WHO KILLED MIKE O'MARA?
by Richard C. Lindberg
The Murder of this Cook County Police Captain was Profiled on NBC-TV’s Unsolved Mysteries in January 1995.
Michael O’Mara told his wife and kids that he had to go out for a while, but would soon return with a quart of frozen yogurt. It was shortly after the dinner hour on a pleasant Memorial Day evening in 1988.
Two hours had passed and there was no word from Mike. Accustomed as she was to her husband’s erratic working hours – Mike had a security business on the side in addition to his law enforcement career which kept him out of the house at odd times – Barbara O’Mara – his wife of 26 years – was not unduly worried about his absence that evening – until the doorbell rang at 11:30 p.m.
With looks of concern registering on their faces, Captain George Nicosia and Investigator James Houlihan of the Cook County Police slowly but deliberately informed Mrs. O’Mara that her husband was found lying dead in the parking lot of the Markham Civic Center – the victim of a fatal gunshot wound to the head. One of the two officers, the widow cannot recall which one, told her that Mike’s death was a suicide.
They then asked for his service revolver which Commander O’Mara kept in his upstairs bedroom. They offered no further information and departed the O’Mara residence in Flossmoor leaving Barbara O’Mara and her two children to contemplate the unanswerable. Why would this devout Catholic – and devoted family man with no prior history of depression or serious physical illness suddenly decide to commit suicide in the prime of his life? Nine years and many heartaches later, the family and friends of Mike O’Mara still seek the answer to what has become an impenetrable mystery.
Captain Michael O’Mara. a 27-year veteran of the Cook County Police Department, had been looking forward to his retirement. He had talked about moving his family to Florida and was in the process of dissolving Private Security Institute (P.S.I.) – a security and investigations firm he had founded several years earlier with such political and law enforcement heavyweights as former Chicago Police Superintendent James Rochford, the late Governor Richard B. Ogilvie, former State s Attorney Bernard Carey, Dick Held, of the Chicago office of the F.B.I., and James McGuire. the former head of the Illinois State Police.
“Two weeks before his death we were at our cousin’s funeral,” recalls Attorney Michael McArdle, a cousin of Barbara O’Mara, and an ex-F.B.I. agent, “and as we sat in the back of the funeral parlor Mike told me about his plans for the future. And he said to me ‘when I’m eligible in a year or two I’m going to leave the Cook County Sheriffs Police and we’re going to Florida. I’m going to teach law enforcement.”
“Mike was actively involved in teaching. He persuaded me to teach a criminal law course for two semesters at Prairie State College.” McArdle explains. “Mike was a member of the faculty and a very bright guy.” Suicide was the furthest thing from his mind according to O’Mara’s widow, Barbara. “Someone who is suicidal has to be depressed and Mike was never depressed. He was very positive in his outlook. Those Cook County Police Officers could have come to my door and told me there’s been an accident. Mike tripped. That I could believe. Suicide I cannot believe.”
The peculiar; circumstances of O’Mara’s death points to an unexplainable enigma. Barbara O’Mara is convinced to this day that her husband’s death was a planned assassination. She nervously speculates that the person who pulled the trigger might have also been carrying a badge. A member of the police fraternity. “I have my own viewpoints on what might have happened. If it is that way they’ll never find out,” the widow sighs. “It could have been another police officer that did it. I don’t know for sure…but I would have to go more towards the policemen which I hate to say…”
Those who knew Commander O’Mara intimately, would tend to agree that during his career Mike was more of an office administrator than a street-honed veteran of the trenches. He was a “book cop” first and foremost, who, according to his wife: “…liked to restructure – to see something from the start to the end and make something move along.”
The paradox of O’Mara’s career, looking back on it, was his hands-on involvement in some of the most famous organized crime investigations of the mid-1960s; when Sheriff Richard B. Ogilvie sent him into the Town of Cicero as a police contingency assigned to close down all forms of gambling and vice run by the Mob.
