it’s raining, Michael wears a plastic garbage bag as a poncho. “He walks everywhere even though they have a car in the driveway,” she said.

“(Michael) is not friendly at all but he doesn’t bother you, either, so we let him be,” she said.

“One neighbor told me there were hot-tempered, but I never witnessed anything like that. (Michael’s) appearance was disheveled, homeless, dirty, dingy,” Aranda said.

The house will eventually be emptied, Herion said, with all items checked as possible evidence of foul play. Police are treating the case as two homicides right now, he said.

“At this point in time, there could be written notes, who knows what?” Herion said.

Down the block, resident William Kellmann, 49, said, “people’s heads tick in different ways.” He recalled seeing the brothers walking around Lyons but noticed “nothing out of the ordinary.”

Kellmann did recall running into the brothers at a pawn shop in North Riverside about a year ago.

“They had some jewelry that was Mom and Dad’s,” Kellmann said. “From what they were saying to the lady behind the counter made me think the parents had passed on and this is family heirloom stuff.”

James Lelko, the father of the brothers, was divorced from Jean. James was not living in the house when he died in 2017, Michael said.

Local News

An artist's depiction of what Pete's Fresh Market in Orland Park would look like.

Orland getting ready to welcome Pete’s Fresh Market next year

By Jeff Vorva Orland Park’s Board of Trustees made some decisions for Pete’s sake. During Monday night’s board meeting, the trustees passed modifications of building codes as well as approving special use permits to build a Pete’s Fresh Market at 15080 S. LaGrange Road, a spot that housed the Art Van Furniture Store. This project…

Palos Heights Community Service Officer Matthew Murray (from left), a volunteer from Critter Corral Guinea Pig Rescue, Cadet Matthew Kroll and Officer Dave Delaney hold the rescued guinea pigs. (Supplied photo)

Guinea pigs rescued from Palos Heights dumpster

From staff reports Palos Heights police rescued four guinea pigs last week from a dumpster behind 7500 College Drive. Police said someone saw the animals being thrown into the dumpster on July 28 and called authorities. Police Officer Dave Delaney, Cadet Matthew Kroll and Community Service Officer Matthew Murray, whose father is a veterinarian, jumped…

Michael Dalaly displays the authentic 1960s police car he and his friend and coworker Bill Duggan built from a 1963 Ford Galaxie. (Photos by Isabella Schreck)

First responders live it up at Orland’s National Night Out

By Isabella Schreck With a helicopter overhead, police cars and fire trucks to climb into, free giveaways, food, and music, Orland Park’s annual National Night Out looked like it had something for all ages. Residents agreed. “The free hots dogs, the helicopter flying and seeing all of the different vendors makes it a fun event…

Alderman Robert Basso said the police are hoping Palos Heights homeowners with security cameras will join the Palos Heights Police Department’s Surveillance Camera Registration and Mapping program, a.k.a. SCRAM. (Photo by Jeff Vorva)

Palos Heights cops looking for help from citizens’ cameras

By Jeff Vorva Palos Heights police and the city council are asking residents to SCRAM. Alderman Robert Basso said the police are hoping Palos Heights homeowners with security cameras will join the Palos Heights Police Department’s Surveillance Camera Registration and Mapping program, a.k.a. SCRAM. “It’s an initiative that provides information from their home security camera…

Oak Lawn Police Chief Dan Vittorio, accompanied by Division Chief Gerald Vetter on his right, speaks to the media last Thursday afternoon at the Oak Lawn Village Hall. (Photos by Joe Boyle)

Oak Lawn police defend use of force against teen

Federal lawsuit filed against police department, individual officers By Joe Boyle The 17-year-old who was arrested by Oak Lawn police last week after a brutal encounter with officers after he ran away from a traffic stop was released from the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center Tuesday afternoon. Hadi Abuatelah, of Palos Hills, left the detention…

