Illinois brothers in custody after police discover two bodies buried in backyard of home

Two brothers have been taken into custody Saturday after police discovered two bodies buried in the backyard of a home in Lyons, Illinois, according to a report from Fox 32 Chicago. The brothers had claimed they buried their mother and their sister in their backyard.

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Police discovered the bodies while conducting a welfare check on Thursday at 3950 Center Avenue. Officers said that the house had no running water or working toilets, and that the back door was barricaded. The residence was described as a “hoarder home” filled with items and waste from floor to ceiling, including feces and bottles filled with urine. Multiple cats and dogs were present.

Lyons Police Chief Thomas Herion said officials spoke with Michael Lelko, 45, and John Lelko, 41, who admitted to burying their mother and sister in the backyard after their deaths in 2015 and 2019. John Lelko, who was found by police in ill health, lived upstairs in the house. 

According to the brothers, their mother was in her 70s when she died and their 44-year-old sister had hit her head and died in the past year, police said. The Lelko brothers told Fox 32 that they buried their relatives because they couldn’t afford a funeral and due to COVID-19 fears. 

ILLINOIS BROTHERS SAY MOTHER, SISTER BURIED IN YARD: POLICE

Officials reportedly entered the home in hazmat suits, removing the animals from the house and sending the men to a hospital for a physical and mental evaluation. The brothers have since been released. According to Herion, the two men suffer from both physical and mental health conditions

“Concealment of a death is a felony in Illinois,” Herion told Fox 32. “If it turns out it’s a homicide, homicide is a more serious offense.” 

The bodies have not yet been identified, but investigators said they will use DNA to determine whether the remains are in fact the brothers’ biological relatives. A Village of Lyons spokesperson told WLS-TV that charges against the brothers are pending. 

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Fox 32 notes that the Lyons Police department has been to the home several times for previous disturbance calls, none of which have been “earth shattering.” Police say there are no state records of any deaths from the household. 

“At this point we just don’t know, but we treat every death investigation as a homicide because we can’t go backwards, right?” Herion added. “If we treat it as ‘natural causes’ and we don’t investigate any potential wrongdoing, it’s very difficult to undo what we’ve done.”

Officials have brought in archaeologists and evidence technicians to dig in the backyard and search the house for evidence. The incident is being treated as a homicide investigation.

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