The downfall of auto dealer Denny Hecker turned even more grim Thursday when his friend and former in-law died of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Recently accused of fraud in Hecker's bankruptcy, Bill Prohofsky, 71, of Minnetonka, shot himself in the head with a handgun after driving to an isolated parking lot in a Medina industrial park on Wednesday morning, police said.

Police were notified about 6:30 p.m. Thursday that Prohofsky had died, said police Sgt. Jason Nelson.

Prohofsky was the stepfather of Hecker's ex-wife, Tamitha. Last week, the trustee trying to liquidate assets in Hecker's $767 million bankruptcy sued Prohofsky, alleging he helped Hecker hide money from the court.

Medina Police Chief Ed Belland would not say whether Prohofsky left a note of explanation.

Throughout Thursday, family members and friends, including Hecker, had kept vigil at North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale, where Prohofsky was in a coma and taken off life support, an attorney said.

"It's just a tragedy," said Bill Skolnick, who knew Prohofsky and represents Hecker in the bankruptcy.

In a statement released through the hospital earlier in the day, Prohofsky's family said: "Bill Prohofsky is a beloved father, grandfather, brother and uncle. He is near and dear to our hearts and the family is mourning and in shock. Bill is in critical condition at North Memorial. We ask for privacy during this difficult time."

He was found at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday by a member of a crew cleaning a recently vacated warehouse near Willow Drive and Hwy. 55. Prohofsky was taken by helicopter to the hospital in Robbinsdale.

Prohofsky's silver Volvo was not in the gravel parking lot at 8:15 a.m. when the first worker arrived. A second worker later found Prohofsky's car blocking the entrance to the gravel parking lot and called 911.

Workers from A+ Cleaning Services -- Dan Perrozzi, Kory Kranz and Lewis Johnson -- said they approached the car to assist Prohofsky but backed off when they saw that he was moving and had a handgun. He appeared to have shot himself under the chin, they said.

The parking lot is at the end of an industrial park and largely hidden. "If we were not working here, I don't think anybody would have found him" for quite some time, Kranz said.

Last week, bankruptcy trustee Randy Seaver sued Prohofsky. Seaver alleged that after Hecker filed for bankruptcy last year, he paid Prohofsky $15,000 to hold $81,557 in his bank account to pay Hecker's bills and steer funds to Hecker's girlfriend, Christi Rowan. The suit alleged that Prohofsky had conspired "to defraud the bankruptcy estate."

Family members have said Prohofsky felt sorry for Hecker and believed he was innocent and getting a bad rap. Prohofsky had lived for a time in one of Hecker's Crosslake vacation homes until he was ordered by the bankruptcy court last year to begin paying rent. Prohofsky then moved to an apartment in Minnetonka.

He told Seaver during a deposition last month that he began helping Hecker in 2008, initially holding some gambling winnings for him. The following year, around the time Hecker filed for personal bankruptcy, he asked Prohofsky to pay some of his bills with money supplied by Hecker, according to the testimony.

"I said 'Sure. Why not?' People always paid his bills. I don't think he ever paid his own bills," Prohofsky said. Hecker wired or deposited money into Prohofsky's account or wrote business checks to him, Prohofsky added.

Seaver has alleged Hecker hid assets and recently petitioned the court not to forgive $767 million of Hecker's debt. A judge has already refused to forgive $82 million that Hecker owes Chrysler Financial.

In February, Hecker was indicted on charges that he altered documents to secure the $82 million in loans from Chrysler Financial. He has denied the charges. Prohofsky wasn't charged.

Staff writers Maria Elena Baca and Anthony Lonetree contributed to this story. • 612-673-7725 • 612-673-4921