O’Mara worked in vice for seven long and gritty years. During that time he earned a reputation as a cop who could not be bought, sold, brow beaten, or intimidated by Outfit hoods or their bagmen. This point was reinforced in Ovid Demaris’ vivid saga, of organized crime and police corruption titled Captive City: Chicago In Chains. A re-printed transcript of a secretly recorded conversation between Joseph “O’Brien” Aiuppa, the mob boss of Cicero and vice operations, and Officer Donald Shaw, who was working undercover for Sheriff Ogilvie points to the levels of respect accorded O’Mara by syndicate honchos:
Aiuppa: Wait a minute. The laws are flexible, they are made to bend just like a big tree standing here, it’s made flex. I agree with this. I am a servant the law and a citizen.
Shaw: Like I say it’s the law. I get paid to do it.
Aiuppa: All right. All right. Fine. We understand each other. There is several ways to do things. Take this man like O’Mara. He’s a nice guy. He’s going to try to break the syndicate. He’s going to try to get with the state’s attorney. He’s building up his stature you understand, on your work, He’s brainwashing all you young guys.”
Donald Shaw is still working the streets as a Cook County Police Sergeant. He served in the vice-unit under O’Mara back in the 1960s, and over the years the two men forged a lasting friendship; one that was honed out of mutual respect and trust.
Shaw was first notified by phone of the alleged suicide of his friend from Dick Lundgren, Sheriff James O’Grady’s chauffeur who headed the body guard detail – exactly one-half-hour after the shooting. To this day, Shaw refuses to believe O’Mara killed himself – for many reasons. In his intuitive cop-like ways, Shaw states: “Mike O’Mara did not like guns, We’ve been on calls where Mike didn’t have a gun with him, He didn’t carry a gun. Guns were not his friends. He would be the last guy that I have met in my career who would do himself in and I’ve seen a lot in 28 years.”
Jim McGuire, who was O’Mara’s friend, mentor, and boss in the C.C.S.P.D., describes O’Mara as “honest beyond belief.” He was a guy who wanted to see good government,. In those highly charged times of the Ogilvie reign as the Sheriff of lawless Cook County, and up to the day of his death it is easy to see where O’Mara could have made enemies. Powerful enemies in the crime syndicate with long memories. Murder is their adjudicator. Whoever killed Mike O’Mara might have had ties to the underworld going back many years. That is one theory put forward by Attorney McArdle, who has represented the O’Mara family in litigation surrounding the mystery of Mike’s death. “Some people thought he was too relentless. He didn’t make exceptions for anybody.”
At the same time, neither Attorney McArdle nor O’Mara’s widow will discount the fact that Mike also had his enemies within the “Department” – other Cook County Police officers comprising rival factions of leadership and different ideas on how the job should be performed. These long standing differences were definitely over style and substance.
It is an inescapable fact. The higher you go the more dirty it gets. “There are some very good men on the Sheriffs Police,” Barbara O Mara concedes. “However, there are a lot I wouldn’t give you anything for. Since 1988 (the year of Mike’s death) the people who have been promoted, many of whom worked on Mike’s case and they handled it the way certain highly placed command personnel wanted it handled,” she surmises, “These men had stayed dormant in their positions for 10-15 years then all of a sudden one right after another got promoted. “
Commander O’Mara took a leave of absence from the Cook County Police to work eight years as Chief Investigator for Judge Bernard Carey, who was then serving as Cook County State’s Attorney. The experienced law enforcement official Carey, and the savvy McGuire, had gotten to know O’Mara quite well over the years. He is extremely skeptical about the suicide theory handed down by Sheriff James O’Grady’s administration; a regime tarnished by one scandal after another. “I talked to Mike a week before he died,” the recently retired Judge Carey relates. “I did not believe he would commit suicide. He had a lot of irons in the fire and did not show any of the usual signs of suicide before hand. He was not depressed and had been talking about retirement or possibly becoming a police chief in a smaller jurisdiction someday.”
