Detective: ‘Hero’ cop sought hit-man to cover up thefts

Author: the associated press
Lake County Sheriff’s Department / MGN

FOX LAKE, Ill. (AP) – Months before an Illinois police officer staged his suicide to look like murder, prompting an expensive manhunt that put his community under siege, he tried to find a hit man to kill a village administrator he feared would expose him as a thief, a detective told The Associated Press on Thursday.

Det. Chris Covelli said Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz sent a text in April asking a woman to contact a “high ranking gang member to put a hit on the village manager.” Gliniewicz also texted that perhaps the hit man could “plant something” on the manager, Covelli said.

Investigators found small packages of cocaine in his desk, “not linked to any case that we could find,” and believe Gliniewicz may have sought to frame the manager, Anne Marrin, as a drug criminal before she exposed him as an embezzler, the detective said.

“We never found any explanation why those drugs were in his desk at the police station,” Covelli said.

Marrin, the village’s first professional administrator, was auditing Fox Lake’s finances, including the Police Explorers program that authorities say he secretly embezzled from for seven years.

Gliniewicz, often called “G.I. Joe,” was a respected figure in the bedroom community of 10,000 people 50 miles north of Chicago. His death on Sept. 1, moments after he radioed that he was chasing three suspicious men, prompted an intense manhunt involving hundreds of officers, and raised fears of cop-killers on the loose.

Two months later, authorities announced that he in fact killed himself to cover his crimes. And now authorities are also investigating his wife, Melodie, and one of his sons, D.J., as well, an official said Thursday.

Melodie Gliniewicz helped her husband run the Fox Lake Police Explorer Post, which put young people interested in law enforcement careers through sophisticated training exercises. In a newspaper interview weeks ago, D.J. Gliniewicz, who is in his 20s, angrily dismissed suggestions that his father took his own life.

The official, who was briefed on the investigation, spoke with The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly.

Authorities refused to officially identify anyone beyond the lieutenant who is suspected in any crimes.

The family – the couple had three other children – issued a brief statement Wednesday through their attorneys in which they said they were still grieving but which didn’t mention the finding that Lt. Gliniewicz took his own life or that he had been stealing from the youth program. The attorneys, Henry Tonigan and Andrew Kelleher, didn’t immediately respond to voicemail and email messages sent Thursday seeking comment.

On Sept. 1 – the day he died – Gliniewicz radioed in that he was chasing three suspicious men into a swampy area. Backup officers found the Army veteran’s body about 50 yards from his squad car.

Authorities launched a large and costly manhunt for the suspects, but produced only one arrest – a woman accused of calling in a false lead. As the probe stretched on, suspicion grew that he had killed himself, but investigators publicly treated it as a homicide investigation, while saying they couldn’t rule out suicide.

On Wednesday, investigators confirmed those suspicions. Lake County Major Crimes Task Force Commander George Filenko, who led the investigation, said the 30-year police veteran had the kind of intimate knowledge of crime scenes needed to pull it off and clearly intended to mislead investigators.

Up until the day he died, the village administrator was pressing to see the explorer program’s books as part of a village-wide audit.

Recovered text messages and other records now show Gliniewicz spent the money on mortgage payments, travel expenses, gym memberships, adult websites, withdrawing cash and making loans, Filenko said.

His precise motive for trying to make his death look like a homicide remains unclear. Filenko said he didn’t know whether a suicide finding would prevent his family from receiving benefits.

“Gliniewicz committed the ultimate betrayal,” Filenko said Wednesday. “We completely believed from Day One that this was a homicide.”

The huge outpouring of grief in the village where the 52-year-old officer had long been a role model has been replaced by a sense of betrayal. Tribute to their slain hero have come down; signs praising “G.I. Joe” have disappeared, replaced in one place by a poster labeling him “G.I. Joke.”

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