When endless questions haunt the deaths of two Chicago Police officers, somebody had better get to the bottom of it.
On Sept. 2, 2015, Officer Donald Markham died from a bullet wound to his head. Twenty-one months later, on May 28 of this year, his wife and fellow officer, Dina Markham, was found dead in her bathtub. Both died in the couple’s Far Northwest Side home.
The police response has been bizarre. There is no better way to describe it. And it has sparked independent investigations by the FBI, the Cook County state’s attorney’s special prosecutions division and Chicago Inspector General Joseph Ferguson.
When Donald Markham was found dead, his wife said the two had been quarreling earlier in the evening and that she was locked out of the house. She said one of the couple’s children opened a window so she could enter the house and get car keys so she could sleep in the car. She said she discovered Donald’s body in the bedroom as she was looking for the keys.
When Dina Markham later was found dead, it was just 14 hours after she had sent a text message to a friend that said, “Help. Please … no kidding.” Her death was ruled an accidental drowning caused by ingesting alcohol and anti-anxiety medicine.
As you might guess, people have questions. Here, based on reporting by Sun-Times reporters Tim Novak and Robert Herguth, are just a few:
• On the night Donald Markham died, why did police remove his body before — according to county officials — the county medical examiner’s office was notified of the death? By county ordinance, someone from the medical examiner’s office is required to go to the scene of every violent death.
• Why did Chicago Police take it upon themselves to transport the body to the morgue, rather than leave the job to a private company that has a contract to do so? It’s unusual for police to transport a body to the morgue.
• Why was the bloody mattress on which Donald Markham’s body was found quickly removed from the house and dumped behind the Jefferson Park police station? The couple’s bedroom was still a potential crime scene. It would be days more before the police and medical examiner’s office ruled that Donald Markham had committed suicide.
• Why did a woman who identified herself as a cop call the ward superintendent and ask for a special pickup for the mattress? A garbage truck hauled off the mattress, which might have had evidentiary value, shortly afterward.
• What was in a text message that Dina Markham sent hours before she died to a police commander, Kevin Duffin, whose detectives investigated her husband’s death? The text was one of many she had exchanged over the past six months with Duffin.
• Why was Duffin texting her on regular basis? What was in those texts? Were they of a professional or personal nature? Why, when the police department finally released reports about the texts after the Sun-Times sued for the records, did the department black out Duffin’s name, only acknowledging he was involved after being pressed by the reporters?
• Why was Dina Markham transferred from her job in the department’s Bureau of Internal Affairs, where she worked at the time of her husband’s death, to work for Duffin at the Area North detective division? Who authorized the transfer?
• What was it about Donald Markham’s death that piqued the interest of the FBI, which started its own investigation into whether his death was a homicide and whether there had been tampering at the crime scene? The medical examiner’s office originally concluded that he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Donald Markham had gunshot residue on his hand, according to crime lab reports, but no one tested Dina Markham’s hands for residue. Why not?
• Why did Dina Markham send the text that said: “Help. Please … no kidding.”?
When a police officer dies under questionable circumstances, you would expect a police investigation that is by the book, down to the last detail.
That did not happen here, twice.
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