Tragedy Leads Husband to Wife's Secret Debt, Gambling Apparently Took Control

Article excerpt

When Kate dropped off her teen-age baby sitter in Collinsville one night in January, she tipped him heavily and said, "Pray that I hit it big on the boat next week."

Two weeks later, with a secret life of debt collapsing around her and the sheriff coming to evict her family from its home, Kate shot herself in the head.

She was 40 and, by all accounts, a wonderful mother and teacher. And also, apparently, a gambling addict.

Her husband, Steve, was shocked by what he learned about the woman he thought he knew after 16 years of marriage. To protect the couple's two children, Steve asked that media accounts conceal the family's identity. He has not told the children about their mother's gambling.

He found a trail of unpaid bills, empty savings accounts, missing tax refunds, personal checks for cash and pawned wedding rings.

He believes his wife lost much of the family's earnings to gambling boats. He knew she also played bingo twice a week. And he wonders whether the lottery or horse racing could have been enticing her, too.

"She was a master of disguise," Steve said. "I was never aware of this until the day she committed suicide. . . . My life went from a bed of roses to a black nightmare in 30 minutes."

Steve, a 45-year-old refinery worker, is struggling to save his modest ranch home in Collinsville. He said he had no idea Kate had not made the $338 house payment for 17 months, that the bank had foreclosed in December, or that most utility bills and others had gone unpaid.

Steve said he was surprised to learn that the savings account he thought held $8,000 had a balance of just $830 and that a $5,000 tax refund was gone. He discovered that the checkbook showed a series of checks for $150 or $200 written to cash. A W-2 tax form showed Kate had paid taxes on a $1,200 win at the gambling boat.

She had secretly pawned their wedding rings.

He says he has not been able to compute a total on his debt, but he is thankful for efforts to help ease the burden. Pupils at his children's school recently donated two big boxes of food to the family. "It broke my heart," Steve said.

Co-workers have contributed $1,900. Steve's attorney, John Rekowski of Collinsville, has set up a fund to accept donations to offset the foreclosure expenses of about $9,000 and back payments. Donations can be made to: Save the Home Fund, P.O. Box 193, Collinsville, Ill. 62234.

The company handling the foreclosure has suspended the eviction while Rekowski tries to work out an agreement. …