NORTHBROOK, Ill. - Police revealed Monday a person wanted in connection with the Dec. 7 strangulation death of 36-year-old Jigar Patel in north suburban Northbrook has been charged but is not in custody.
Police previously released a photo of a person of interest. Now they say suspect John Panaligan, 50, of Aurora, is on the run. An arrest warrant has been issued.
The two photos, apparently from surveillance video, show a man in a trenchcoat and hat holding a cane.
Patel was found murdered in an office building in the 1300-block of Shermer Road at about 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7.
Police released the photos in early January and noted that they believe the murder was "an isolated incident and there is no threat to the community."
Friends described Patel as a strong family man who lived in Prospect Heights, 20 minutes away from his job. As a lawyer, he worked on small-business and real estate transactions, according to his website.
Police say Patel's murderer was upset over a lawsuit involving a home healthcare business. Panaligan is charged with first-degree murder and should be considered "extremely dangerous."
The U.S. Marshals Service is assisting in the search.
"This was not a random act," Northbrook's police chief, Charles Wernick, said. "We believed then as we believe now that our victim was targeted by Mr. Panaligan."
The chief confirmed the man seen on surveillance video leaving the office in disguise is Panaligan. The alleged motive was Patel's representation of two former business partners who were suing Panaligan's business, Vital Wellness Home Health of Naperville. They said he ripped them off to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars, and the Illinois Supreme Court approved awards for breach of trust and fiduciary duty.
The discovery stage of the lawsuit alone dragged out for at least five years.
"He got out of the area almost immediately," Wernick said.
Police believe Panaligan is still in the country. And to them, waiting five weeks to release his picture even though there's been a warrant for his arrest, is just good police work.
Anyone with information is asked to call Northbrook police at 847-664-4181.