Family files civil suit in funeral-home slaying

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com December 14 2002 1:00 AM ET

The family of a church worker who was allegedly killed by a gay former coworker because she expressed disapproval of his sexual orientation filed a wrongful death lawsuit Thursday against the coworker.

Nicholas Gutierrez, 19, is accused of killing Mary Stachowicz after an argument in which she questioned him about his sexual orientation. The two had worked together at the Sikorski Funeral Home in Chicago, and Gutierrez lived above the business. Gutierrez told police that the confrontation reminded him of his mother, making him angry. Stachowicz's stabbed and strangled body was discovered November 15 in the crawl space of Gutierrez's apartment.

Stachowicz's family is calling for unspecified damages, saying it wants to make sure Nicholas Gutierrez does not profit from the case with books or movies. "This has been a difficult and painful time for our family," said Peter Stachowicz, one of the 51-year-old woman's four adult children.

Timothy Cavanagh, who filed the civil suit on behalf of Stachowicz's husband, Jerry, said that in questioning Gutierrez about his sexual orientation, Stachowicz "was trying to help this man."

A grand jury has charged Gutierrez with first-degree murder, burglary, and concealment of a homicide. The charges do not address the Illinois hate-crimes statute, but that issue could come up during sentencing, according to the Cook County state's attorney's office. Some observers have said Stachowicz was killed because of her religious beliefs. A prearraignment hearing in the criminal case is set for Friday and a preliminary hearing is set for December 31.