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He would come to court and sit quietly in the front row, an angry man with a disfigured face, a tormented mind — and an all-consuming grudge against the doctors he claimed had botched his cancer treatment and ruined his life. Bart A. Ross, the 57-year-old Polish emigre who killed himself in a Milwaukee suburb Thursday, left a suicide note in his van saying that he had killed the husband and mother of U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow, Chicago police said. Lefkow was one of several judges who had ruled against him in a long-running series of medical malpractice suits. Lefkow’s decision was upheld in January by a federal appeals court. The judge found the bodies of her husband Michael Lefkow, 64, and her mother, Donna Humphrey, 89, in their North Side home when she returned the night of Feb. 28. WMAQ-TV reported Thursday it had received a letter from Ross in which he said he had broken into Lefkow’s house in the pre-dawn hours, intending to kill the judge, but had instead encountered her family. At the time of his death, Ross, who had worked as an electrical contractor, was facing eviction from the home he had rented for the past year. Last week, sheriff’s deputies made two unsuccessful attempts to serve him with a summons. He was due in court Thursday. Neighbors and acquaintances said Ross — who changed his name from Bartlomiej Ciszewski after he came to the United States in 1982 — lived alone with his dog and kept to himself. They also described him as an intelligent man who grew increasingly angry and paranoid after he felt doctors had destroyed his life when they treated him for cancer of the mouth at the University of Illinois-Chicago Hospital and its clinic. Over the next decade, he wrote political leaders — from the governor to President Bush — rambling letters that veered from plaintive pleas to angry threats. He sometimes represented himself in court, accusing the government of aiding “Nazi style” criminals. He also compared the U.S. judiciary to the al-Qaida terrorist network. “He became obsessed with this,” said Don Rose, a political consultant who met Ross when he did electrical work on a friend’s house. “His health was deteriorating, his money was going away, he couldn’t make any headway in the legal system.” Ross’ treatment for oral cancer included surgery to remove part of his jaw bone and radiation that left him disfigured and caused him to lose his teeth, according to Barry Bollinger, a lawyer who represented the university hospital and two doctors also sued. “It worked and it cured him of cancer, but he felt that the treatment was inappropriate,” Bollinger said. “It was very standard treatment … It was absolutely appropriate.” In one suit, Ross claimed he faced enormous medical bills and would need a half-million dollars to get out of debt and reclaim his house. He also said he suffered from “great anguish in mind and uncontrollable pain.” He claimed his speech was impaired, he was unable to open his mouth more than a quarter-inch and could eat only liquids. Photos in one of his filings showed the dramatic change in his face. Ross also claimed he was subjected to radiation therapy without his knowledge and consent — a point Bollinger disputed. “He came back for many visits — it wasn’t like they strapped him down and put a gun to his head,” the attorney said. The university hospital released a statement saying Ross consented to and received conservative treatments after a “grave diagnosis of metastatic head and neck cancer.” Rose said that Ross eventually got a prosthesis for his jaw. “He took it out once to show me and half his face collapsed … it was a terrible sight,” he said. Rose also said that Ross asked for his help in finding a lawyer. “He brought me the papers,” he said. “He was very well-researched, a bright guy, good with language.” But Rose said, over the years, as lawyers refused to represent him, Ross’ mental condition unraveled. “He became more and more paranoid,” Rose said. “The last year or two I saw him he’d say, ‘This is like the Holocaust, the doctors are like the Nazis, the system is working against me.’” In court filings, Ross consulted with more than 100 lawyers and about 200 doctors or medical centers on his records, traveling 5,000 miles across the United States. In one suit, he appeared before U.S. District Judge David H. Coar, who recalled Ross as a quiet, intense man who sat in the front row of the courtroom. “He did not like to be told no and when he was told no he wanted to argue longer than he should have,” Coar said. “And if you accepted his version of the facts, it was understandable.” Coar said Ross believed doctors had ruined his life. “You couldn’t help but have sympathy and empathy for someone like that.” Rose said Ross asked him for $1,000 a few years ago — the last time he saw him. Rose refused. “He was angry at the fact that I told him his rhetoric was too inflammatory for a court filing.” Rose said he never expected Ross could be violent, but says when he first heard his name connected to Judge Lefkow and the murders, “it all fell in place. … When she dismissed the case, that was like a death sentence.” Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten, or redistributed.
 
 

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