Michael O’Mara was the first Cook County Police officer to graduate from the F.B.I. Academy – an individual accolade he was very proud of according to family attorney McArdle. “The Cook County Police Department was really looked down on as do nothings in law enforcement circles and Mike excelled far above most other people in that department and he was respected by federal agency officers. Not just because of his highly visible work with the Cook County Sheriffs department but because of his captivating personal character traits.”
He served as Sheriff Richard Elrod’s Director of Inspections in the 1970s and was promoted to the rank of Captain in 1978. At the time of his death O’Mara was the commander of the Cook County Sheriff’s Records and Communications Division at police headquarters.
It is the puzzling set of circumstances surrounding this bizarre shooting and the surprising rush to judgment by the C.C.S.P.D. investigators that lends itself to theories of foul play. Reconstructing the events the evening of the shooting one finds that:
Before leaving the house he tells his wife that he was going to gas up his unmarked squad car, but would return shortly with a half-gallon of frozen yogurt from a neighborhood store. Mike asks her for some money to pay for the desert. Why would a suicidal man go to those lengths?
O’Mara pulls out of the driveway at 8 p.m. to drop off some work at his corporate office on Flossmoor Road. Several years earlier Mike had sold the contracts for the guard services his company had to Special Operations Associates (S.O.A,) and the soon to become notorious James O’Grady and the private security firm he headed. But Mike had retained the commercial end of the business for P.S.I. Recently O’Mara had sent notification to his investors advising them of his intentions to close the corporation because of financial reversals and personal reasons.
O’Mara leaves his P.S.I. office, and at 8:30 p,m,, he notifies the radio room advising the dispatchers that he is on duty – a requirement of C.C.S.P.D. officers assigned permanent squads.
Commander O’Mara proceeds to the gas pump at the Cook County municipal center at Markham, which only services county employees and police officers. It is a well-lighted area a block east of Kedzie Avenue on the northeast corner of the property close to a cluster of trees. Adjacent to this area is the Bremen Township buildings and District 6 Courthouse.
Using his pass card, Mike begins dispensing fuel into the tank of his squad. It is approximately 9:14 p.m.
Leaving the gas pump nozzle in place it is surmised that O’Mara retreated to the trunk of his car to retrieve his flashlight and gun. Possibly someone or something alarmed him to the point where he believed he had to arm himself.
The hour was late and the parking lot was deserted. However, one citizen, a neighborhood man standing in the driveway of his home in the 3100 block of 163rd Street in Markham later told Sheriffs investigators that he observed a dark colored car pull up to the gas pump, and shortly afterward he had gone inside, he heard the sound of what he believed to be a gunshot emanating from the fueling area. Another resident who was watching a baseball game at the time told police that he heard the shot but never bothered to look out the window to see what the trouble was. There were no actual eyewitnesses to the enigmatic shooting of this high ranking Cook County police officer.
The keys were in the engine of the car but the vehicle was not running when Officer Walter Stallings of the Cook County Sheriff’s Police opened the door and peered inside. Moments later Stallings found Captain O’Mara slumped over a large granite boulder in a landscaped grassy area, a distance of 75 feet north of his unmarked car. O’Mara had been shot once through the forehead above the bridge of the nose. There were visible lacerations on his face.
Markham paramedics arrived a few minutes later but were unable to detect vital signs. O’Mara was dead at the scene waiting to be pronounced. The area was secured and the C.C.S.P.D. criminalistics unit began its investigation. The fatal bullet was believed to have been fired from O’Mara’s .38 caliber Colt Cobra service revolver. But was it, and how? The deadly round projectile was never recovered. There was one spent casing under the hammer, and five live rounds left in the chambers.
The very next day construction crews began resurfacing work on the parking area around the gas pumps. The routine maintenance work had been previously scheduled, but why it was not postponed by command Sheriff’s Police officers pending further canvassing of the crime scene is another troubling aspect of this case.
