Exclusive: Gliniewicz task force chief cites unknown DNA, possible getaways
Nine pieces of unknown DNA were recovered from the scene where Fox Lake police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz died, the chief investigator said Wednesday, and suspects sought in the case may have had time to get away from the start.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily Herald, Lake County Major Crimes Task Force Cmdr. George Filenko said it's now up to investigators to find out who the DNA belongs to and determine why it was found near Gliniewicz's body one month ago in a swampy area at the east end of Honing Road in Fox Lake. Filenko said authorities still consider the case a homicide and they are determined to find the three people Gliniewicz described as "two male whites, one male black" who are believed to have committed the crime. He also said the 30-year police veteran was on his way to the police station the morning of Sept. 1 when he "took it upon himself" to check out the area where he was later killed, and that the two-mile police perimeter established after the shooting may not have been set up in time to catch the assailants.
"We're still proceeding along, like I've stated before, as a homicide investigation," Filenko said. "I'll reiterate that during the course of an investigation, it's fluid and nothing is off the table at this point."
What follows is an edited version of Wednesday's interview.
Q: Have you taken DNA evidence from the police department. If so, to prove or disprove what?
A: DNA has been taken from anybody who has come into proximity to the victim. Including DNA from (police). ... To date, we have taken over 100 comparatives and submitted them to the lab. ... What I can tell you is this, from the scene itself, we have found nine unknown DNA donor samples, with three of those samples being CODIS-certified. ... One of them is confirmed to be that of a male.
(Editor's note: CODIS stands for the Combined DNA Index System. DNA must meet specific requirements to be entered into the system.)
Q: If you have nine DNA samples, but there were three reported to be at the scene ... is it three samples of one, and three from another, or is it nine completely different DNA samples?
A: At this point, three have been identified as completely different and CODIS-acceptable. One of those three is that of a male. The other six samples are not CODIS-acceptable but are identifiable through matching swabs in the lab. When taking these swabs, they're for the purpose of elimination and incrimination. But we have taken them from every police officer involved that was close to the proximity to the crime scene.
Q: Does that mean there were more people who crossed through that area?
A: Not necessarily. That means that the items those samples are taken from could have come in contact with people in proximity to the victim, not necessarily the crime scene. Through the course of the day or the day before. DNA just doesn't disappear overnight unless there is a cleaning process involved or whatever.
Q: And out of these nine samples, how many have matched to the people you have swabbed.
Q: So what does that mean?
A: It means that we just haven't located the donor. If we locate the donor, we can start a process of elimination. And, then, of course, through the course of the investigation, we're going to find out how exactly that sample got to where it ultimately wound up.
Q: What was Gliniewicz doing in that area that day?
A: That was one of the questions early on that we tried to determine. Apparently a few weeks prior to the incident, Gliniewicz was at a meeting involving village officials. The village of Fox Lake recently purchased that property and there were some complaints of vandalism, trespassing and transients living in that area. Gliniewicz was aware of that and took it upon himself to keep an eye on that area.
Q: Can you put area residents at ease on whether three killers are on the loose? Can you say whether it was a homicide, suicide, or accidental? And, if you can't, why has it taken so long?
A: We're still moving forward on this investigation as a homicide investigation. To put residents at ease, the Fox Lake police and the sheriff's department have added additional patrols in the area.
Q: Can you say at this point whether it's a homicide, suicide or accidental?
A: We are still looking at this as a homicide. As far as the classification? Ultimately, it will be the coroner's decision.
Q: Why has it taken so long to get to this point?
A: It's a very complex investigation in that, as the task force works, we are very detailed. We leave no stone unturned. There's been an inordinate amount of information presented to us.
Q: Have investigators determined how the suspects were able to escape in light of the quick response by police?
A: The initial officers were drawn immediately to the crime scene itself. We've gone out and re-created possible escape routes. What you have to understand is that terrain changes on a daily basis, based on the weather. That day happened to be optimum for a little dryer weather. There were some areas there that were clear where suspects could have made a fairly quick exit from the scene. ... It's an area known for hunting, I believe bow hunting in particular. There were some hunting trails there. And again that terrain changes day to day.
Now, remember this, when the officers responded, they were making assessments and calling for backup units, and I know the question of a perimeter comes up during these interviews. Perimeters are not set up within several minutes, especially in an area that large. It takes time and coordination to get adequate manpower, and it's very difficult to seal an area that size in a fast amount of time.
Q: Was the perimeter too small?
A: I believe the perimeter ... they secured the outer perimeter of that area between Rollins and Rand. And when you say was it too small? I think for the information they had and the time span they were working with, I think it was adequate.