Authorities in Lake County say this murder investigation was the strangest one they've ever seen. A man faked his own death by killing another man and then assumed the dead man's identity before taking his own life.
Ari Squire killed himself in a Missouri motel room after police had learned the truth. The 40-year-old killed and assumed the identity of a 20-year-old Arlington Heights man in an elaborate scheme that police say was about money. The possible motive was to collect on a $5 million life insurance policy.
Ari Squire was pronounced dead on February 23. What was believed to be his body was pinned underneath his pickup truck that caught on fire in his Lake Barrington garage. Because the body was badly burned, the Lake County coroner tentatively identified him through circumstantial evidence. But days later, dental records changed that.
"We found that indeed the individual who was burned was not Ari Squire," said Dr. Richard Keller, Lake County Coroner.
Instead, the body in Squire's garage was Justin Newman's. Police say Newman had come to Squire's home to talk with him about a construction job.
"Ari in fact murdered Justin Newman. There's no doubt about that," said Mark Curran, Lake County Sheriff.
Police say the murder was part of Squire's well-planned scheme to fake his own death and assume Newman's identity. Squire swapped clothes and wallets with Newman and bought blue contacts and brown hair coloring to match Newman's eyes and hair. In the meantime, Newman was reported missing by his mother. Squire then fled to Eureka, Missouri, where his plan fell apart.
"Whether he looks out the window and sees a squad, whether he hears a knock on the door and he thinks the gig is up, we don't know with certainty. But at that point, we know he put a gun to his head and it's all over," said Curran.
In the days following the February 23 fire, Squire e-mailed his wife, asking her about his death.
"'When will my ashes be returned to you? When are you planning on disbursing my ashes?'" Curran quoted the e-mail.
Police call this case stranger than fiction. Ari Squire's next door neighbor said he was shocked to find out the truth Thursday, although she had suspicions about the accidental death.
"Unbelievably bizarre. When we thought that he was just dead, my husband couldn't believe, he thought it was one in a billion chance that a car could fall on you at the same time and then a fire could start. What are the odds?" said Claudia Kavc.
Squire's wife was home at the time of the accident, now murder. Police say there were several e-mails exchanged between Ari and Denise Squire following the murder. Police say Denise Squire is a "person of interest." Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran says she has been less the candid during police interviews.