Attorney McArdle is critical of the tone of the overall tenor of the investigation. He wonders why the County Police were not as thorough as they could have, and should have been. “They never found the bullet – or even looked for the bullet,” this ex-F.B.I. agents chaffs. “Where would they look? Well, you’d first want to look in the field…then you’d look on the roof of the adjacent building in the speculated line of trajectory. And then you’d attempt to put together a trajectory depending on a number of scenarios. Was he standing? Was he kneeling? Was he laying down?” All unanswered questions. All avenues not traced.
The other disturbing element of the case which points to a homicide were the facial lacerations visible on Michael O’Mara’s face. Don Shaw had occasion later on to examine the crime scene photos. The conclusion is almost inescapable. “I want to tell you, Mike O’Mara looked as if he were beat up. Before he was shot he took a beating,” Shaw is convinced. “There was an abrasion on his nose. And then when I saw the pictures…this was a guy whose face was pretty messed up.”
The presence of hematoma on the skull according to Dan Genty, an experienced evidence technician Shaw spoke with and respects, means: “…that somebody could well have whacked him on the top of the head.” This information was later conveyed to the medical examiner who conducted the post mortem examination.
Lying on the ground to the immediate left of the corpse was the red flashlight. The trunk of the decedent’s squad was open and the nozzle of the gas hose was still protruding from the dark blue 1984 Ford. Why would a man who was about to commit suicide even care about filling his gas tank? “I was totally convinced -unequivocally convinced – that he had been murdered,” McArdle adds. “Why would he take a flashlight out in the field to commit suicide? To make sure he didn’t miss?”
Even more perplexing to McArdle is the positioning of the gun the moment it was fired and the downward trajectory of the bullet, if indeed this was a suicide as the investigators claimed. In order for O’Mara to have fired the fatal bullet, he would have had to have held the gun slightly above his forehead, his arms fully extended out in front of him, and both of his thumbs positioned on the trigger. “First of all, to shoot oneself the way the investigative reports contended not only didn’t make sense: we proved it was physically impossible to do without having contact burns on his forehead.”
“You’re not going to shoot yourself in the forehead,” McArdle expounds. “You’re going to shoot yourself in the ear or put in your mouth if you’re going to commit suicide.” Holding the gun with both thumbs planted on the trigger in the manner described could well throw off the projectile when the trigger was pulled. Any police officer with target practice experience would know that. The trajectory of the shot in that moment would stand a good chance of missing the mark all together. A police officer truly intent on ending his life would leave little to chance.
The presence of small but equal amounts of nitrates were scientifically detected on the palms of both of O’Mara’s hands, But there was not enough there to conclude that Mike had fired a gun from either hand. It could also mean that Captain O’Mara had both of his hands in the air at some point.
Chief James Walsh, jocularly known as “Packy,” headed the Cook County Police at the time of the O’Mara death, and initially assigned Lieutenant Jack Reed to the investigation but removed him from the case after only a few days.
Lieutenant Reed, who served under O’Mara at one time, and is considered by his peers to be one of the most skilled investigators in the C.C.S.P.D. after helping the F.B.I. unravel the Dianne Masters murder mystery in 1988, is not sure of Walsh’s motives. He believes however, that he was pulled off the case because he did not readily endorse the finding of suicide. “Chief Walsh said to me, ‘it’s a suicide, right?’ I said no, you have to first prove up a suicide as you would a homicide to the exclusion of everything else,” Reed recalls saying. “We would have to eliminate an accidental discharge [of the firearm] if O’Mara slipped on the rock.”It is common knowledge among Cook County Police insiders over the years that there was no particular love lost by the street-wise “Packy Walsh for O’Mara. The two men had their differences of opinion and this was well known. Walsh, who was the ill-fated James O’Grady’s appointee as Chief was an aggressive, seasoned cop both admired and hated by his fellow cops.
O’Mara by contrast was aloof and somewhat of a loner who preferred to work behind a desk. There had been trouble between the two men. There was bad blood going back many years. Walsh had assigned O’Mara to Maywood in a position well below his capabilities. “I think everyone knew how Walsh felt about O’Mara,” comments Don Shaw. “Walsh had him in charge of Records and Communications which is something Mike could have handled standing on his head.”
