I-Team: Head of team that investigated Gliniewicz death resigns

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George Filenko, the commander of the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force, has resigned nearly six months after the death of Police Lt. Joe Gliniewicz. (WLS)

The man who led the investigation into the staged suicide of Fox Lake Police Lieutenant Joe Gliniewicz has resigned.

George Filenko is stepping down as the head of the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force. Filenko also interrogated a suburban daycare worker now behind bars, convicted of killing a child in her care.

His resignation letter is short and succinct - three sentences. And he refers all comments to the spokesman for the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force. The letter stated an end date of April 1, but Vernon Hills Police Chief Mark Fleischhauer, who serves as chairman of the Lake County Major Crime Task Force Board, said he was told Filenko would not go out on calls for the task force starting Wednesday. he will serve in an "advisory" role, Fleischauer said.

Assistant Commander Zion Detective Kyle Helgesen will serve as interim commander.

Filenko spent 11 years on the task force - three years as an investigator, two years as an assistant task force commander and the last six years as the task force commander.

Throughout Filenko's time with the task force, he has been involved in over 200 homicide investigations, a Lake County news release said.

"He's restructured the way the Task Force handles homicide investigations, officer involved shootings, and in-custody deaths," Fleischauer said. "Throughout the past 11 years, George has given up vacations, anniversaries, birthdays, and many other special occasions. Not to mention the fact, George has contributed thousands of hours of unpaid time working cases for the citizens of Lake County."

Not everyone agrees.

He was the public face of one of the most publicized murder investigations in Illinois history. Filenko faced a great deal of scrutiny when he announced months later the finding that Gliniwiecz committed suicide. Colleagues insist the Gliniwiecz case has little to do with Filenko's abrupt resignation from the task force.

Filenko also investigated the case of Melissa Calusinski, who was convicted of murder in the death of 16-month-old Benjamin Kingan at a Lincolnshire day care center. Her father believes Commander Filenko coerced a confession from Calusinski.

Autopsy results show the boy's death may not have been homicide.

Lake County Coroner Thomas Rudd has often clashed with Commander Filenko over investigations, including the Gliniwiecz case. He declined to comment publicly about the resignation, leaving the Lake County spokesperson the final word for now.

Calusinski has a hearing in appellate court next week on her motion for a new trial.

Filenko plans to keep his job as chief of police in round lake.

Gliniewicz, a Fox Lake officer, was found dead of a gunshot, lying in a Fox Lake field, his hand in a position as if it had been holding a gun - and no suspects in sight. Despite the fact that officers were close enough to have heard the fatal shot, they saw no one other than the fallen lieutenant.

Officials had reason to suspect suicide in Gliniewicz's death from the beginning, documents obtained by the ABC7 I-Team under Illinois' Freedom of Information Act in November show.


"This extensive investigation has concluded, with an overwhelming amount of evidence, that Gliniewicz's death was a carefully staged suicide," said Filenko.

That announcement came more than two months after Gliniewicz was found dead, authorities saying for weeks that they were investigating the case as a homicide. And until the very end, officials never fully ruled out the possibility that two white men and a black man were somehow responsible - the trio Gliniewicz had radioed in he was chasing.

Some Fox Lake police reports suggest that from the moment Gliniewicz's colleagues arrived on the scene, their observations pointed to suicide.

One responding officer observed that Gliniewicz's hand was empty in a position that would lead to believe he was possibly holding a gun.

Gliniewicz's service pistol was later found within arm's reach of his body.

The police reports also state that several officers responding to this scene were on opposite sides of the field accessible by a dirt road when the final, fatal gunshot was heard, close enough to hear the shot that investigators now know was fired by Gliniewicz, killing himself.

And not one of the officers - who essentially had the location surrounded - reported seeing any other person. Not two white men nor a black man, as Gliniewicz had claimed on his police radio. They saw no one.

During the two months after Gliniewicz was found dead, investigative leaks continued to promise that the end result would be suicide, even as the task force publicly repeated time and again that they were working a homicide. Perhaps because of that, Fox Lake area residents continued to provide information about people they thought might have killed Gliniewicz, the police reports detailing interviews with citizens who offered up names.
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