Burial plans halted in murder case

Cathy Decker/Staff reporter
The home where Melissa White lived in Viola.

William White, 43, estranged husband of Melissa White, who recently died after being found injured in her yard, was ordered by Mercer County Associate Judge Greg Chickris to temporarily stop any funeral or burial plans for his deceased wife.

A civil guardianship case involving the two children of Melissa White, 39, began late Thursday morning, Oct. 27 in Mercer County Court. Family members of both the deceased and her estranged husband William White were in court, along with a group of attorneys representing all parties in this civil case. Melissa White was pronounced dead on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2011 in a Peoria Hospital after being found in the yard of her Viola home by one of her children on Friday evening, Oct. 21.

Her death is being called a homicide and there is an ongoing investigation. No arrests have been made.

Cases coming before Judge Greg Chickris included an order of protection (OP) case filed By Melissa White in July 2011 with the court ruling in favor of a protection order for the woman, back then.

Attorney Peter Church argued on behalf of his client William White that the OP was no longer needed because "she is deceased."

Attorney Mark Guest from Prairie State Legal Services told the court that the order encompasses issues related to the children. "The two minor children were named protected parties," he said. He suggested the OP needed to be modified to name the maternal grandmother as guardian for the children.

The guardianship case coming before Judge Chickris involves custody and visitation for the two children.

Attorney Church said he was only the attorney for William White in regard to the OP and he requested that another attorney be appointed in the guardianship case. Judge Chickris appointed public defender Dan Dalton as William's attorney and handed a financial affidavit sheet to William to fill out and file. Dalton was not in court that morning.

In court William said he has not been allowed to say goodbye to his wife. "The finger is being pointed at me," White said on his own behalf. "There is no evidence."

Representing the two children in the guardianship case is attorney Craig Kavensky. Kavensky said that William White "should not be in charge of making the arrangements. He quoted a "remains statute" that states a party immediately loses their rights to handle the death. "Just because a person is not caught red  handed ...," said Kavensky.

William White represented himself during the guardianship portion of the hearing.

Kavensky asked the court to name the maternal grandmother as the children's guardian "based on action taken by the state yesterday."

Kavensky said that the Department of Children and Family Services took physical custody of the children in order to place them in a safe environment. "I wasn't part of the hearing," said Kavensky.

According to Mercer County Sheriff Tom Thompson the investigation into this murder continues.

There was no decision made on guardianship or the OP. The court set another hearing on the two matters for Nov. 14, 2011 at 1:30 p.m.