At the root of the problem between the two men was an incident occurring many years earlier when Walsh was detailed to the legendary Niles Station on Milwaukee Avenue. Captain O’Mara was assigned to investigate a report of alleged misconduct apparently involving Walsh and other officers working the northern suburbs. Nothing came out of the investigation as it turned out. Walsh was never formally charged – but he never forgave O’Mara either. And like the “pachyderm,” for which Walsh was aptly nicknamed, he never forgot what Mike O’Mara had done to him. He played the waiting game and made no secret that he harbored animosities, and revenge would be sweet should his ship come in.
In any police bureaucracy you will find the usual existing antagonisms between officers over ethics, morality, what’s right or wrong and who sets the standards. Choice assignments, career advancement, personal competence, and petty jealousies arising from time to time also are in the mix. But whether or not Walsh hampered efforts at a critical juncture of the investigation is not clear. It is certainly not evident. One controversial move stands out however. Chief Walsh issued a verbal order forthwith prohibiting Cook County Police officers attending the memorial services of their comrade in arms from driving their squad cars either to the funeral home or cemetery. The fiat echoed throughout the Department and was despised. It was a highly unusual thing not to do for any police officer – not just a high ranking member of the departmental command operations.
Lieutenant Jack Reed, whose law enforcement exploits have been documented in several made-for-TV movies with actor Brian Dennehy playing Reed, does not understand why O’Mara’s death was declared a suicide. He is certain to this day that the pre-mature determination violates every rule of police procedure. “The best suicide investigations I’ve seen never mention the word suicide,” Reed explains. “When you make a death notification, you don’t classify it unless you’re 100% sure of the cause and manner of death. You just don’t know at the initial phases.”
The questionable and hastily drawn conclusion that O’Mara committed suicide – which the Cook County officers told Barbara O Mara prior to the crime scene being judiciously studied, an autopsy conducted, and Captain Nicosea’s suicide notification to the widow – was sustained by Dr. Robert Stein, Cook County Medical Examiner.
Attorney McArdle is vociferous in his criticisms of Dr. Stein, and his pathological exam. His handling of the O’Mara case is another example of what McArdle considers to be less than a thorough approach. The lacking of a thorough professional lob. “Many of his autopsies are performed by subordinates,” McArdle states. “In my opinion they are not thorough and are not done by what we understand to be the “Quincy” approach – the scientific approach – meaning let’s really take a hard look at this and see if we can figure out what happened.” It is not unusual for the Medical Examiner’s office to kowtow to the police during critical stages of an investigation – give them what they want and move the case down the line.
During Dr. Stein’s deposition, McArdle made repeated references to the improbability of a suicide. McArdle: Is there some doubt in your mind that this was suicide?
Stein: Well, the very fact that I put pending further investigation, perhaps there was. But if the information that I got, the information was they have nobody in custody, they have no suspects, nothing like that, so I just made it suicide. McArdle: Could this have been an accident?
Stein: No, accident, no, no.
Stein’s muddled testimony and comment that O’Mara’s death was a probable suicide was later discounted by Dr. Vincent DiMaio, the Chief Medical Examiner of Bexar County, Texas, who was summoned to Chicago by McArdle to provide expert testimony.
McArdle: Do you have an opinion as to the manner of death of Michael O’Mara? DiMaio: Yes sir. McArdle: What is that opinion? DiMaio: that this death has to be classified as a homicide.
Dr. DiMaio, a renown pathologist left little doubt in his testimony as to what fate he believed befell Commander O’Mara. “Ninety-nine percent plus of suicides are contact wounds. Rarely would we get an intermediate wound range in a gunshot wound that is a suicide. Most intermediate gunshot wounds are a homicide. You know, people don’t hold the gun away from themselves when they fire the weapon; they put it right up against their temple. You can see it in the contact wound. So what I’m saying, one of the things that I found remarkable in this case that contributed to my opinion was the fact that this was not a typical suicide wound type.”
