Investigators looking into the death of a Fox Lake Police officer met with the pathologist who performed his autopsy without the knowledge of the Lake County coroner, underscoring the strained relationship between the police and the coroner in the case, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.
The meeting concerning slain officer Charles Joseph Gliniewicz was held last week, at 10 a.m. Wednesday, at the Round Lake Police Department, where Lake County Major Crimes Task Force Cmdr. George Filenko is police chief.
Pathologist Manny Montez confirmed that he attended the meeting, along with Filenko, other members of the task force and members of the FBI. Representatives of the Lake County state’s attorney’s office also attended.
“They called me and told me to be present, so I showed up,” Montez said. “We went over my findings. They had copies of my sketches because I haven’t finalized my [autopsy] report yet.”
Lake County Coroner Thomas A. Rudd said he was “totally confused” when he learned about the meeting.
Lake County Coroner Thomas Rudd | File photo
“I was not invited to the meeting and I have just found out that the meeting occurred,” Rudd said. Montez is a contracted employee of the coroner and reports his findings to Rudd, who makes the final determination on the cause of death.
Rudd, however, said that the task force’s actions thus far would not affect their relationship.
“I’ll continue to work and cooperate as a professional,” he said.
Lake County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Detective Christopher Covelli said “no restrictions” were placed on the coroner attending the meeting, which was attended by “his staff.”
“I don’t know why he wasn’t there,” Covelli said, adding he didn’t know if the Lake County coroner had been invited.
To make the point that there is communication between the task force and the coroner’s office, Covelli said a meeting has been set up between members of the task force and Rudd in the next few days.
But Rudd said he was not aware of any such meeting.
“I have not been invited to any past, current or future meetings. I have received no emails, phone messages, texts or any other communication from any members of the task force or state’s attorney’s office,” Rudd said Tuesday afternoon.
On Tuesday evening, Rudd received a call from the second in command at the task force, Zion Police Lt. Terry Richards.
“We will be meeting in the very near future,” Rudd said.
Filenko did not return several messages requesting comment.
Tensions between the cops and the coroner came to a boil the day after the meeting which the coroner did not attend.
That Thursday, Filenko and Lake County Undersheriff Ray Rose blasted Rudd in a news release and at a news conference for releasing information that they said could jeopardize the case. Such a news release during such a high-profile case is rare.
“We have not been contacted by or had communication with Doctor Rudd,” Filenko said in the news release. “Doctor Rudd, releasing information which is sensitive to this investigation, puts the entire case at risk.”
Rudd had said that a “single devastating” gunshot wound killed Gliniewicz and he couldn’t rule whether the death was a homicide, suicide or accident.
“I don’t know the manner of death yet, whether it was a homicide, suicide or an accident,” Rudd said last week. “I can’t give you that because I don’t have the evidence that the police have finalized.”
Rudd has said that his report can’t be completed until he gets the report from the task force and learns whether the bullet that killed the officer came from Gliniewicz’s own gun or someone else’s.
Filenko has said publicly that Rudd has not shared the autopsy findings with him.
The investigation has drawn national attention after Gliniewicz, a 30-year police veteran, was found dead Sept. 1 in Fox Lake, about 55 miles northwest of Chicago. The officer was found dead after calling in a report that he was investigating three suspicious men in an isolated area.
Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz | File photo
The shooting led to a massive manhunt, but no arrests have been made. Authorities have disclosed few details about Gliniewicz’s death.
Investigators have said publicly that Gliniewicz’s gun was found feet away from his body and that it was fired more than once. They have declined to say how many times it was fired, or if Gliniewicz was shot with his own gun.
Covelli said Tuesday that while police investigators have released certain details of the case, Rudd has released details that could be more damaging and that he did not communicate what he was going to tell the media before giving the statements.
Covelli said that the officer’s death is still officially being investigated as a homicide, but that the office is not “putting blinders on” and is investigating every angle as it comes up – including suicide.
“It would be irresponsible of us not to investigate other theories,” he said. “We still have as many people investigating this today as we did two weeks ago. If the evidence and the facts redirect us we are going to go down that path.”
Covelli said that task force investigators are still awaiting the test results of several items sent to the laboratory for analysis, including the DNA of an unknown individual, which was located at the scene, ballistic test results and other results.
“We are hopeful they will be in soon — like in the very near future,” Covelli said.
When asked why the results appear to be taking longer than customary on a high-profile case, Covelli said that the items were sent to several different labs, which have put a rush on the results but still want to provide accurate information.
“They are going to do what they can to move it to the top of the list,” he said.