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911 call in judge’s overdose death: ‘I love him. Like a brother’

(MCT) — A 911 call from the day an Illinois judge died of a cocaine overdose shows his friend and fellow judge struggling to revive him and then breaking down, telling the dispatcher, “I love him. Like a brother.”

Less than half an hour later, St. Clair County Judge Joe Christ was pronounced dead at a hunting lodge where he and Judge Mike Cook had been spending a weekend in March. An autopsy found he died from cocaine intoxication and cardiac arrest.

Cook resigned from the bench in May after he was charged with possession of heroin. A St. Clair County probation officer has been charged with selling drugs to both judges, and authorities say their investigation is continuing.

On the weekend of March 9, the judges were staying at a hunting lodge in Pike County, Ill., when Cook called a sheriff’s dispatcher.

“A friend of mine here looks like he hit his head in the bathroom and I can’t get him to get up,” Cook says, according to a tape of the call released to the Belleville News-Democrat. “His nose looks like it was bleeding.”

The dispatcher asks Cook to place his face close to Christ’s mouth to see if he’s breathing. “It doesn’t feel like he is,” Cook says. “I don’t feel any breathing.”

The dispatcher asks if Cook can roll Christ on his back to perform CPR. “I don’t think so; he’s a big guy,” Cook says, explaining that Christ weighs close to 300 pounds.

Cook can then be heard pleading, “Joe, Joe, come on, get up … Joe, wake up, please … Joe, turn on your back. Joe, can you hear me? Joe, can you hear me?”

As the dispatcher repeatedly tells Cook to get Christ on his back, Cook says the other judge’s hands feel cold and “his teeth are closed. Is that bad?”

Sounding upset, Cook says, “I love him. Like a brother … Joe, Joe, Joseph, Joey. Please, Joe, get up.”

After Cook covers Christ with a blanket, paramedics can be heard entering the cabin and asking, “Do you know how long he’s been like that?” The tape ends there.

The coroner later reported that a vial containing a white powder was found on Christ during an examination.

Cook resigned last week after he was charged in federal court with possession of heroin. Cook is now undergoing treatment for drug abuse, according to his attorney, Thomas Keefe.

Cook was arrested on May 22 at the home of an alleged heroin dealer and faces heroin possession and gun charges, according to attorneys and court records.

A probation officer who also worked for the county said he sold the judges about $275 worth of cocaine before they went to the cabin, and he sold cocaine to Cook 15 to 20 times, according to an affidavit filed in federal court. The probation officer, James Fogarty, faces federal drug charges.

No charges have been filed in Christ’s death.


©2013 Chicago Tribune

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