Diane Chavez speaks about obstruction charges linked to Richard Wanke murder case

Gregory Clark
Gregory Clark

Editor’s note: An e-mail from Diane Chavez follows this report.

By Jim Hagerty
Staff Writer

Although the Winnebago County State’s Attorney’s Office announced that the criminal case against the former girlfriend and landlord of alleged murderer Richard Wanke will again move forward, Diane Chavez says the county has no jurisdiction to prosecute her.

Chavez, 55, was charged with obstruction of justice/destroying evidence in 2008, shortly after Rockford attorney Gregory Clark was shot dead outside his home and police named Wanke the main person of interest.

Chavez was eventually found guilty but had the conviction overturned. Now that Wanke has been charged with Clark’s murder, prosecutors say they will move forward with charges against Chavez.

“She was granted a new trial by the trial judge,” Assistant State’s Attorney Marilyn Hite Ross said Wednesday during a press conference. “The case will be retried in the Circuit Court of Winnebago County on the criminal charges that were originally filed—obstruction of justice.”

According to Chavez, that cannot legally happen. She also claims prosecutors are mistaken about the status of her case. 

After announcing first-degree murder charges against Wanke, Winnebago County State’s Attorney Joe Bruscato (D) told reporters that the appellate court has sent the case back to the county for retrial. 

“Joe Bruscato doesn’t know anything about my case,” Chavez said. “And, Marilyn Hite Ross doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Winnebago County has no jurisdiction over me. The case is in the appellate court. They can’t prosecute me until the appellate court sends it back and that has not happened. Besides, if you read the transcripts of my case—really read them—and you can find where I obstructed, I will buy you all dinner.”

Chavez said she plans to post her trial transcripts on the website, richardwanke.com.

During the investigation into Clark’s death, Chavez allegedly told police Wanke did not live in the duplex she owned at 1113 Grant Ave. When police learned Chavez lived upstairs and Wanke rented the downstairs apartment, Chavez was arrested for obstruction of justice and lodged in the Winnebago County Jail, where she remained for a month before posting a $50,000 bond.

When police searched Chavez’s duplex, they discovered 11 boxes containing thousands of private documents belonging to the Department of Human Services, where Chavez was employed as a caseworker. The discovery led to prosecutors to charge Chavez with tampering with public documents.

She was acquitted of tampering in 2011, after convincing the jury she brought the documents home to catch up on an excessive workload.

Chavez still faced six charges linked to the Clark investigation. She was found guilty of one count of obstruction last year. The conviction was later vacated and she was granted a new trial by Judge Joseph McGraw.

Defense attorney, Stephen L. Richards, of Chicago, filed a motion to dismiss the case Nov. 13. McGraw denied the motion Jan. 14., and a March 5 hearing was scheduled. An appeal filed by Richards cancelled that hearing. A new court date has not been announced.

Shooting of Gregory Clark

On the afternoon of Feb. 6, 2008, Rockford attorney Gregory Clark was operating a snow blower in front of his home in the 1700 block of Oakforest Drive. Police say Clark was shot several times in the back by a suspect who jumped out of a blue minivan. The shooting occurred as a winter storm blanketed Rockford with 8 inches of snow.

Police investigation

Conducting their initial investigation, police learned that Wanke argued with Clark before the shooting. Clark was Wanke’s conflict attorney, appointed to represent him in a 2006 burglary, in which he was accused of stealing a laptop from a Rockford College employee.

The riff was reportedly fueled by Wanke’s conviction that was scheduled for sentencing Friday, Feb. 8, 2008. Wanke claimed Clark failed to properly represent him, a complaint he made about Clark and his previous lawyer several times. Wanke was free on bond when Clark was killed.

After hearing of the argument, police were led to Chavez’s duplex, where she was arrested. After posting bond a month later, Chavez was re-arrested April 10, 2008 on the tampering charges. Wanke’s bond was revoked after Clark’s death. He was sentenced Aug. 7, 2008 to 14 years in prison.

Wanke was up for parole May 7. However, he was served with an arrest warrant charging him with first-degree murder Wednesday, April 16. He will brought back to the Winnebago County Jail to await trial.

Evidence

Aside from a set of questionable footprints, what authorities allege links Wanke to the shooting has not been released. Bruscato would not comment Wednesday about what has been recovered—namely new evidence obtained since 2008.

According to police, witnesses reported seeing Chavez near Clark’s home the day before the shooting. Witnesses also claim they saw the blue minivan Chavez shared with Wanke at the scene Feb. 5 and Feb. 6, 2008. While it is alleged the van was used in the shooting, Chavez was at her job eight miles across town when Clark was gunned down.

The suspect was initially described as a man between 5-feet, 10-inches and 6-feet, 2-inches. Whether prosecutors believe that man is Wanke isn’t clear. Some witnesses stated the shooter matched Wanke’s description while others told police Wanke was driving when the shooter emerged from the van and discharged several rounds into Clark’s back. The suspect vehicle is a dark blue minivan, police said. 

The type of weapon used to kill Clark—or whether it has been recovered—is not known.

Chavez declined to comment about Wanke’s case. In a post to richardwanke.com, Chavez said there’s no evidence to convict him.

“The existing evidence in the case to-date has been described to us as chaotic at best since the murder occurred in an open neighborhood, in the middle of a major Rockford snowstorm, and resulted in speculation about potential multiple suspects, contradictory statements and sparse information,” Chavez posted Wednesday, April 16. “As far as we know, no direct evidence connects Richard Wanke to the murder, and NO NEW EVIDENCE IS BEING ADVANCED EVEN NOW by the SA (state’s attorney), as justification for charging him 6 years after this heinous murder.”

