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Ex-fundraiser for Blagojevich dies

CHICAGO – A former chief fundraiser for ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich died Saturday, just days before he was to begin serving at least eight years in federal prison for fraud that included using his company’s money to pay gambling debts and claiming it as a business expense.

Christopher G. Kelly, 51, raised millions of dollars for Blagojevich’s campaigns and was among his closest advisers. He had pleaded not guilty to charges included in the federal indictment alleging Blagojevich sought to sell or trade President Barack Obama’s former U.S. Senate seat.

Kelly was found Friday night in a lumberyard parking lot in Country Club Hills, a town just southwest of Chicago, where an investigation continued Saturday night, Mayor Dwight Welch told the Chicago Tribune.

Kelly was taken to Oak Forest Hospital at 11:15 p.m. Friday, said Marcel Bright, a spokesman for Stroger hospital in Chicago. He was later transferred to Stroger for further treatment. Kelly was pronounced dead at 10:46 a.m. Saturday, Bright said.

A cause of death was not immediately available. The Cook County medical examiner’s office planned to do an autopsy today.

After Oak Forest Hospital officials informed police Kelly was there, officers went to the lumberyard and found vomit in the parking lot, Welch told the Tribune. He said police were investigating the death as “a possible homicide or suicide.”

Kelly, who admittedly loved to gamble and ran up big debts at Las Vegas casinos and elsewhere, was part of Blagojevich’s tight inner circle along with convicted influence peddler Tony Rezko.