Pike County sheriff not ruling out criminal charges in Christ death; Says sale of hunting lodge planned

By Steve Korris | Jun 11, 2013


PITTSFIELD – Belleville lawyer Bruce N. Cook plans to sell the hunting lodge where St. Clair County Judge Joseph Christ died, according to Pike County sheriff Paul Petty.

Cook and wife Sandra bought the lodge on Jan. 1, 2011, for $160,000.

Cook’s son, former St. Clair County Judge Michael Cook, found Christ’s body in a bathroom there on March 10.

Petty, who serves as sheriff and coroner, attributed death to cocaine intoxication.

His report triggered an investigation by Steve Wigginton, U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of Illinois at Fairview Heights.

In an interview on June 7, Petty said he did not conduct an inquest because federal prosecutors were already on the case.

He said prosecutors have charged appropriately, but he added that there might also be criminal charges in Pike County.

Prosecutors charged Michael Cook with heroin possession on May 24, in U.S. district court at East St. Louis.

They identified former county probation officer James Fogarty as Christ’s cocaine supplier, and they charged him with distributing the drug.

They filed a heroin distribution charge against Sean McGilvery of Belleville, at whose home federal agents had arrested Cook.

“I have active communication with the federal people, and I anticipate that it will continue," Petty said.

He said there were no prior calls to the lodge while Bruce Cook owned it.

According to neighbors, he said, visits grew more common as time went on.

He said from what neighbors said, “You sure knew they were there.”

He said there currently are no restrictions on use of the property, but he added that Bruce Cook has been adamant about selling it.

The lodge affords comfort and privacy.

County assessment records describe it as a pole frame home, built in 2000, with 2,520 square feet of living space and a garage of 1,440 square feet.

It has a family room and four bedrooms, with three bathrooms and a hot tub.

Metal covers the exterior and the roof, making the lodge look more like a shed or a store than a house in a photograph from the assessor’s office.

The lodge sits in woods among hills that rise from the Mississippi River flood plain, 85 miles north of Belleville.

A visitor from the south can take Illinois Route 96 through Pleasant Hill, turn right at a big natural gas terminal, and follow a narrow dirt road for more than a mile.

A broad metal gate at a bend in the road marks the entrance.

An aerial photograph from the assessor’s office places the lodge about 400 feet from the gate, but trees block the view.

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