Wife slain in Wilmette murder-suicide never worried about husband's violent past

Tribune reporters

Eight months after his release from prison in 2000 for killing his wife, Richard Wiley married a popular secretary at the Wilmette church he had attended since childhood—despite misgivings from the minister who performed the ceremony.

Kathryn Motes met Wiley at the First Presbyterian Church late that spring. By Sept. 16, 2000, they were married.

"I shared concerns because of the speed in which they got married following his release from prison," said Rev. Cynthia Zolk of Rockford, who worked at a Waukegan church where Motes worked as a student pastor.

Zolk said she had been worried Wiley hadn't had time to adjust to society after serving 13 years in prison. Motes, she said, told her, " 'I have played out every scenario that I can possibly think of, and I think I can deal with it.' "

After an argument, Wiley shot Kathryn Wiley-Motes in the home where they lived sometime after 2:30 p.m. Saturday, using her 17-year-old son's replica Civil War musket, police said Tuesday. Then Wiley shot the teen, Christopher Motes.

Wiley, 54, spent more than a day alone with the bodies, penning a rambling, 40-page note that declared he would never go back to prison and expressing "hints of remorse," Deputy Police Chief Brian King said.

After sawing off the barrel, Wiley shot himself Sunday evening, officials said. The bodies were found Monday afternoon by police when Wiley-Motes didn't show up for work at the church.

As investigators continued to piece together what happened inside the home in the 800 block of Greenleaf Avenue that is owned by First Presbyterian, friends and family tried to make sense of the shootings.

By all accounts, Wiley-Motes, 50, never worried about her husband's conviction for the 1985 murder of a previous wife, Ruth, who was stabbed 23 times.

"There is this piece, you do have to wonder, did she think she could help him?" Zolk said. "When you have that kind of pastoral spirit, let's face it, we're caregivers, we're helpers."

Wiley-Motes' son also took an instant liking to Wiley, calling him "Dad" almost immediately, Zolk said. Christopher, who had never known his biological father, participated in the wedding.

As the years passed, no one noticed anything disturbing in the relationship, friends said.

"I asked [Kathryn] repeatedly if she felt safe," said First Presbyterian's pastor, Sarah Sarchet Butter, who added that the old murder was known to many members in the congregation. "The reply was always, 'Yes.' "

Many were eager to help him start life anew, the pastor said.

Deborah MacDuff of McHenry relived a nightmare when she learned Wiley had killed again. She was a close friend of Ruth Wiley and had planned to go out with her the evening of the murder that sent Richard Wiley to prison. "You think you get over it," said MacDuff, 49. "I heard this on the news this morning and I freaked. He did it again."

Ruth Wiley's family had hoped never to hear about the killer again. "It almost destroyed our family when he murdered my sister," said Ruth's brother, Paul Marabotti III, 43, who lives in the Chicago area.

The grief spread across the North Shore on Tuesday as a group of New Trier High School seniors who shared an advisory class with Christopher Motes gathered to remember their classmate.

One student laid a bundle of white roses on the desk where Motes sat every morning, teacher Robert Levin said. For nearly two hours they swapped stories about the teen who loved history and bass guitar and spoke up for what he believed.

Motes belonged to the school's military history club and often participated in Civil War re-enactments around the region.

The teen had joined the Boy Scouts as a 5th grader and was working toward Eagle Scout.

Charlie Lettner, 18, and Mike Daugerdas, 18, met Chris Motes during a summer program at Highcrest Middle School in Wilmette, and the trio had remained close.

They played a final basketball game during lunch Thursday at the school's Winnetka campus.

"He was laughing," Lettner said. "I was laughing. Everyone was just playing a game. That's the last time we saw him."

Tribune reporters Jeff Long, Hal Dardick, Andrew Wang and Steve Schmadeke contributed to this report.




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