Chicago attorneys Thomas E. Johnson and Leslie Ann Jones were well-known for civic and charitable work

By Jeff Truesdell
April 15, 2020 02:18 PM
Thomas E. Johnson and Leslie Ann Jones
Credit: Facebook (2)

Police say “suspicious circumstances” lie behind the deaths of husband-and-wife Chicago attorneys found Monday night in their suburban home.

Nothing indicates the deaths were self-inflicted, according to statements from police in the Town of Oak Park.

The bodies of Thomas E. Johnson, 69, who worked alongside Leslie Ann Jones, 67, in their namesake legal firm Johnson Jones Snelling Gilbert & Davis, were discovered about 7:30 p.m. after police were directed on a welfare check to the residence where the parents of three adult children lived alone.

No others are believed to be at risk, said Oak Park Police Chief LaDon Reynolds.

Authorities did not immediately reveal the manner of death or other details. “It may be difficult understand why we cannot provide more information right now,” said Reynolds. “But the number one priority at this time must be ensuring the integrity and thoroughness of the investigation.”

The prominent victims were known for their outreach and contacts throughout the Chicago area.

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Jones served on the board of the nonprofit Hephzibah Children’s Association, which provides therapy for severely traumatized children, and was active with the Oak Park arts council, according to one of her law partners, Philip S. Snelling, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Her husband served as a hearing officer for the Chicago Police Board and “played a pivotal role in the development of affordable housing in Chicago and in securing justice for coal miners, truck drivers and others in the labor movement,” according to his firm’s website.

Johnson’s former clients included President Barack Obama, Chicago’s late Mayor Harold Washington and the Chicago Housing Authority.

“He was a very thoughtful and generous member of the bar who routinely embraced the best in human beings that he knew,” said Tim Evans, a former mayoral candidate advised by Johnson, and who, as Cook County’s chief judge, worked with Johnson to reform the county’s bail system so that fewer individuals would await trial in jail, reports the Chicago Sun-Times. “He was committed to fairness and justice in the way that rings loudest when we think about what this country’s judicial system and legal system stands for.”

Anne Davis, a partner at the couple’s law firm, told the Tribune: “Tom and Leslie were both exceptionally gifted lawyers. Part of their gift was to keep it simple. Each of them could process complicated information with exceptional speed and agility, but they each had interests far beyond the law and each had a profound gift for friendship.”

Another Chicago attorney, Thomas Geoghegan, told the Sun-Times he’d worked with both Johnson and Jones and found them to be constantly generous, “giving up themselves to other people without even mentioning it.”

“Tom was just a heroic, selfless lawyer,” he said. “Because he was such a remarkable person and such a decent human being, what will be left out was just how good a lawyer he was. He was the best.”