The dubious verdict of suicide initially deprived Barbara O’Mara from receiving her deceased husband’s pension and death benefit. weeks and months that followed Mike’s death Barbara went to court to seek remedy from Cook County Employee Annuity and Pension Fund and an insurance company administering the dispersal of monies. As the litigation dragged on, the widow found herself besieged by crank phone calls and a pattern of harassment that was both frightening and ominous.
“Every time we would be ready to go to court, we would start getting those phone calls again,” she said. “They would last a couple of days. Nobody was on the other end. “Her son’s car was broken into and the family dog was poisoned while secured to a leash in the yard:.
While these events may be entirely unrelated to Mike’s death, they suggest to Barbara that someone possessing an insider’s knowledge about the murder might be sending a message – a message of intimidation. The television program Unsolved Mysteries had contacted me about a year after Mike died, and I told the reporter I couldn’t even begin to think about getting involved in that. My children’s lives are the most important thing and I was really and truly very afraid.”
The Illinois Police and Sheriff’s News has since learned that under the current administration of Sheriff Michael Sheahan, the Cook County Police conducted a confidential review of O’Mara’s death – a review ordered by the highest levels of the office. A memorandum of the investigation has been submitted by two C.C.S.P.D. investigators assigned to take another look at the matter. Presently the summary of their findings are left on the desk of Chief William Burke. Why the review is not known. Any further action that is still pending is also not known. But it is known that no further actions have been taken thus far.
Chief Burke, who oversees such reviews pyramided to the top of the police hierarchy. However it was achieved with only scant street experience. Burke’s resume includes his first Chief’s job in the small village of Richton Park, then on to similar assignments in St. Charles, and Tinley Park. Burke has never worked a homicide case in his life and spent little time on the street.
Unfortunately the sorely needed review was not as comprehensive as it could have been. Only a cursory examination of the 5-year-old reports and a follow up discussion with Investigator Houlihan, were the actions taken by the two officers assigned to head the new look into the O’Mara files.
A knowledgeable Cook County Police officer told the IPSN that “nothing more has been heard” from the Chiefs office concerning the O’Mara investigation review, and thinking aloud, he adds: “nothing has changed.” Why this review was even ordered is the question posed now.
The status quo still seems to be carefully maintained, and neither Chief Burke or Sheriff Sheahan would return phone calls to the Illinois Police and Sheriff’s News which is interested in learning something more about the factors leading to the decision to conduct a second review and the outcome of their sleuthing.
Their attitude appears to be one of indifference and disdain.
Burke and Sheahan, the former 19th Ward Alderman, might have known O’Mara strictly by reputation or from what the had gleaned from newspaper account and the review of police reports they are now privy to, but it is doubtful these two men ever had an occasion to know O’Mara personally – or share the anguish of his wife, family, and friends and the belief that a murder has gone unsolved.
This poses another interesting question. For what purpose was this investigation re- opened after the scandal-ridden O’Grady regime declared “case closed” on all matters? After all O’Grady’s pledge to the people of Cook County had been reform. But as we now know, he performed rather than reformed in the old Chicago way.
Someone within the present upper echelon of the Sheriffs Office of Cook County must have been stirred to the point of considering the O’Mara cast important enough to merit another look And you can bet your pinky ring the possibility could well exist that they just might have been looking to establish linkage between the Operation Safebet police-mob scandals of the late 1980s Jimmy Keating’s involvement in the Dianne Masters murder, and the big time mob payoffs allegedly funneled to Under Sheriff James “the Bohemian” Dvorak by Ernest Rocco Infelise, boss of the Cicero gambling and vice rackets after Joey Aiuppa marched off to prison. To ignore this disturbing aspect during an investigation is simply not good enough.
