Lake County coroner jeopardizing Fox Lake case, investigators say

FOX LAKE, Ill. (WLS) -- The head of the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force says the coroner is jeopardizing the investigation into Lt. Joe Gliniewicz's shooting death by releasing "sensitive information" to the media.

Using words like "irresponsible", "unprofessional", and "outrageous," investigators blasted the coroner on Thursday, accusing him of saying too much.

Lake County Coroner Dr. Thomas Rudd said Lt. Gliniewicz's fatal wound was to his torso. By disclosing that information, Dr. Rudd has angered investigators.

"Those are strictly held back by investigators. It's not our protocol to release that. It could jeopardize the entire case down the road," said Cmdr. George Filenko, Lake County Major Crimes Task Force.

At the same time, an absence of information, and the choice of words used by investigators have raised questions.

"We found him murdered, I'm sorry, killed," Lake County Major Crimes Task Force Cmdr. George Filenko said on Tuesday.

On Thursday night, he offered clarification: "This is a homicide investigation, and that slip was merely a slip."

The coroner ultimately determines manner of death: homicide, suicide, accidental, or undetermined. There is no race to judgment, but the coroner said Thursday that at this point, he's leaning toward homicide.

"Yes, I am leaning toward homicide because from the evidence the Major Crimes Task Force has presented to us and doing the autopsy, we're favoring that right now," Dr. Rudd said.

While he knows more than can be publicly said, the coroner says there are key items - still undetermined critical to the case - ballistics, fingerprints, gunshot residue.

"Or if it's other GSR (gunshot residue) from other bullets, then we know we'd be pretty certain that somebody else is out there may have killed him," Dr. Rudd said. "And right now I'm leaning toward someone else killing this man."

DNA evidence found at the shooting scene is still being tested. There's no timeline for those results.

"The Northern Illinois Crime Lab is still working on that, and we're still continuing to take comparative swabs," Cmdr. Filenko said.

Barring the arrest of suspects and with so many unknowns, Dr. Rudd said he could be months away from making a ruling on Lt. Gliniewicz's manner of death.

"There are still crucial pieces of evidence being analyzed by the crime lab where we don't have results, and we're not close to the point of reaching the conclusion," said Det. Chris Covelli, Lake County sheriff's office.

The Lake County Major Crimes Task Force confirmed that more than one shot was fired at the scene, but investigators won't go into detail beyond that.

Dr. Rudd declined to comment on the criticism Thursday night. Despite the apparent tension, task force officials maintain there is no rift in the investigative team.
Copyright © 2020 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.