Madison - St. Clair Record

Sunday, August 25, 2019

East Alton attorney John M. Delaney Jr. found dead in hotel room; He is remembered as ‘well-liked’ and will be ‘dearly missed’

By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo | Aug 5, 2017


East Alton attorney John M. Delaney Jr. is fondly remembered by colleagues after he was found dead in a Shelby County hotel room Thursday afternoon.

Jersey County Chief Deputy Sheriff Kevin Kalaas said Delaney, 60, was reported missing around 10 p.m. Wednesday evening by his family. 

He said Delaney had previously contacted his secretary at his East Alton office around 4 p.m. Wednesday and told her that he wouldn’t be back in for the day. 

After he was reported missing, the sheriff’s office pinged his phone, which showed that he was in Highland. 

Delaney was found dead in a Shelby County hotel room around noon Thursday. 

Kalaas said there is no reason to suspect foul play. 

The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office is not releasing additional information at this time. 

Delaney worked as a sole practitioner at John Delaney Jr. Law in East Alton since 1997, where he focused on criminal defense, “difficult” family law matters, “those dealing with overwhelming debt,” and personal injury litigation. 

“I consider myself and my fellow lawyers to be an integral part of our nation’s civil and criminal justice system and I am committed to using my legal skills and experiences to uphold your rights and support you through your legal challenges,” his firm’s website states. 

Madison County Circuit Judge William Mudge said he’s known Delaney since he began practicing law in 1985. 

“John is well known and well-liked by everybody, by everyone at the Madison County Bar Association,” Mudge said. “Very nice man, kind man, good colleague.”

Mudge added that Delaney was an avid St. Louis Blues fan, and he would often playfully refer to him as “JD” before asking how the Blues were doing. 

“Everyone is shocked and saddened by his loss,” Mudge said. “And he will be dearly missed.”

Delaney also taught at Lewis and Clark Community College in the criminal justice department. 

Retired Criminal Justice Coordinator John Vollmer said Delaney taught criminal law classes for over 20 years. He said he fondly remembers him as a great person who was well liked by his fellow colleagues and students.

Vollmer said Delaney was instrumental in helping him develop a mock court scene, which simulates real life experiences for criminal justice students.

“John’s passing is a tremendous loss to all who knew him and the community,” Vollmer added. 

According to his firm’s website, Delaney began his legal career working as a law clerk for former Madison County Circuit Judge Joseph Barr in the late 1970s. 

Then in 1981, he worked as an assistant state’s attorney in Madison County until 1985. 

“I gained a considerable amount of trial experience as an assistant state’s attorney and an extensive understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the prosecution’s case,” his website states.

He later became a partner at the former law firm Smith, Allen, Mendenhall and Delaney in Alton from 1985-1996. He concentrated on civil litigation and criminal defense.

He opened his own practice in 1997. 

Delaney primarily focused on criminal litigation, handling matters from minor theft to violent sex crimes and murder. He has experience with both plaintiffs and defendants. 

“I have successfully brought to jury trial more than 50 cases, 30 of them as a prosecutor,” his website states.

“Fellow divorce lawyers and prosecutors know that if their case has the slightest weakness and they are unwilling to negotiate, then I will see them in court, where I am accustomed to presenting compelling arguments that get results for clients,” it continues. 

Delaney represented Veteran Services Superintendent Bradley Lavite in 2015 when Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons banned him from the Madison County administration building after he was arrested by Wood River police.  

Lavite was arrested March 5, 2015, after the police were called to his home over a domestic dispute. 

Wood River police put Lavite in a squad car at his home. He allegedly damaged windows and a door of the car. 

Lavite was charged with damage to government property exceeding $500, a felony, on March 19, 2015. He was banned from the administration building the next day. 

Lavite retained Delaney on March 23 and plead not guilty. 

He argued that his mental illness was misdiagnosed, and he was on the wrong medication during a post-traumatic stress episode. 

Lavite eventually returned to his office Dec. 5. 

Delaney also offered his legal services for free through the Third Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee in Madison County. 

According to a recent report, he offered two free legal appointments in the fourth quarter of last year

The pro bono committee offers free 30-minute appointments at the Madison County Legal Advice Clinic for those who need help in areas of family law or with civil topics including collection, landlord-tenant law or small claims. 

Delaney has been recognized as a pro bono honoree at the annual Law Day luncheon. 

He also volunteered as part of the three-week Madison County Intern Program, where high school students work with mentor attorneys to observe and experience different employment opportunities in the legal system. 

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