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updated: 6/17/2016 9:52 PM

Des Plaines police chief during Gacy investigation dies at 92

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  • Former Des Plaines Police Chiefs Joseph Kozenczak, right, and Lee Alfano, pictured on Alfano's Arizona ranch in 2011, were two of the major forces behind the John Wayne Gacy investigation in 1978. Alfano died Wednesday at age 92. Kozenczak died last year at 75.

    Former Des Plaines Police Chiefs Joseph Kozenczak, right, and Lee Alfano, pictured on Alfano's Arizona ranch in 2011, were two of the major forces behind the John Wayne Gacy investigation in 1978. Alfano died Wednesday at age 92. Kozenczak died last year at 75.
    Courtesy of Karen Kozenczak, April 2011

 
 

Former Des Plaines Police Chief Lee Alfano, who led the department during the John Wayne Gacy investigation, died this week in Arizona, a friend said Friday.

Alfano, 92, retired to a Prescott ranch in 1985 after seven years at the helm of the Des Plaines Police Department, during which he oversaw the biggest case in the department's history. He died Wednesday morning, according to Karen Kozenczak, whose husband, Joseph, was the lead police department investigator in the Gacy case.

"(Lee) kind of led the troops during that whole time and did an outstanding job," said Karen Kozenczak, who co-authored a book with her husband about the Gacy investigation. "He was a great chief and ran a great department. He was respected by the whole department."

Joseph Kozenczak, who succeeded Alfano as police chief from 1985 to 1989, remained friends with Alfano throughout the years.

Gacy was convicted and later executed for killing 33 boys whose bodies were discovered by authorities in 1978.

Jim O'Malley, a deacon at St. Mary Catholic Church in Des Plaines, met Alfano while he was a bus driver with United Motor Coach before his days with the Des Plaines Police Department. O'Malley said he would call Alfano every year on his birthday and went out to visit him in Arizona about four times.

"He was a very pleasant man," O'Malley said. "He was just someone you could have a good conversation with."

In his retirement, Alfano enjoyed riding horses on his ranch with his wife, Jan, who also recently died, according to Karen Kozenczak. The Alfanos provided horse rides for children with special needs through a church youth group, she said.

Alfano is survived by two children. Services will be held in Arizona.

• Daily Herald staff writer Erin Hegarty contributed to this report.

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