The Clearing Branch Library recently saw an overflow crowd of women, men and children eager to see performances by students of the Boitsov Classical Ballet School, as well as professional dancers invited by Madame Elizabeth Boitsov. The Boitsov School is located at 6102 S. Archer. – Photo courtesy of Kim Hernandez

Yet another artistic triumph for the Boitsov School

By Joan Hadac Your correspondent in Clearing and Garfield Ridge (708) 496-0265 • [email protected] Have you ever been excited about seeing a great film, concert, stage performance or sporting event—so much so that you marked it in red ink on your calendar, months in advance—only to miss it? That’s what happened to me recently, when I…

The Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Initiative, with the assistance of the Oak Lawn Fire Department, presented a demonstration showing the impact sprinkler systems have in limiting damage and tragedy in fires that can occur in homes and businesses. The demonstration above did not feature a sprinkler system. (Photos by Joe Boyle)

Oak Lawn residents enjoy National Night Out

By Joe Boyle A large crowd attended the Oak Lawn National Night Out Tuesday night, which did not surprise Police Chief Dan Vittorio. “We draw large crowds every year,” the Oak Lawn police chief said. “Last year, we had a lot of people, too. The year before that we did not have it because of…

Bill Moritz of the Palos Heights Police Department has a little fun donning a toy fire helmet at Tuesday's National Night Out Event. (Photos by Jeff Vorva)

Palos Heights police host National Night Out

By Jeff Vorva Throughout the country, police departments held their National Night Out event on Tuesday. Palos Heights continued its tradition of hosting the event near the police station. Easton Daggy, 4, of Oak Forest gets behind the wheel of a fire truck Tuesday at Palos Heights’ National Night Out.There was plenty to do –…

The Palos Hills Police Department hosted its sixth annual National Night Out event on Tuesday at Town Square Park, 8455 W. 103rd Street. (Photos by Kelly White)

Palos Hills builds bonds between police, residents at National Night Out

By Kelly White Palos Hills officials are always looking for ways to form bonds between the city and the community. Doing just that, the city held its sixth annual National Night Out event on Tuesday at Town Square Park, 8455 W. 103rd Street. “The city of Palos Hills is again proud to sponsor our annual…

A cook prepares food at a past Taste of Orland Park. (Photo by Jeff Vorva)

Taste of Orland Park kicks off on Friday

From staff reports The Village of Orland Park’s annual Taste of Orland Park returns to Orland Park Village Center from Friday, August 5, through Sunday, August 7. Now in its 19th year, the Taste of Orland Park showcases Orland Park eateries, community organizations and several bands throughout the weekend. Special events within the fest include…

Neighbors

DVN JCs Restoration House Ad
An artist's depiction of what Pete's Fresh Market in Orland Park would look like.

Orland getting ready to welcome Pete’s Fresh Market next year

By Jeff Vorva Orland Park’s Board of Trustees made some decisions for Pete’s sake. During Monday night’s board meeting, the trustees passed modifications of building codes as well as approving special use permits to build a Pete’s Fresh Market at 15080 S. LaGrange Road, a spot that housed the Art Van Furniture Store. This project…

Palos Heights Community Service Officer Matthew Murray (from left), a volunteer from Critter Corral Guinea Pig Rescue, Cadet Matthew Kroll and Officer Dave Delaney hold the rescued guinea pigs. (Supplied photo)

Guinea pigs rescued from Palos Heights dumpster

From staff reports Palos Heights police rescued four guinea pigs last week from a dumpster behind 7500 College Drive. Police said someone saw the animals being thrown into the dumpster on July 28 and called authorities. Police Officer Dave Delaney, Cadet Matthew Kroll and Community Service Officer Matthew Murray, whose father is a veterinarian, jumped…

Michael Dalaly displays the authentic 1960s police car he and his friend and coworker Bill Duggan built from a 1963 Ford Galaxie. (Photos by Isabella Schreck)

First responders live it up at Orland’s National Night Out

By Isabella Schreck With a helicopter overhead, police cars and fire trucks to climb into, free giveaways, food, and music, Orland Park’s annual National Night Out looked like it had something for all ages. Residents agreed. “The free hots dogs, the helicopter flying and seeing all of the different vendors makes it a fun event…

