Mom 'Stunned' at High Bail Set for Daughter's Accused Killer
Catherine Peters never gave up hope that crime lab results would lead to an arrest of her daughter's live-in boyfriend, who has been charged with her murder.
Since March 6—the night that her daughter, Michele, was found fatally shot—prosecutors and police detectives had been telling Catherine Peters to be patient.
The man accused of killing her daughter, George Kleopa, 32, stood in a Markham courtroom the day before his 33rd birthday on Wednesday, waiting for bail to be set. Cook County prosecutors say that Kleopa fatally shot Michelle, 30, in the Chicago Heights home they shared with their two young sons in the early morning hours of March 6.
Peters found out about her daughter’s death when she was summoned to the Chicago Heights police station at 4 a.m. from her Hickory Hills home.
While police questioned Kleopa for 48 hours, he was released without being charged, even though police investigators said he changed his story several times of how Michele came to be shot in the face.
Her mother maintains that her daughter’s bags were packed and she was moving her sons back to Hometown without their father. Family and friends have also alleged that Michele suffered in silence for years in an abusive relationship.
At first, Cook County prosecutors told her that evidence and the weapon found at the Chicago Heights home on Hickory Street needed to be further investigated in the Illinois State Crime Lab. Peters was told it would take at least six weeks before the lab results would come back.
The six weeks stretched into eight, ten, twelve. Peters made her regular calls to the Chicago Heights police, and talked to the new division chief of detectives.
She told him: “I’m going to be calling you every week and not leaving you alone.”
On Tuesday morning, when the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office called to inform her of Kleopa’s arrest on Monday, she went to St. Mary’s Cemetery in Evergreen Park where her daughter is buried, to tell Michele the news.
“The prosecutors all had poker faces. They kept me at an arm’s distance,” Peters said. “I kept praying to Michele, my mom and God. I had faith and was starting to lose it, but I kept praying.”
Attending Kleopa’s bond hearing on Wednesday morning, Kleopa’s attorney argued for bail to be set at $100,000, stating his client worked at the Tinley Park Convention Center, was a student, and had no criminal record.
Peters said she was stunned when heard the judge set bail at $2 million.
“I about choked,” Peters said. “I was hoping for a high bond but I didn’t think it would be that high. I couldn’t believe it when they said $2 million.”
With the arrest of her daughter’s accused killer, Peters thinks things will start to turn around. She has only seen her daughter’s sons—George, 7, and Alex 2—briefly since Michele’s death. The boys did not attend their mother's funeral.
Both boys are with Kleopa’s family members; the older boy was sent to live with Kleopa’s relatives in California. Peters has had minimal contact with them, and claims that Kleopa’s family members won’t let her see the children.
“Not only did I lose my daughter, I lost my grandsons,” Peters said.
Even before Kleopa’s arrest, Peters was in court fighting for grandparents’ visitation rights. She said Kleopa didn’t bother to show up for the hearings.
“His attorney won’t return my attorney’s calls to set up mediation,” she said.
Now that he has been charged, Peters said she is going to fight for full custody of her daughter's boys.
“I feel like things are turning around,” she said. “My grandsons belong with their family. I want them to know what a wonderful mother they had and how much she loved them.”