August 14, 2012 07:03 PM
Most cop murders get solved. But nearly six years after Maywood Police Officer Tom Wood was gunned down, the killer is still at large and the investigation is in shambles. Who murdered him and why aren’t the only nagging questions.
By Robert Herguth/BGA and Dane Placko/FOX Chicago
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From the start, the investigation into the 2006 murder of Maywood Police Officer Tom Wood was beset with errors and irregularities.
Today, the case not only remains unsolved, it is in virtual ruins – and some observers wonder whether the killer will ever be brought to justice.
Last year, the Better Government Association and FOX Chicago began looking into the case, and our findings – detailed in television reports and an expose in Chicago magazine – are disturbing.
A possible suspect was allowed to wander the crime scene unattended.
A friend of Wood’s who saw him with a stranger a week before the murder was, apparently, never interviewed.
Evidence stored at the Maywood police station was soaked in a flood.
Maywood police and outside investigators routinely sparred over the direction of the probe, at points zeroing in on totally different suspects.
And a $100,000 reward – designed to coax information about the killer – was allowed by Maywood officials to dry up. (It was restored only recently after the BGA and FOX began making inquiries.)
The case was handled so haphazardly at times, some of Wood’s friends and relatives now openly wonder whether the investigation was purposely compromised.
Then again, we found the investigation was complicated by still-unexplained curiosities, including the fact that Wood, just weeks before his death, quietly took out a substantial life insurance policy on himself, and was being pressured by other cops, according to his family, to change his account of an alleged beating incident.
What’s more, one of Wood’s last phone calls was to the girlfriend (now wife) of an admitted Maywood gang member.
In any event, the problems with the investigation were in many ways emblematic of the overall municipal operation.
The village government, including the police department, has for years wrangled with corruption and mismanagement, and it’s clear such dysfunction carried to the Wood case.
As of press time, not a single Maywood cop was assigned to work the investigation full-time, although the Cook County state’s attorney’s cold case unit is providing assistance.
Wood’s widow Helene said she’s grown frustrated by the whole situation – and she added that her late husband and the community at large deserve better.
"If they can kill a police officer," she said of the killer or killers, "where are their limits?"
This story was written and reported by the BGA’s Robert Herguth and FOX Chicago’s Dane Placko, in conjunction with Chicago magazine. To reach them, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (312) 821-9030.