New test results don't give final answer in Fox Lake officer death investigation

CHICAGO (FOX 32 News / AP) — On the day he died, officer Charles Joseph Gliniewicz radioed to a police dispatcher that he was in pursuit of three suspicious men. Moments later, fellow officers found his body and launched a manhunt for his killers.

Now, some critical lab tests are finally complete in the investigation. However, it is testing that is still being done that may be the most critical in solving the case.

On Monday, the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force said that they now have results from ballistics tests on the gun and the casings recovered at the scene, and the fatal bullet recovered from Gliniewicz's body. But spokesman Det. Christ Covelli refused to say if Gliniewicz’s gun, the one that was recovered, was the one that fired the fatal shot.

Covelli also declined to give details of what investigators learned from the gunshot residue testing, saying it was critical to the case.

“We continue to investigate this case as a homicide, based on the facts and evidence that we've learned to this point,” Covelli said.

The Task Force also revealed that investigators recovered several DNA samples from the crime scene where Gliniewicz was killed on September 1st, but only one was of a good enough quality to enter into the national DNA data base to check for matches to known criminals. If there is a match, it could point to a possible killer.

As for the other lab results, they are less promising.

“Those reports, gunshot residue and ballistic tests, do not support or exclude any specific theory in this investigation,” Covelli said, meaning homicide and suicide are still possibilities.

Police did recover Lt. Glinewiecz gun at the scene, but refused to reveal if it is the gun that killed him or if another one was used.

Officials also would not say if tests showed that there was any gunshot residue on his hands, arms or clothing. But they did reveal new information suggesting there was at least one suspect at the scene.

“One of the K-9's that specifically began to search in the area of the crime scene and where the scene occurred, positively tracked away from the scene,” Covelli said.

However, the search had to be cut shot because the dog’s handler was overcome by the heat and had to be taken to a hospital for treatment.

Also Monday, the Lake County Coroner, Dr. Thomas Rudd, and one of his staff, had their first face-to-face meeting with the head of the task force and three assistant commanders to share information. Covelli, who was also there, said any rift that previously existed between the two sides has now been smoothed over.

Rudd says he has been unable to rule the matter a homicide, suicide or an accident — a stance that had deepened longstanding tensions between him and local law enforcement.

"All theories are still on the table," Lake County Sheriff's Office spokesman Chris Covelli said Monday in a phone interview, calling it "a very complex investigation."

Authorities have made no arrests or identified any suspects. The apparent lack of progress has raised concerns about the investigation and left the public in the dark about whether there's a killer on the loose.

The first hint of trouble came when Lake County Coroner Dr. Thomas Rudd announced that Gliniewicz had been killed by a "single devastating" gunshot wound to his chest, a detail that the head of the task force investigating the case had jealously guarded for several days.

Rudd put "the entire case at risk" by releasing that information, said a furious Lake County Major Crime Task Force Cmdr. George Filenko.

Days later, Rudd learned that investigators had summoned the pathologist in the case without inviting Rudd or even telling him about the meeting.

Until last week, Rudd said, he had not talked to Filenko at all during the course of the investigation nor for several months before that.

In the days after the officer's death, scores of officers fanned out across Fox Lake in a manhunt that was widely broadcast on television. They searched through subdivisions and fields, took up positions on rooftops and along railroad tracks, and scanned the terrain through rifle scopes and binoculars. Others leaned out of helicopters with weapons at the ready.

Authorities have said three men whose images were captured by a nearby home surveillance camera did not kill Gliniewicz.

But perhaps the biggest source of questions can be traced to Rudd's comment that because he had not received the task force's report, he could not rule out the possibility that Gliniewicz's death was a suicide or an accident.

Covelli also left the door open to suicide, saying that while the case was being investigated as a homicide, detectives will follow the evidence wherever it leads.

Gliniewicz's family has dismissed any possibility that he took his own life.

Son D.J. Gliniewicz, whose father was preparing to retire, said the officer "never once" thought of suicide. He told the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago that shortly before his death, his father was trying to decide if he wanted to visit Lake Tahoe or Vermont. The son said his father had also applied for several chief-of-police positions.

“He has applied for several different chief positions at police departments, and someone who wants to take their life, they don't plan a future, they don't go around telling everyone like 'I can't wait to go do this, I can't wait to go do that.' I just can't believe it, you just can't,” said DJ Gliniewicz.

Though the Gliniewicz family reserved most of its anger for Rudd, the task force has contributed to the speculation.

While both Covelli and Filenko had said the task force was waiting for weeks for scientific evidence tests, other police officers quietly acknowledged that whenever an officer is killed, the case goes to the front of the line for lab work.

A forensics expert agreed.

"This is given the highest priority," said Larry Kobilinsky, professor of forensic science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. "Everything else is dropped, and it gets looked at immediately."

Covelli would not discuss details on Monday, saying that divulging the findings would make it harder to assess the truthfulness of any suspects at future interrogations.

"The only two groups of people who should know exactly what happened are the investigators ... and the offenders," Covelli said.

Other tests were not yet in from FBI laboratories in Quantico, Virginia, Covelli said.

Investigators could quiet speculation about suicide if they simply announced whether the bullet that struck the lieutenant's chest came from his own gun. If another gun were used — a gun not recovered from the scene — then it would be far less likely that Gliniewicz killed himself.

Even absent all the sophisticated tests, detectives could be reasonably sure within days if the gun was used, Kobilinsky said.

They would know, for example, whether his gun was fired, whether the caliber of the bullets in his gun matched bullets from the scene or retrieved from the body. Those tests can be done quickly.

"There is no doubt in my mind as to whether they know it was his gun or not," he said.