Slusher: Information vacuum is sometimes unavoidable, always uncomfortable

And now we wait.

Like wheels within wheels, there is a rhythm to the news cycle, and it is not always comforting. In regard to the killing of Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz, that is certainly the case. If we have the blessings of distance and time, everyone likes a mystery. But when the tragedy is real and it strikes close to home, all we really want is answers. The more and the sooner the better. Unfortunately, the process of studying scant bits of evidence appears to warn against expecting an immediate breakthrough in finding whoever killed the popular Fox Lake police officer known as G.I. Joe. It could happen at any moment, of course, or it could take many days, weeks or longer. The only certainty is that, whatever evidence they have, police face a difficult balancing act in sharing it with the public until they have their suspects. Some facts - a physical description of a suspect or suspects, for instance, or some unusual object found at the scene - could help, of course, if they had them. But hard physical evidence is limited in this case, and releasing other facts about the investigation could complicate or even inhibit their work.

It took more than 10 years to break the case of the mass murders at a Palatine Brown's Chicken fast-food restaurant, and, while some DNA lingering on a piece of half-eaten chicken certainly proved critical to the investigation, it was french fries that almost no one knew about that helped seal it. When one of the killers' friends eventually came forward, her story rang true for investigators after she told them one of the victims had vomited french fries. In more than a decade of investigation, that was a detail police had never released. That the woman knew it, when almost no one else in the world did, was central to confirming her reliability.

Is there some similar piece of evidence at the scene of Gliniewicz' death? Is there something that only the police and the killer or killers know? As news people, it is not in our nature to hold information close to the vest. Of course, in rare cases when authorities or sources take us into their confidence with strict explanations and assurances about the need for restraint, we comply, but otherwise our instincts are to report information, not withhold it. So, we press as diligently as we can for facts and details that will help readers, help our communities, better understand what is happening with issues important to them.

When information doesn't flow in a nice, neat, predictbale pattern, police face an additional complication. Nature, it is said, abhors a vacuum. So do mysteries. When information is absent at such times, people will naturally fill the void with speculation, sometimes with misinformation. So, in the midst of such a vacuum, we all wait.

In the emotional days following Gliniewicz' killing, there was much to report, many stories about the man, the policeman, the community servant and his family and community. Now those stories are familiar, and we are left only with the agonizing questions of who would kill him and why. They are natural questions in any period. In the tense, controversy-tinged environment of the past year, they carry political, social and personal implications that relate not only to local curiosity and Gliniwiecz' loved ones' need for answers but to national discourse.

We would like to give you answers to help fill the gaps in that discourse. No doubt, investigators in Fox Lake and beyond would as well. But for now, we'll leave the authorities to their work, learn all we can and report news when we have it. Come to think of it, it is not waiting, exactly. But it does demand an uncomfortable amount of patience.

Jim Slusher,, is assistant managing editor for opinion at the Daily Herald. Follow him on Facebook at and on Twitter at @JimSlusher.

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