Retired Illinois Priest Charged in Fatal Orland Park Hit-and-Run

Paul Burak, Former Priest at St. Michael Parish, Illinois, Charged in Hit-and-Run Crash


A 73-year-old retired Illinois priest has been charged after authorities say he hit two women with his car and fled the scene after a Christmas party Wednesday evening in Orland Park, Illinois.

Investigators said Paul Burak, of Palo Heights, struck two women after leaving the Square Celt Ale House & Grill, where the party was happening.

He hit a parked car while backing out of his spot and struck the women as they were walking on an access road. The women also attended the same party.

The two victims were transported to the Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox for treatment. Sadly, one of them, 61-year-old Margaret “Rone” Leja, 61, who was a teacher at St. Michael’s School, died at the hospital. The other victim, Elizabeth Kosteck, 54, also an educator, remained in serious condition.

Police said the former priest was driving drunk and fled the scene after hitting the women.

Prosecutors said the suspect admitted to police that he was “blacked out” and drunk after drinking a Manhattan cocktail and a glass of wine.

Burak has been charged with aggravated DUI causing death, aggravated DUI causing bodily harm, failure to report an accident causing death, and failure to report an accident causing injury.

The priest said he suffers from Parkinson’s disease and glaucoma, and he had no idea he ran someone over. He was released on bond terms.