Alderman Robert Basso said the police are hoping Palos Heights homeowners with security cameras will join the Palos Heights Police Department’s Surveillance Camera Registration and Mapping program, a.k.a. SCRAM. (Photo by Jeff Vorva)

Palos Heights cops looking for help from citizens’ cameras

By Jeff Vorva Palos Heights police and the city council are asking residents to SCRAM. Alderman Robert Basso said the police are hoping Palos Heights homeowners with security cameras will join the Palos Heights Police Department’s Surveillance Camera Registration and Mapping program, a.k.a. SCRAM. “It’s an initiative that provides information from their home security camera…

Oak Lawn Police Chief Dan Vittorio, accompanied by Division Chief Gerald Vetter on his right, speaks to the media last Thursday afternoon at the Oak Lawn Village Hall. (Photos by Joe Boyle)

Oak Lawn police defend use of force against teen

Federal lawsuit filed against police department, individual officers By Joe Boyle The 17-year-old who was arrested by Oak Lawn police last week after a brutal encounter with officers after he ran away from a traffic stop was released from the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center Tuesday afternoon. Hadi Abuatelah, of Palos Hills, left the detention…

The Clearing Branch Library recently saw an overflow crowd of women, men and children eager to see performances by students of the Boitsov Classical Ballet School, as well as professional dancers invited by Madame Elizabeth Boitsov. The Boitsov School is located at 6102 S. Archer. – Photo courtesy of Kim Hernandez

Yet another artistic triumph for the Boitsov School

By Joan Hadac Your correspondent in Clearing and Garfield Ridge (708) 496-0265 • [email protected] Have you ever been excited about seeing a great film, concert, stage performance or sporting event—so much so that you marked it in red ink on your calendar, months in advance—only to miss it? That’s what happened to me recently, when I…

The Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Initiative, with the assistance of the Oak Lawn Fire Department, presented a demonstration showing the impact sprinkler systems have in limiting damage and tragedy in fires that can occur in homes and businesses. The demonstration above did not feature a sprinkler system. (Photos by Joe Boyle)

Oak Lawn residents enjoy National Night Out

By Joe Boyle A large crowd attended the Oak Lawn National Night Out Tuesday night, which did not surprise Police Chief Dan Vittorio. “We draw large crowds every year,” the Oak Lawn police chief said. “Last year, we had a lot of people, too. The year before that we did not have it because of…

Bill Moritz of the Palos Heights Police Department has a little fun donning a toy fire helmet at Tuesday's National Night Out Event. (Photos by Jeff Vorva)

Palos Heights police host National Night Out

By Jeff Vorva Throughout the country, police departments held their National Night Out event on Tuesday. Palos Heights continued its tradition of hosting the event near the police station. Easton Daggy, 4, of Oak Forest gets behind the wheel of a fire truck Tuesday at Palos Heights’ National Night Out.There was plenty to do –…

The Palos Hills Police Department hosted its sixth annual National Night Out event on Tuesday at Town Square Park, 8455 W. 103rd Street. (Photos by Kelly White)

Palos Hills builds bonds between police, residents at National Night Out

By Kelly White Palos Hills officials are always looking for ways to form bonds between the city and the community. Doing just that, the city held its sixth annual National Night Out event on Tuesday at Town Square Park, 8455 W. 103rd Street. “The city of Palos Hills is again proud to sponsor our annual…

A cook prepares food at a past Taste of Orland Park. (Photo by Jeff Vorva)

Taste of Orland Park kicks off on Friday

From staff reports The Village of Orland Park’s annual Taste of Orland Park returns to Orland Park Village Center from Friday, August 5, through Sunday, August 7. Now in its 19th year, the Taste of Orland Park showcases Orland Park eateries, community organizations and several bands throughout the weekend. Special events within the fest include…

CRR NH Reliable Waterproofing House Ad
DVN Very Gentle Dental Care House Ad