He shot pepper spray into the woods at no one, dropped his expandable baton and tossed his eyeglasses in the dirt — all to suggest a struggle had ensued, but the bogus crime scene he was manufacturing needed one last thing: a body.
So Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz aimed his gun at his chest and fired — the bullet hitting his cellphone and bulletproof vest. He fired again, this time sticking the barrel of the gun beneath his vest, hitting the major artery that connects the heart and lungs.
The wound allowed for, at most, two more minutes of life, during which Gliniewicz, 52, dropped facedown in the dirt, which is where his fellow Fox Lake police officers found his body minutes later.
In his last minutes on earth, Gliniewicz, who led a secret double life, left behind his final lie.
On the surface, he was a beloved officer and family man who proudly led a police youth group before he was supposedly killed in the line of duty by three mystery men.
In reality, he was a crooked cop who was looting money from the youth group to pay for porn, vacations, a gym membership and other personal expenses.
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And the dedicated family man was complaining to his wife and son by texts about an ongoing investigation into the group’s finances, apparently roping them into and revealing details about his scheme, authorities indicated. The wife, Mel, and son, D.J., are under investigation, sources said.
Facing mounting pressure, he staged his suicide to look like a murder, which sparked a massive manhunt, sent fear through the community and resulted in a hero’s memorial for Gliniewicz, drawing cops across the country as well as Gov. Bruce Rauner.
The shocking new details came Wednesday at a news conference by Cmdr. George Filenko, who heads up the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force charged with probing Gliniewicz’s death, and Lake County Coroner Thomas Rudd.
The news cleared up a mystery that left the public under the impression that, since Gliniewicz’s death on Sept. 1, three men once thought responsible for the crime were still at large, and that Gliniewicz was a hero who died in the line of duty. Just before his death, Gliniewicz had radioed in that he was investigating an isolated area in town after seeing three suspicious men there.
Gliniewicz’s mental state began to unravel six months earlier, when Anne Marrin, the new village administrator in Fox Lake began an audit to account for all of Fox Lake’s assets.
Gliniewicz began to sweat because he feared the audit would uncover financial misdeeds that would not only shatter his image as a beloved community figure known as “GI Joe” but possibly lead to prison time, authorities said.
For seven years, Gliniewicz had been stealing money from a program he ran that trained children who have an interest in law enforcement. The Explorer program, which is chartered by the Boy Scouts of America and sponsored by the Fox Lake Police Department, teaches kids how to do police activities, such as processing mock crime scenes. So when Gliniewicz staged his own death scene in an isolated area where the Explorers practiced, he had plenty of practice.
Authorities on Wednesday provided reporters with several pages of transcripts of deleted text messages discussing his scheme that investigators recovered from Gliniewicz’s cellphone. The conversations were between him and “Individual 1″ and “Individual 2.”
While authorities did not identify them at the news conference, a source close to the investigation said Individual 1 was Gliniewicz’s wife, Mel, and Individual 2 was his son, Donald “D.J.” Gliniewicz, who serves in the Army.
In one text exchange, Gliniewicz’s son said he hopes that Marrin, the village administrator gets a DUI, according to the transcript.
In the same exchange from May 13, Joe Gliniewicz took it farther and hinted at final resting places for her, including the Volo Bog — a nearby state parkland: “I’ve thought through MANY SCENARIOS from planting things to the Volo Bog.”
Filenko acknowledged in another text — that has not been made public — that Gliniewicz hinted at hiring a hit man to kill Marrin.
“One [text] in particular was bothersome about possibly hiring somebody to take care of the problem,” Filenko said.
Gliniewicz also warns his son on June 25: “You are borrowing money from that ‘other’ account, when you get back you’ll have to start dumping money into that account or you will be visiting me in JAIL!!”
On April 14, around the time investigators say Gliniewicz began to stress out about the impending audit, his wife, apparently concerned about losing control of the Explorer bank account, said: “Maybe, seeing as we are on 503C [a reference to tax a designation assigned to charities] she can’t touch the money.”
Subpoenaed bank records reveal that Gliniewicz, who had sole discretion on how money for the Explorers program was spent, frequently used the account as his personal piggy bank.
Marrin said at the news conference that the community is “the real victim here.”
“The village fully supports the prosecution of each and every individual who conspired with Lt. Gliniewicz,” Marrin said, though, like Filenko, she did not elaborate on who that might be.
She said Gliniewicz’s antagonism when questioned about his handling of the Explorer money “only confirmed to me that asking the tough questions was the absolute right thing to do.”
Filenko said the stolen money totaled more than $50,000. Gliniewicz, a 32 year-veteran, earned a salary of about $96,000. He had sought to retire at the end of September. His pension is undetermined, according to Fox Lake spokesman David Bayless. Police pension board attorney Laura Goodloe did not return messages Wednesday.
But pension experts said his wife might be entitled to his pension, at least for now, because state law is clear that a pension can only be stripped if an officer is convicted of a felony in the line of duty. Since he is dead, Gliniewicz can be charged with nothing, much less convicted.
In a statement through their attorneys Wednesday, the Gliniewicz family members said: “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 staged death was perhaps a twisted attempt to salvage his legacy as a police officer, Filenko said.
“I believe he thought in his mind, and again, I can’t speculate for him, that if he were shot and killed in the line of duty, that would deflect in some way from all of these other things that were going to come to fruition,” Filenko said.
The illusion began to crumble in earnest about two weeks ago, when subpoenaed bank records arrived that pointed to wrongdoing, which was around the same time the FBI recovered Gliniewicz’s deleted text messages.
But there were other clues that the crime scene was not kosher that investigators readdressed with a new perspective.
Gliniewicz’s uniform was not disheveled. His police radio was still attached to his shoulder — although the gadgets routinely become dislodged during day-to-day activity, much less a fight-for-your life struggle, Filenko said.
Filenko said he and his fellow officers were duped. Filenko attended Gliniewicz’s funeral and said he shed tears as bagpipers played “Amazing Grace.”
He denied allegations that police mishandled the case by not informing the public earlier that investigators began to suspect that Gliniewicz committed suicide.
“Our intention was never to mislead the public,” he said. “We completely believed from Day One that this was a homicide.”
The length of the investigative process was not unnecessarily drawn out, Filenko said. Leads came in daily and investigators had to sift through reams of evidence, including 6,500 texts and 32,000 emails.
“I would hope at some point, that once people come to the realization that we were out there performing our jobs as police officers that that anger and frustration shouldn’t be directed at us,” Filenko said. “It should be directed at Lt. Gliniewicz and his betrayal of the community.”
Filenko said the episode will unfortunately contribute to a negative climate surrounding police officers all over the country.
“This is just another black eye,” he said, adding that Gliniewicz’s actions brought shame to him and all police.
“We’re police officers, we’re human beings. You know, we come into this job with only one thing, our integrity and our reputation, and we want to leave with that intact.”