Five-day suspensions strike us as pretty lenient for a police sergeant and detective who conducted an incompetent and incomplete investigation four years ago into the death of Chicago Police Sgt. Donald Markham.
But it would be a far greater injustice if the two cops — Detective Brian Spain and Sgt. Shauntai Gracia — were made scapegoats in this outrageous case.
Blame should be directed fully at former Lt. Denis P. Walsh, who took charge of the crime scene — the dead cop’s Northwest Side home — and made so many curiously poor decisions that you can only wonder what was on his mind.
What kind of detective orders the dumping of the bloody mattress on which the body was found, making forensic analysis impossible? What kind of cop makes no effort to verify the wife’s story?
Walsh has retired, putting him beyond the reach of CPD disciplinarians. He’s free to collect his annual pension, which tops $99,000, for the rest of his life. But that’s no excuse to make Spain and Gracia the fall guys when they and others were following Walsh’s entirely disturbing directions.
The breathtaking screw-ups in this investigation are laid out in a report released Wednesday by city Inspector General Joe Ferguson. And a string of unanswered questions, including the following, beg for answers:
- At the time of Donald Markham’s death, Sept. 2, 2015, the police department was under investigation by Ferguson for falsifying evidence to help keep former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s nephew Richard J. “R.J.” Vanecko from being charged with killing David Koschman in 2004. And Walsh had once been charged with criminal sexual conduct in Michigan. Why was he ever promoted to lieutenant, putting him in a position to supervise the Markham crime scene?
- Why didn’t the police talk with neighbors or employees of the funeral home where Markham’s body was taken They would have told the cops that they heard Donald Markham’s wife, Dina Markham, make “comments suggesting” that she was present in the bedroom when her husband was shot. She told police that she was locked out of the house after a fight when her husband committed suicide.
- Why did the police make no attempt to challenge or verify the account given by Dina Markham, also a Chicago police officer, given that the couple’s stormy marriage had been marked by credit card debt, allegations of infidelity and volatile arguments?
- Why didn’t detectives interview Rob Voight, a detective who had been out drinking with the Markhams — and who said his first thought was that Dina Markham had killed her husband?
And then there was a second mysterious death. In May 2017, Dina Markham was found dead in her bathtub. Her death was ruled an accidental drowning. Why did the FBI drop its investigation into that case?
The questions go on and on.
Ferguson’s strong report should not be final word. Nobody should take on face value the official explanation of how and why Donald Markham died, or how and why Dina Markham died.
This is a case that begs for further investigation, not fall guys.
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