I-Team Report: Chris Kelly Mystery

September 16, 2009 How did a one-time Northwestern University basketball star become tangled in the personal life of ex-governor Rod Blagojevich's top confidante and fundraiser?

Her name and her picture have been all over the news since last week. Clarissa Flores-Buhelos, simply referred to as Chris Kelly's girlfriend. But considering that both Buhelos and Kelly were married to other people, their relationship was a complicated aspect of a situation that became especially messy last week when Kelly killed himself.

Kelly seemed to have it all - a wife, three young daughters, a very profitable roofing business and a $3 million house in the suburbs.

The dream life began to unravel after Kelly became the governor's top fundraiser and an ex-officio deputy- Blagojevich's go-to man- who simply made things happen. But as federal investigators homed in on state pay-for-play schemes and on Kelly's voracious gambling habit, Kelly - in his late 40s - met a young woman who was in her late 20s.

Flores-Buhelos had been a standout basketball player at Chicago's Whitney Young High School and then at Northwestern.

In 2005, she married Peter Buhelos, the owner of Wally's Restaurant in Park Ridge and is still married to him.

"She's always wanted to be with influential, and uh, and charismatic people. It was always her nature," said Peter Buhelos.

Shortly into their marriage, Peter Buhelos says he first suspected his wife was involved with someone named Chris Kelly, after he saw an airplane boarding pass with Kelly's name on it in his wife's open purse.

The receipt was for a flight to Las Vegas, where Kelly frequently went to gamble.

"I didn't even know who Kelly was, but I just saw the name on it, Chris Kelly, and I confronted her, I said, 'Who is this Chris Kelly?' And she said she accidentally picked it up from the seat," said Peter Buhelos.

Then Peter Buhelos said he found a love letter from Kelly to his wife, but by then he says he'd already invested his life savings in her start-up real estate business and a nightclub that she wanted to help operate. Shortly thereafter, he says, she left him and moved in with Kelly.

"I saw a contract that was from Chris Kelly to her, a promissory note for $850,000. I assume that's why she left me, because she needed money for the club and I outlived my usefulness. She knew my funds were dwindling, so she found someone else," said Peter Buhelos.

The couple is in the process of divorcing.

Clarissa Flores-Buhelos "flatly denies the allegations. I never took advantage of him in any fashion," she told the I-Team through her attorney.

Flores-Buhelos was one of the last people to see Kelly alive, in a south suburban parking lot, after he made a desperate call for help. She found him sick amidst bottles of painkillers.

Flores-Buhelos declined to appear on camera Wednesday after having spent the morning at services for Kelly.

At the funeral, she appeared to be escorted by a cordon of bodyguards as she climbed into her Mercedes and drove away.

In her statement to ABC7, Flores-Buhelos said of her husband, "It is a shame he chose tonight, the night of Chris Kelly's funeral, to air his dirty laundry."

"For me, this is something that's been eating at me for a long time, and I just wanted to speak from the heart. For me it's like purging the system, ya know, it's, uh, I feel like I've had three years stolen from me because of my affiliation with her, and I just feel very upset by that," said Peter Buhelos.

Police said they found no foul play in Kelly's death and that Flores-Buhelos fully cooperated in their investigation.

Finally, in an unusual twist of timing, as she was attending the funeral of her late boyfriend Wednesday, Flores-Buhelos' divorce case was being called in Lake County court. The divorce hearing was put off to another day.

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