CHICAGO (AP) — The widow of a northern Illinois police officer who killed himself in 2015 amid an investigation into his theft of thousands of dollars from a youth program pleaded guilty on Friday for her role in the scheme.
Melodie Gliniewicz pleaded guilty to one count of deceptive practices, a felony that carries of maximum prison term of three years. She entered the plea just days before she was scheduled to stand trial, the Lake County state’s attorney’s office said in a news release.
In exchange for her guilty plea, prosecutors dropped all of the other charges she faced, including counts of money laundering and disbursing charitable funds without authority for personal benefit or use.
“We are very pleased that Ms. Gliniewicz is taking legal responsibility for her actions,” Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart said in the news release. “She deceived the Fox Lake Police Explorer Club and misused their funds.”
Rinehart said the details of Gliniewicz’s role in her husband’s scheme will be released at her April 12 sentencing.
The plea marks the latest chapter in a bizarre story that began on Sept. 1, 2015, when Fox Lake police Lt. Charles Joe Gliniewicz radioed a dispatcher that he was chasing three suspects on foot. A short time later, his body was found in a remote wooded area with two bullet wounds to the torso. A manhunt ensued, with hundreds of officers, helicopters, K-9 units and heat-sensing sensors scouring the area for days and the community gripped with fear that the killers were on the loose.
Days later, thousands of people lined the streets of Fox Lake for the funeral procession of the popular lieutenant known as “G.I. Joe.”
Weeks later came the stunning news that Gliniewicz’s death was actually an elaborately staged suicide and that for years, the 30-year veteran of the force had been stealing money from the youth program he oversaw and spending it on vacations, gym memberships, meals out and adult websites, among other things. Authorities suggested that his suicide was the last act of a man who knew his scheme was about to come to light and even said that that he may have sought a hitman to kill the village manager he feared would expose his thefts.
The investigation later focused on his widow and an adult son. In 2016, officials said they did not have enough evidence to charge the son, but a grand jury indicted Melodie Gliniewicz.
Her trial was delayed a number of times as attorneys grappled over various legal issues. One of the questions was whether prosecutors could use text messages that Gliniewicz sent to her husband. A judge ruled that marital privilege protected the couple’s texts, but an appellate court later reversed that decision.