Months before an Illinois police officer staged his suicide to make it seem like he died in the line of duty, subjecting his community to an expensive and fruitless manhunt, he apparently sought 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 set up a meeting with a “high ranking gang member to put a hit on the village manager.”
Gliniewicz sent another message in May saying he had thought of “planting things,” which made more sense after investigators found small packages of cocaine in Gliniewicz’s desk after he died, Covelli said.
The drugs were “not linked to any case that we could find,” raising the possibility that the lieutenant sought to frame the manager, Anne Marrin, as a drug criminal before she could expose 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.
Gliniewicz sent the texts after Marrin, the village’s first professional administrator, began auditing Fox Lake’s finances, including the Police Explorers program that authorities now say the lieutenant had been stealing from for seven years.
Marrin told reporters Thursday that she believed all of her dealings with Gliniewicz were cordial and never had any sense that he was angry with her. She said she didn’t learn about the plots against her until after Gliniewicz’s death.
“It’s very unsettling. My concern is my family. It’s quite unbelievable and almost surreal,” she said, adding that police have assured her she is safe.
Often called “G.I. Joe,” Gliniewicz 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. Now authorities are also investigating his wife, Melodie, and son D.J., 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, an Army soldier in his 20s, angrily dismissed suggestions that his father took his own life.
The official, who was briefed on the investigation, spoke with the AP 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. They also declined to identify the woman Gliniewicz texted in April, other than to say she is not in law enforcement.
Investigators did interview the high-ranking gang member, who denied ever talking to Gliniewicz. “We found no evidence that they ever talked and we were able to rule him out” as a suspect, Covelli said.
The officer’s wife and four children issued a brief statement Wednesday through their lawyers, saying they were grieving. It did not mention suicide or thefts. The attorneys, Henry Tonigan and Andrew Kelleher, didn’t immediately respond to voicemail and email messages sent Thursday.
As the probe into Gliniewicz’s death stretched on, suspicion grew that he had killed himself, but investigators publicly treated it as a homicide investigation until announcing Wednesday that he shot himself. The lieutenant fired first at his cellphone and ballistics vest, then inserted his handgun inside the vest and fired at his heart. Then, as he was dying, he fell forward, scraping his face, which could have been an intentional effort to create the appearance of a struggle, said the coroner, Dr. Thomas Rudd.
Lake County Major Crimes Task Force Commander George Filenko, who led the investigation, said the 30-year police veteran clearly intended to mislead investigators and had the kind of intimate knowledge of crime scenes needed to pull it off.
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.
Marrin thanked authorities for solving the case and seemed nonplussed that Gliniewicz had made personal threats against her. Asking tough questions was part of her job, she said. She pressed him the day before his death to share an inventory of his program’s assets. He responded the next morning, promising to deliver it that afternoon.
Instead, he committed suicide.
Just why he tried to make it look like murder remains unclear. Filenko said he didn’t know whether a suicide finding would prevent his family from receiving benefits.
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. Many tributes to their slain hero have come down. Some signs praising “G.I. Joe” have replaced, one by a poster labeling him “G.I. Joke.”
SOURCE: The Associated Press, Don Babwin