Fox Lake Police Officer Joe Gliniewicz 'carefully staged' his suicide, police say

ByABC7 Eyewitness News WLS logo
Thursday, November 5, 2015
Fox Lake officer staged his suicide, police say
Fox Lake Police Lt. Joe Gliniewicz staged a murder scene to "mislead" detectives before committing suicide two months ago, authorities said.

FOX LAKE, Ill. (WLS) -- 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.

Text messages between Fox Lake Police Lt. Joe Gliniecwicz and an unidentified individual threatened a village administrator, authorities said.

Authorities released text messages where Gliniewicz complains about new management scrutinizing his Explorers fund. One text message read, "If she gets ahold of the old checking account, im pretty well f***ed," according to a release from officials.

Gliniewicz also threatened to set up the village administrator for a DUI arrest in his text messages. Fox Lake Village Administrator Anne Marrin said her questions were about equipment that was requisitioned from the U.S. military and she knew nothing about missing money.

"His reaction was, I think, more due to rumors that were going around the police department that I was going to shut them down. There were terrible rumors. I think that all fed into however he felt," Marrin said.

She also said she will continue to ask the "tough questions."

"I want to be very clear on this point: the village fully supports the prosecution of each and every individual who conspired with Lt. Gliniewicz and/or has engaged in criminal activity," Marrin said.

Officials would not identify the person or persons Gliniewicz was texting, but said two individuals were aware of the embezzlement. Filenko would not say if Gliniewicz's widow is one of them.

"I can't answer that question. That portion of the investigation has been turned over to the Lake County Sheriff and state's attorney for investigation," Filenko said.


A timeline of the investigation into the death of Lt. Joe Gliniewicz.

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," Gliniewicz'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.

"No. None at all. We had no indication at that point. We were still looking at homicide," Filenko said.

"Regardless of the way that he died, or how he died, or the manner of how it happened, I don't think we can erase the 30 years of work he put into the community," Jaime Alanis said.

"Shock. Everybody's in shock. It's not the way we thought it was going to happen, at all," Melinda Conrad said. "I also feel very bad for his family. I can't even imagine what's going on with his wife and his four sons."


No one answered the door at the Gliniewicz family home on Wednesday.

A source tells the ABC7 I-Team that Gliniewicz's widow and son are under criminal investigation.

No one answered the door at the family's Antioch home on Wednesday. The Gliniewicz family released a statement through an attorney: Today has been another day of deep sorrow for the Gliniewicz family. The family has cooperated with the Task Force's investigation and will not comment at this time. The Gliniewicz family requests that their privacy be respected as they continue to cope with the loss of the beloved husband and father.

The I-Team has reviewed court documents from a 2003 case where a woman filed a sexual harassment suit against Gliniewicz. That case was eventually dropped, but Gliniewicz - a sergeant at the time - served a 30-day suspension and was also urged to seek sexual addiction treatment.

A fundraiser planned for Friday night at Antioch High School was suspended, according to the school district's superintendent.