Family of Orland Park educator killed in hit-and-run sues retired priest accused of killing her

ORLAND PARK, Ill. (WLS) -- The family of a woman killed in an Orland Park hit-and-run is suing the retired priest accused of being behind the wheel.

Margaret "Rone" Leja's family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Paul Burak, 73, of Palos Heights. Burak allegedly hit Leja and Liz Kostek, both educators at St. Michael's School, near Orland Square Mall last month. Leja was killed.

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Two Catholic school teachers leaving a parish Christmas party were struck in an apparent hit-and-run Wednesday night near Orland Square Mall.


The lawsuit accuses Burak of negligence and seeks unspecified damages.

Burak has been charged with aggravated driving under the influence and leaving the scene of a deadly crash.

According to prosecutors, the former priest told police he didn't know he had hit anyone because he was blacked out and drunk after drinking a Manhattan cocktail and a glass of wine.

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"He never thought it was a person and said he did stop after he hit something and then he then gunned the car," said Cook County Assistant State's Attorney James Murphy.
Moments before the deadly crash, Burak was at the St. Michael's Parish Christmas party with both victims.

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A prayer service and funeral was held Tuesday for an Orland Park teacher killed in a hit and run last week and the priest charged in her death appeared in court.



"The defendant said that he thinks he had too much to drink because he blacked out and that sometimes when he drinks too much he blacks out," Murphy said.

The 73-year-old said he suffers from Parkinson's disease and glaucoma. He said he had no idea that he ran anyone over.

"He thought he hit the curb last night and remembers that he heard a noise," Murphy said.

The Archdiocese of Chicago confirmed Burak's affiliation with St. Michael's in a statement, referring to him as "the retired pastor of St. Michael Parish in Orland Park, Fr. Paul Burak."
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