Two Wheaton police detectives and a state's attorney investigator were honored Wednesday for solving the 1976 cold-case murder of Darlene Stack, whose killer is now serving a life sentence.
The Chicago Crime Commission bestowed its Law Enforcement Excellence Award upon Detectives Edward Fanning and Andrew Uhlir and DuPage County Investigator Robert Guerrieri at its annual Stars of Distinction event in Chicago.
In 2005, Fanning, Uhlir and Guerrieri reopened the investigation into Stack's rape and murder at a Wheaton boardinghouse in August 1976. They reinterviewed witnesses and resubmitted physical evidence for DNA testing, which ultimately led to charges in August against imprisoned killer and original suspect Michael Whitney. A month later, Whitney pleaded guilty.
"What captured us is the fact these officers kind of combined the old-school relentless pursuit of a suspect with new technology," said former Chicago Police Supt. Jody Weis, the commission's deputy director. "It would have been very easy to put this case in a drawer and forget about it. But these detectives didn't allow this to happen. Their relentless approach, combined with the new technology out there, was kind of blueprint for people not to give up on (cold) cases."
The investigators linked Whitney, now 58, to the 28-year-old victim's stabbing after developing a DNA profile from evidence taken from Stack's bed. Whitney's girlfriend from 1976 subsequently admitted she'd provided him a false alibi. She also gave authorities corroborating details of the murder.
Whitney was charged about a year before he was set for parole from a 60-year term for an unrelated home invasion and murder in Carol Stream in 1982. He ended up pleading guilty to Stack's murder in September and was sentenced to natural life.