Two years after longtime Arlington International Racecourse jockey Eusebio "Eddie" Razo died in a garage fire at his Long Grove home, the blaze and the circumstances surrounding his death remain a mystery, according to authorities.
Reports obtained through Daily Herald Freedom of Information Act requests show the Lake County sheriff's office closed the Razo case in March. Records from the 2012 death probe became available to the public from the sheriff, Lake County coroner and Long Grove Fire Protection District since the change in case status.
Documents show the causes of the fire and Razo's death are undetermined.
Keith Kaiser was the lead detective on the case for the sheriff's office, which is contracted by Long Grove for law-enforcement services. He said he still wonders what happened to Razo in the garage on the 5100 block of North Arlington Heights Road.
"There are a lot of unanswered questions, but really, the only person that could answer those questions is deceased, Mr. Razo," Kaiser told the Daily Herald in a recent interview.
About 9 a.m. on April 24, 2012, Razo was on a living room couch watching television and complaining to his wife, Doreen, about stomach pain and an injury to his left arm from a power-saw accident, according to authorities.
She left the room to shower before intending to accompany her husband to his physical therapy session in Schaumburg. After getting dressed and not finding him in the house, she looked through a picture window and saw smoke coming from the detached garage.
"Doreen ran outside and observed all the doors to the garage were closed and began yelling for Eddie to find out where he was," a police report states. "Doreen did not get a response. Doreen ran around the detached garage and checked the barn and could not locate Eddie. Doreen opened a side service door to the detached garage and the thick smoke prevented her from entering the garage. Doreen indicated that she had her cellphone with her and called 911."
Firefighters and police officers arrived at the home shortly after Doreen Razo called an emergency dispatcher at 9:23 a.m. She was taken to a neighbor's home and consoled by family and friends after authorities said her 46-year-old husband was found dead in the garage.
In one of her voluntary interviews with police, documents show Doreen Razo, 48, speculated her husband went into the cluttered garage to charge a John Deere tractor battery. She said the 1960s-era garage had just one electrical outlet.
Sheriff's police investigators wrote they found Doreen Razo was truthful with them about not knowing what led to her husband's death. She declined a Daily Herald interview request.
Lake County sheriff's office Deputy Chief Ed Haras stressed that while the case has been administratively closed because new information hasn't surfaced for a while, investigators will act on any fresh leads. He said fire deaths are not easy to solve.
"Typically, evidence gets destroyed in a fire, which inhibits our ability to conduct an investigation," Haras said. "And in a case where the coroner's office is unable to determine the cause of death, that also makes it difficult to proceed forward in our investigation."
Kaiser said because the Razos lived in a secluded area, there weren't any neighbors who could offer information about the fire. He said the police interviews were limited to Doreen Razo, two other family members and one of the jockey's friends.
He wrote in a report in March that several anonymous telephone callers have offered tips about the case since 2012.
"I asked callers if they had facts to back up their information and no one was able to provide facts, only that they heard rumors at Arlington Park," Kaiser wrote. "I requested all callers to have anyone with facts to call me and provided my telephone number. I have received no telephone calls."
In July 2012, sheriff's police received an anonymous letter from Miami regarding Eddie Razo's death.
However, authorities blacked out the letter's contents in the release of documents to the Daily Herald, citing the potential for further investigation if additional leads or information come to light.
"We looked into the letter and we weren't able to conclude anything from the letter," Kaiser said.
Razo was born in Mexico in 1966 and received his jockey license in that country when was 15. He was 18 when he came to race at Arlington International and other Chicago-area tracks.
One of the biggest wins of his career came in 2004 in the $350,000 Grade II Washington Park Handicap aboard Eye of the Tiger.
He amassed 2,692 victories, the last coming at Oaklawn Racing and Gaming in Hot Springs, Arkansas, in 2008.
But doctors told Razo his horse-racing career may be in jeopardy after he cut his left forearm with the power saw while working on plywood in Florida in February 2012, according to police documents.
Friend Gary Dyer told authorities Razo was trying to reinvent himself in the horse-racing industry if he couldn't continue as a jockey.
Police reports, based on an interview with Doreen Razo, state the family was in financial difficulty in 2012 and her husband of 26 years was a recovering alcoholic. The couple were behind on mortgage payments for the Long Grove house and had an appointment to see a real estate agent the day Eddie Razo died.
Documents show a $1 million life insurance policy on Eddie Razo was canceled about three years before his death because of an inability to pay the premiums.
His wife told investigators she believed he had a $25,000 policy from the Jockey's Guild when he died.
Eddie Razo's agent, Lindy McDaniel, said his longtime pal was respected at the racetrack and away from it.
He said he'll remember Razo as a practical joker with an outgoing personality who always was willing to help new riders.
McDaniel said the manner of Razo's "bizarre" death still arises as a topic in the thoroughbred racing community.
"You always hear people making comments," McDaniel said, "and that's not fair to anybody."