Judge dismisses Venezia wrongful death suit due to statute of limitations

Amelia Flood Aug. 26, 2010, 8:44am


A wrongful death suit against the estate of convicted racketeer Thomas Venezia and the man who allegedly gave him the gun that ended his life and that of 22 year-old Jennifer Anderson is over.

St. Clair County Circuit Judge Patrick Young entered an order Aug. 17 dismissing the suit filed by Jennifer Anderson's parents, Michael and Cynthia Anderson, with prejudice.

Neither Venezia's estate nor co-defendant Robert Staack had been served since the suit's 2007 filing and the statute of limitations had run out.

Young had actually delayed the dismissal for more than a year as a dispute over the withdrawal of the Andersons' attorney, James Schottel Jr. of St. Louis, dragged on.

The Andersons were suing Venezia's estate for the wrongful death of their daughter in 2005.

Jennifer Anderson was found dead from a gunshot wound to the back of her head in the Belleville home she shared with Venezia.

Venezia was found dead as well, also from a gunshot wound.

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

The Andersons also sued Staack claiming he negligently entrusted the gun used to kill their daughter to Venezia who was allegedly ill and suffering from depression.

Throughout the case's hearings over the last year, the Andersons' attorneys, Schottel and local counsel William Berry, seemed at odds over who was conducting the plaintiff's case.

At several hearings, Berry placed the blame for the suit's lack of progress on Schottel's shoulders.

Schottel, in other instances, blamed Berry and his problems related to his wheel chair-bound status.

Schottel eventually moved to withdraw as the Andersons' attorney in September of last year.

However, Schottel then failed on several occasions to show up in Young's courtroom.

That delayed the case.

Eventually, Young entered an order that would have allowed Schottel to withdraw from the suit on the condition that he return the Andersons' $1,600 retainer fee.

That order was entered in January of this year.

Schottel then asked Young to reconsider and to allow him to keep the retainer.

Young denied the request.

Schottel then filed a for permission to press a writ of mandamus at the Illinois State Supreme Court level that would have forced Young to allow the attorney to keep the money.

The Supreme Court denied that request in March.

Schottel eventually returned the $1,600 in July.

Young's order dismissing the case came at a status conference set Aug. 17.

Although no one had represented either defendant in the proceedings, the case was marked by an outburst from attorney Timothy Wiltsie during a March hearing in the suit.

When asked by Young if he represented any of the parties, Wiltsie refused to say who if anyone he represented.

Wiltsie then asked Young to make Berry admit he was the Andersons' attorney and to throw the case out.

Wiltsie never entered a formal appearance in the suit.

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

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