Hitman evaded feds in life, is elusive in death

CHICAGO Schweihs, 78, died at Thorek Hospital in Chicago on July 23 from complications of cancer, while in federal custody. He was scheduled to go on trial this October on racketeering conspiracy charges.

Even though ABC7 News had contacted the Cook County Medical Examiner's office several times last week to discuss Schweih's death and autopsy arrangements, authorities did not take custody of the hoodlum's remains until Monday. The medical examiner's office says it wasn't officially notified of Schweihs' death until then, although the law requires a forensic examination of anyone who dies while in law enforcement custody.

Schweihs' funeral was underway on Monday when Salerno's Galewood Chapel was notified that the corpse-of-honor would have to leave, according to Schweihs' criminal defense lawyer Paul Brayman.

The funeral proceeded on Monday without Mr. Schweihs' presence, said Brayman.

It is unclear why it took five days for the Cook County Medical examiner to retrieve his body.

The death of a man described as the most prolific mob murderer since Al Capone's-era received widespread publicity last week. Federal prosecutors subpoenaed official record of Schweihs' death and received it from the hospital late last week. As the I-Team first reported, U.S. District Judge James Zagel dismissed the indictment against Schweihs on Monday.

An autopsy finally conducted on Tuesday by the medical examiner concluded that he died from brain and lung cancer. The body was returned to the funeral home and Schweihs' remains were buried on Tuesday.

Investigators are denying suggestions that they wanted to extract DNA from Schweihs' body and that was why it was intercepted just hours before committal to a final resting place. Authorities say they had an ample supply of the mobster's DNA, obtained when he was arrested on federal fugitive charges in Dec, 2005.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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