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Police contradict Kane Co. coroner's public statement
Authorities: TV supposedly given to next of kin now sits in evidence locker
By Josh Stockinger and James Fuller | Daily Herald Staff

Kane County Coroner Chuck West

 

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Published: 4/1/2010 12:00 AM

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The key piece of evidence in a criminal investigation into Kane County Coroner Chuck West's office was never turned over to a family member of the dead man it belonged to, but sits in an evidence locker in direct contradiction to public statements made by West about the case.

West said last month his office returned a big-screen television to the family of a Carpentersville man who died in 2007.

Police and multiple sources close to an investigation into the situation say no next of kin was ever located, and the television was seized as evidence last fall.

Carpentersville police Cmdr. Tim Bosshart confirmed investigators were unable to track down relatives of Preston Pomykal, 64, the day his body was found in July 2007.

"We never did," he said.

The next time anyone came looking for the television was fall 2009. That's when it was seized as evidence in an ongoing investigation into whether West acted unlawfully by allowing two deputy coroners to remove the television and "store" it in their home, according to multiple sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The TV remains in storage at the state's attorney's office, the sources said.

West, who has not been charged with any wrongdoing, referred questions on the matter to his attorney, Gary Johnson, who declined to comment.

In March, West told reporters "the television was given to the family at the request, right on the spot."

"And that's the first that we were even aware that there was family," he said. "The minute it was asked for, it was given to them on the spot."

Later this month, special prosecutor Charles Colburn intends to take the investigation to a grand jury, which could decide whether to pursue official misconduct charges against West. Colburn has indicated the coroner's statements to local newspapers about the removal of the television could be "significant" to the case.

Colburn declined to comment on the apparent contradiction in West's statements to the press, as did Kane County State's Attorney John Barsanti, who enlisted Colburn to avoid a potential conflict of interest in the investigation.

Barsanti did confirm that West's office has reached out to him in the past to inquire about seizing property when no relatives can be found for a deceased person.

"Recently, there was some issues from his office on procedures," Barsanti said. "I think the question he posed to us was one we believe would be a policy issue on his part."

According to police reports, officers found no signs of forced entry nor foul play in Pomykal's death. After an initial investigation, reports state, West returned to the home to look for information to identify the man's next of kin but had no success.

While visiting the residence, police said, the coroner discovered a collection of guns and ammunition, which he turned over to police. A television, however, later turned up missing, sources said.

Last month, West admitted he had allowed two deputy coroners who live together to remove the television and keep it in their home as storage, due to a lack of space at his office. While it was out of the ordinary for an employee to take an item home, he said, it's not uncommon for his office to seize property to cover cremation expenses if no family can be found.

He also expressed concern over what would happen if the television and guns had been left behind.

"Anything that we take in has to be stored somewhere," he said. "We didn't want gang members breaking into this house and having access to weapons."

West, who has called the probe into his office politically motivated, complained that investigators came to his office "without the courtesy of even letting me know ... and were asking questions of all my staff, again, without asking me.

"Had they come directly to me it wouldn't have been an issue," he said. "If they had the family ... I had nothing to hide by that. So the sneaking behind the back type of thing is more of a setup, not an investigation. It's just a total lack of respect for me and the office and everything else. From the very beginning, this has been very questionable."

Contradict: Coroner has called probe politically motivated