Editor’s note: Editor & Publisher Frank Schier returned Ms. Chavez’s repeated phones calls and advised her she was entitled to a “right of fair reply.” When asked if she would to like us to post this e-mail after the initial story to dispute it, she said, “yes.”

E-mail reply from Diane Chavez, Sunday, April 20, 2014, 1:26 a.m.

The article below,

Diane Chavez speaks about obstruction charges

linked to Richard Wanke murder case

is:

1. Inaccurate in much of it’s language and content as written and extremely open to misinterpretation.

2. Directly libelous and defaming to me, and I will act accordingly to this publication unless the article is immediately retracted. As written, it is a direct provocation to the Winnebago County States Attorney’s office to charge me in whatever manner they can in relation to the Greg Clark murder investigation for making outrageously inaccurate statements you attribute directly to me.

________________________________________________________________________

“Although the Winnebago County State’s Attorney’s Office announced that the criminal case against the former girlfriend and landlord of alleged murderer Richard Wanke will again move forward, Diane Chavez says the county has no jurisdiction to prosecute her.

I did not say “the county has no jurisdiction to prosecute” me. Obviously the county has jurisdiction to prosecute anyone who it alleges commits a crime in the county. I indicated that the county has no jurisdiction now (at this time) to prosecute me unless the Appellate Court denies my appeal and it returns for retrial. You insert this clarification 6 paragraphs down in the article; too late for the reader to determine that the two are not independent statements

According to Chavez, that cannot legally happen. She also claims prosecutors are mistaken about the status of her case.” 

Again I did not say that Winnebago County cannot ever retry me. As I told you they would first have to wait for an Appellate denial of my appeal.

Joe Bruscato doesn’t know anything about my case,” Chavez said. “And, Marilyn Hite Ross doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Winnebago County has no jurisdiction over me. The case is in the appellate court. They can’t prosecute me until the appellate court sends it back and that has not happened. Besides, if you read the transcripts of my case—really read them—and you can find where I obstructed, I will buy you all dinner.”

I said, “It was apparent at the press conference that Joe Bruscato did not know anything about the status of my case”. I am sure he knows plenty about the facts of my case! And, I said that “Marilyn Hite-Ross was speaking out-of-court, and not that she doesn’t know what she is talking about. (I am sure that she knows plenty…)

“Chavez said she plans to post her trial transcripts on the website she maintains,richardwanke.com.”

I do not maintain that website, nor did I say that I was going to post my transcript (singular only) on richardwanke.com. I said that I would post it; but not when or where.

“During the investigation into Clark’s death, Chavez allegedly told police Wanke did not live in the duplex she owned at 1113 Grant Ave. When police learned Chavez lived upstairs and Wanke rented the downstairs apartment, Chavez was arrested for obstruction of justice and lodged in the Winnebago County Jail, where she remained for a month before posting a $50,000 bond.”

This paragraph shows a complete misunderstanding of what my Obstruction charge entailed and the entire paragraph as written and published is outright libelous and directly defames me, particularly as there now exists an entire case record which contradicts it.

She was acquitted of tampering in 2011, after convincing the jury she brought the documents home to catch up on an excessive workload.

Another entirely inaccurate sentence, as that was not the context in which my trial was conducted and an excessive workload argument was not the basis of the decision finding me innocent.

Chavez still faced six charges linked to the Clark investigation. She was found guilty of one count of obstruction last year. The conviction was later vacated and she was granted a new trial by Judge Joseph McGraw.

The number of counts is inaccurate, and you fail to mention that one count was dismissed by Judge McGraw, during trial.

 After hearing of the argument, police were led to Chavez’s duplex, where she was arrested. After posting bond a month later, Chavez was re-arrested April 10, 2008 on the tampering charges. Wanke’s bond was revoked after Clark’s death. He was sentenced Aug. 7, 2008 to 14 years in prison.

I was not arrested at my duplex.

Aside from a set of questionable footprints, what authorities allege links Wanke to the shooting has not been released. Bruscato would not comment Wednesday about what has been recovered—namely new evidence obtained since 2008.

Authorities have not said that they link Wanke to any set of questionable footprints.

 According to police, witnesses reported seeing Chavez near Clark’s home the day before the shooting. Witnesses also claim they saw the blue minivan Chavez shared with Wanke at the scene Feb. 5 and Feb. 6, 2008. While it is alleged the van was used in the shooting, Chavez was at her job eight miles across town when Clark was gunned down.

 Sorry, but my minivan is not blue.

The suspect was initially described as a man between 5-feet, 10-inches and 6-feet, 2-inches. Whether prosecutors believe that man is Wanke isn’t clear. Some witnesses stated the shooter matched Wanke’s description while others told police Wanke was driving when the shooter emerged from the van and discharged several rounds into Clark’s back. The suspect vehicle is a dark blue minivan, police said. 

Now you are printing statements which (if they exist) have to be contained in evidentiary statements THAT ARE PRESENTLY SEALED FROM DISCLOSURE UNDER ORDER OF THE COURT. That is just not wise.

 Chavez declined to comment about Wanke’s case. In a post to richardwanke.com, Chavez said there’s no evidence to convict him.

 That article exists on that website as a general summation viewpoint from it, but not that of any particular individual.

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