Two months after Fox Lake Police Lt. Joe Gliniewicz was found dead, investigators call his death a “carefully staged suicide” to cover-up years of embezzlement.
Gliniewicz staged his own suicide after laundering money from the Fox Lake Police Explorers Program, a community program for children that he led, authorities said Wednesday.
“This had been occurring over the past seven years,” Lake County Major Crimes Task Force Commander George Filenko said. Gliniewicz stole around $50,000 to use on his personal expenses, including mortgage payments, gym memberships, vacations and adult websites, Filenko said.
“I think he knew there was the possibility of incarceration and his view in the community would be greatly diminished,” Lake County Coroner Dr. Thomas Rudd said.
Detective Christopher Covelli said 150 investigators spent 25,000 hours on the case before coming to the conclusion of suicide. They followed 430 leads, looked at 250 pieces of evidence, and reviewed 6,500 text messages, 3,000 telephone numbers and 4,000 emails, Covelli said.
On Sept. 1, Gliniewicz was fatally shot in a remote area of north suburban Fox Lake after radioing in that he was chasing three male suspects. Police launched a massive manhunt. Three men who matched the description were found, but had “rock solid” alibis, Filenko said. It’s believed Gliniewicz saw those men and decided to use them as a decoy.
Gliniewicz had been shot twice with his own gun – once in his vest and once in the upper chest.
“The trail of equipment… was an attempt to mislead first responders and investigators that this was a homicide scene,” Filenko said. Filenko said Gliniewicz had experience in staging investigation scenes for police training scenarios.
“This was laid out as though there was an ongoing type of struggle at the scene,” Filenko said. However, there were signs the death was staged, including the fact that Gliniewicz’s uniform wasn’t disheveled, Filenko said.
When asked about the manhunt and length of the investigation, Filenko said “all possible death scenarios were considered.” He said the intention was “never to mislead” the public on the death investigation and the case was first investigated as a homicide. When officers arrived on scene they had two things- a dead police officer and a missing gun Filenko said.
“When I walked away from the table, I didn’t know what it was. A suicide, a homicide, an accident,” Dr. Rudd said.
“To betray the police profession and the community is just absolutely appalling. It’s a complete betrayal,” Filenko said. “The deception was by Lieutenant Gliniewicz. We uncovered that deception. I think if there’s any anger about the outcome of what happened after his death it should be directed toward him, not toward us.”
After months of rumors, a gasp was heard at the Hello Folks bar in Fox Lake where patrons were glued to the TV sets, watching the news conference.
“I really don’t know what to say,” Brian Kelly said. “I really don’t. It’s hard to believe.”
Many of those gathered at the Whistle Stop Cafe knew Gliniewicz well; others saw him around town. Many said they feel betrayed that his staged death spread fear, perpetrated fraud, and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to investigate.
“You just knew from around town, he was supposed to be such a great guy. Well, great guys don’t do what he did,” Maureen Kelly said.
“I think of those Explorers that he mentored, and some of them have gone on to law enforcement careers and he betrayed them. He betrayed his village,” Diane Freeman said. Motorola Solutions is making a $50,000 donation to Fox Lake Police Explorer Post 300. The company originally offered that money for information leading to an arrest in the case.
“It was unbelievable. My gosh, G.I. Joe went from a hero to a criminal. Kind of sad,” Gliniewic’s neighbor Leroy Marre said.
Gliniewicz had a reputation as an American hero in the community that called him G.I. Joe. His funeral was widely attended and he was buried as a hero officer.
“To me he deserved it. And I’ll probably always feel that way,” Phil Hofmann said of the funeral.
Officials said during the funeral they had no indication Gliniewicz had committed suicide.
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