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Man who shared motel room with girlfriend’s corpse gets 1-1/2 years

Derek A. Tanke

Derek A. Tanke

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Updated: June 27, 2012 11:12PM

A man accused of sharing a Joliet motel room with his dead girlfriend’s corpse for nearly two days was sentenced to 1 1/2 years in prison Wednesday.

Derek A. Tanke, 43, pleaded guilty to concealment of a death and unlawful use of a credit card before Will County Judge Carla A. Policandriotes.

Tanke and his girlfriend of about five years, 54-year-old Nancy A. Johnston, had been staying at the Bel-Air Motel in the 1100 block of Plainfield Road last winter. A prosecutor said they spent weeks there drinking vodka and passing out.

Tanke told police he woke up Feb. 17, found Johnston dead and called police. But police said Johnston likely died two days earlier. In the meantime, police said Tanke used Johnston’s debit card to get money out of an ATM and buy vodka.

Police said Tanke also used the debit card to pay for two more days at the motel. And he refused to open the door to the motel room for a well-being check Feb. 16, Assistant State’s Attorney Mark Fleszewski said.

Court records show Tanke was homeless.

Fleszewski said Johnston died of cirrhosis of the liver. Tanke told police he got in a fight with Johnston earlier in the week and punched her several times in the face, but a pathologist told police Johnston’s death was not a homicide.

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