Man charged in killing of prominent Edwardsville lawyer

Man charged in killing of prominent Edwardsville lawyer

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EDWARDSVILLE — A 28-year-old man was charged Monday in the the stabbing death of prominent Edwardsville attorney and philanthropist Randy Gori.

Timothy M. Banowetz, 28, of Wentzville, was charged Monday with three counts of first-degree murder along with counts for armed robbery and vehicle theft.

Gori, 47, was found dead Saturday at his sprawling Edwardsville home in the 4500 block of Mooney Creek Road. His black 2020 Rolls-Royce Cullinan SUV, one of many cars in Gori's collection, had been stolen.

Investigators with the Major Case Squad of Greater St. Louis believe the killing was premeditated, but did not know of a direct connection between Banowetz and Gori, said Capt. Dave Vucich with the Madison County Sheriff's Office in a Monday press conference.

Police found Banowetz between about 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. Sunday in a wooded area near Gori's home and later found the stolen vehicle in the same area, police said Monday. Police believe Banowetz acted alone.

At the time of the killing, there were two children — who police declined to identify— present in the household, but Vucich said Gori's actions during the attack likely saved their lives.

"I think Randy was a hero in this case," he said.

Police said Banowetz lived a "transient" lifestyle, but stayed around the St. Louis metro area.

“When (violent criminals) come to Madison County, they get Madison County justice,” said Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons. “And true justice will be served in this case. This defendant will see the rest of his life behind bars if we have anything to say about it.”

Gori was a high-profile lawyer whose firm, the Gori Law Firm, specialized in asbestos litigation nationwide, touting more than $3 billion in compensation for clients and offices in Edwardsville, St. Louis, New Orleans, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Orlando and New York. Gori was also the founder of Gori, Realtors and Gori Property Management.

He was a husband and father of two young children at the time of his death, friends say. He had a passion for collecting vehicles — especially Ferraris. He owned 20 Ferraris and has served as vice president of the Ferrari Club of America – Missouri & Southern Illinois chapter.

Gori was also known for large charitable donations.

He recently pledged to donate $2.5 million to the city of Edwardsville to help build the city a 40,000-square-foot ice rink. The city announced last month the new rink would be named the Gori Family Ice Complex in his honor.

"We are struggling to get our heads around this sickening and senseless murder," said Edwardsville Mayor Hal Patton who had recently posed for photos with Gori following the donation. "I knew Randy as a friend and a tireless businessman. He was heavily involved in our Downtown Edwardsville revitalization, but more importantly, his investments were secondary to his philanthropy."

In 2019, Gori's firm, formerly Gori Julian & Associates, also donated $1 million to his alma mater, St. Louis University. Gori earned his bachelor’s degree from SLU in 1995 and a law degree from SLU Law in 1998. The donation prompted the institution to rename a lobby of its downtown law school the "Gori Julian Grand Lobby."

Friends say Gori loomed large as a figure in the Metro East legal community.

His death was a “total shock,” said Troy Walton of Walton Telken Injury Attorneys. Walton knew Gori both professionally and as a friend, and said the impact on both the legal community and the local Madison County community is “devastating.”

“He did more for more people than just about anybody I know,” Walton said. “Randy was the type of guy who, if you needed something, you could just ask him for it. He was as charitable as anybody. I’ve known him for many years, and I’m not aware of him saying no to any group or organization that needed anything.”

Madison County Chief Judge William A. Mudge also considered Gori a friend.

"An evil and senseless act has taken a wonderful father, lawyer and friend from the legal community," Mudge said in a statement. "He approached everyone with a smile and was dedicated to the pursuit of justice for his clients."

“He was a very successful lawyer obviously, and he was humble in his success,” Tor Hoerman of Tor Hoerman Law, LLC said. "He didn't crave the center of attention, and he succeeded nonetheless."

Gori's firm posted on social media Sunday evening mourning the loss.

"Randy was a true leader, and a wonderful attorney and friend and a champion of our community," the post read. "He gave so much to everyone he knew both personally and professionally."

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Major Case Squad of Greater St. Louis at 618-296-5544.

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