CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago television reporter Russ Ewing, who homicide suspects trusted enough to accompany them when they surrendered to authorities, died at his Michigan home at age 95, a friend said Wednesday.
The cause of Ewing’s death late Tuesday in Paw Paw was not immediately known, but former WLS-TV producer Patricia L. Arnold said Ewing learned in October he had bladder cancer.
Ewing served as the buffer between homicide suspects and police. More than 100 suspects contacted him during his nearly 30-year career in Chicago television.
Ewing in 1992 told The Associated Press he also received calls from other suspects but that time forced him to limit himself to those accused in killings.
“He was trying to make sure these suspects, and that was what they were because they hadn’t been convicted in court, were delivered to the police station in one piece,” said Arnold, who now heads a public relations firm. “They would take pictures from head to toe to make sure there were no bruises on them when they were delivered to police.”
Ewing found his niche in 1969, when a mental patient was holding his mother and several children hostage in a public housing project on Chicago’s South Side.
“The cops couldn’t get him out, so I said, ‘Let me see if I can talk to the guy,'” Ewing told the AP. “He recognized me and I talked to him for a few minutes, and he came out peacefully.”
After that, Ewing said, the calls from people suspected of crimes started coming in and didn’t stop until he retired in 1995.
Arnold described Ewing as a regular guy who “never saw himself as better than anybody else.”
However, he did fear drug addicts and drug dealers.
“I watch them closely; they can’t be trusted,” he told the AP. “But guys who committed impulsive murders, you don’t have to be afraid of them.”
During his 15 years at the NBC affiliate WMAQ-TV and 14 years at WLS, the ABC affiliate, he’d been recognized with nine Emmys.
Ewing, who began his broadcast career in radio, was an author as well, telling the story of serial killer John Wayne Gacy in the book, “Buried Dreams.”
Ewing’s wife, Ruth, died in 2004. They had no children.