Status conference set next week in Venezia wrongful death suit

Amelia Flood May 25, 2010, 6:41am


A status conference is set next week in a wrongful death suit involving notorious racketeer Thomas Venezia who police say died of a self-inflicted gun wound in 2005.

In the meantime, the plaintiffs in the case -- Michael and Cynthia Anderson of Belleville -- may still be waiting for repayment of a retainer fee owed by their former attorney.

There are no indications in the case file as to whether St. Louis attorney James Schottel Jr. has returned a $1,600 retainer fee paid by the Andersons to pursue a claim on behalf of their deceased daughter, Jennifer Anderson. She was found shot to death, along with Venezia, in a home they shared in Belleville.

The deaths were ruled a murder-suicide by the Belleville Police Department.

Schottel has fought hard to keep the fee despite two orders from St. Clair County Circuit Judge Patrick Young and a refusal by the Illinois Supreme Court to consider Schottel's request that it order Young to overturn those orders.

The Andersons are suing Robert Staack and Venezia's estate. They allege that Staack negligently entrusted a gun to Venezia, who was ill and allegedly suffering from depression. Venezia allegedly used the gun to kill Jennifer Anderson.

Neither defendant has been served in the suit.

Schottel and local counsel William Berry have pointed fingers at one another for the problems in serving the defendants and proceeding with the suit.

Schottel asked to withdraw from the case last September citing staffing problems at his office.

After he failed to appear at several hearings in the case, Young allowed his withdrawal on the condition that he return the Andersons' retainer.

As of May 3, Schottel had not returned the retainer, according to Berry.

Young ordered Schottel to return the money by May 13 when he set the June 3 status conference.

That conference will begin at 9:30 a.m.

Schottel was not at the May 3 status conference.

The Andersons have yet to find new counsel in the case.

In a strange twist in the case, at the May 3 status conference Belleville attorney Timothy Wiltsie asked Young to dimiss the case on the behalf of an anonymous party.

Wiltsie did not formally enter an appearance in the case and spoke from the gallery.

The case is St. Clair case number 07-L-359.

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