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Former KKK leader Jeffery Berry dies in Oak Lawn at 60

Jeffery Lynn Berry, who as leader of the American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan led marches that cost municipalities tens of thousands of dollars in security costs, has died at age 60.

Berry died May 31 from lung cancer at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, said the Cook County clerk’s office spokeswoman Courtney Greve.

Heartland Memorial Center in Tinley Park handled Berry’s body.

Berry spent much of the 1990s as the National Imperial Wizard of the Butler, Ind.-based American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

In 2001, Berry was sentenced to seven years in prison after being convicted of conspiring to hold a TV reporter and camerawoman hostage in his home. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit criminal confinement with a deadly weapon, and prosecutors dropped three other charges.

Lawyers with the Southern Poverty Law Center won a $120,000 judgment in a lawsuit against Berry that claimed the leader falsely imprisoned and threatened the two journalists.

After Berry’s arrest, Indiana State Police Detective Mark Heffelfinger said Berry seemed to pull away from the Klan and that, without him, the group “melted away.”

While serving his prison sentence, Berry sent a letter from prison to a judge denouncing his involvement with the Klan. That letter also said he had “turned his life over to God.”

In 2007, three years after Berry was released from prison, his son, Anthony Berry, attacked him at a party, leaving Berry with “life-altering” brain injuries. His son was sentenced to a year in jail and ordered to help cover the costs of the medical bills.

Heffelfinger said that Berry had recently been living with his son in Kankakee, though his death certificate lists his residence as Garrett, Ind.

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