Dvorak, who has heard the penitentiary door slam shut behind him, reportedly received $10 grand a month to “lay off’ Infelise’s nefarious and far-reaching suburban operations – the same time that the allegations against Keating were coming to the forefront. The money supposedly went to the Sheriff according to the federal tapes yet to be played in their entirety. Jimmy Keating and Mike O’Mara were friendly to a point – though undoubtedly Captain O’Mara would have turned his back on his former colleague in the vice unit once the full revelations of Keating’s unsavory dealings bubbled to the surface.
Apparently O’Mara, who had Keating as his number one guy – his right-hand man when he headed vice – was fooled as were many others.
“There’s a lot of peculiarities to the O’Mara case,” Sergeant Shaw notes. “A lot of this stuff was coming down right at the. time Mike gets whacked. Whether he knew something about all those things, it kind of glares out at me. I’m looking at the time frame and its all right there. I talked to Jack Reed about all these federal investigations which were nebulous at the time of Mike’s death, and I asked is there any chance that Mike could have known something about what was happening in these matters. He said it never came up.”
Lieutenant Reed reserves final judgment on the matter for the time being, however: “Someone should be re-assigned to this case and put it together and let the chips fall where they may,” comments Reed, a seasoned investigator respected by both the FBI. and federal law enforcement.
A follow-up conversation with Houlihan, now a Cook County lieutenant, and a read through of a four or five-year-old police report falls well short of the kind of thorough, investigative analysis this case cries out for. But if no further actions are taken, according to Reed, “It might remain unclassified forever. Not all the pieces are there.”
Certainly Rocky Infelise’s court-proven methods suggest that he would not shy away from extreme violence, even if it could mean “whacking” a cop who offended and toyed with his boss Aiuppa years earlier. Rocky Infelise was a young “Turk” and a rising star in the Outfit just shy of his forty-second birthday in 1964; the time when O’Mara’s unit was striking the hardest at Aiuppa’s operations. The outfit never loses sight of its enemies and the Infelise crew, as is now known, are identified by the “G” as the executioners of Bobby Plummer in 1982 and Hal C. Smith three years later.
These tough well-heeled independent bookmakers were active just prior to the time the ‘ Safebet” investigation began. Wise guys kill with vengeance born out of the ire and fire dwelling in their hearts and minds.
How was Mike O’Mara shot? A police investigator who asked not be identified speculates that the Safebet Scandal, the knowledge of mob friends of Dvorak and O’Grady, and the murder of Mike O’Mara coming when they did, may well be part of the same lawless politico-criminal tie up that tarnished the badge of the County Police Department in the 1980s.
An independent arbitrator has recently ruled in favor of the widow and awarded Barbara O’Mara the compensation denied her by the County because Mike’s death was classified a suicide. More importantly the arbitrator found the testimony of Dr. DiMaio to be “credible and supportive of the finding that the decedent Michael O’Mara’s death arose out of and in the course of his employment.
The heartening vindication by the arbitrator eases the harsh financial burden placed on the family by this tragic set of circumstances. It fails however, to diminish painful memories. Barbara O’Mara is still seeking answers to shed light on the 5-year-old mystery in order for her to put the events of the past to rest and move on with life. She wonders though if it is already too late “You know if it is a policeman who fired the shot, it will never ever come out unless that person himself says something.”
Barbara O’Mara’s words are minced with bitterness and sorrow as she discusses the conduct of the investigation into her husband c sudden and tragic death. and towards a police department that under Sheriff Dick Ogilvie once set the standards by which the others would be judged “There was a time they were the best on the street,” Barbara said her voice trailing off.
Echoing these same sentiments, a knowledgeable Cook County Sheriff’s Police Officer who bore witness to the Richard Cain scandals of the 1960s: a continuous pattern of corruption under Sheriff Richard Elrod in the 1970s when his former deputy sheriff and mob hit man John Gattuso, who was found stuffed in a car trunk: the Safebet-Keating debacle a decade later and finally the Dvorak-O’Grady, criminal tie-ups, offers this sobering assessment of the existing reputation of the C.C.S.P.D. “Once they were something special. But now nobody looks forward to the Cook County Sheriff’s Police responding to a crime scene. The department’s morale is low and with good reason.”