A new judge and prosecutor have been assigned to the murder case of a Chicago Heights man accused of fatally shooting his live-in girlfriend last March, in a move that his defense attorney described as a routine.
George Kleopa, 33, who is out on a $2 million bond, appeared Monday, Jan. 7 in Judge Anna Helen Demacopolous' courtroom, a change from Judge James J. Rhodes. Assistant State's Attorney Karen Sullivan will now be prosecuting the case. The court periodically rotates judges, prosecutors and clerks to different courtrooms.
Kleopa's attorney Andrew Weisberg asked Demacopolous for a date further out for status to obtain more evidence in the case, incluing autopsy photos, Kleopa's statement, video and crime scene photos.
Weisberg told Patch after Monday's hearing that the reassignment is "just a routine change. I haven't been given any more information than that."
He declined to comment further on the case.
Authorities say Kleopa fatally shot Michele Peters, 30, his live-in gifrlfriend and the mother of his two young sons on March 6.
Peters was found fatally shot with a gunshot wound to the face in the Chicago Heights home she shared with Kleopa. He has pleaded not guilty to six counts of felony murder and wasreleased from custody on $2 million bail in August.
Peters' mother Catherine Peters and other family members have attended every hearing and Monday was no exception. The Peters family has also begun a custody battle with Kleopa's relatives in California, where their father sent the two young children to live.
A status hearing in the case has been set for Friday, where a judge is supposed to decide jurisdiction in the case, Catherine Peters said.
But there has been some good news in that fight; Catherine Peters and some of the family were able to see the boys on Christmas.
And after Monday's hearing, there was another sign of hope: Catherine Peters and Kleopa's mother hugged each other in a tearful embrace.
"We're going to bring the family together for the boys," Catherine Peters said, eyes still welling, though she declined to discuss specifics. "They need both families. We have to be there for them for the rest of their lives. We're never going to not be there for them."
Kleopa is scheduled to be back in court on March 12.