An Illinois police officer is gunned down in his kitchen and his partner vows to catch the killer.

Smiling Ralph Probst with glasses in a suit

Ralph Probst

A window with a broken hole where a bullet flew threw

Ralph was shot in the head through the window


On April 10, 1967, Ralph Probst and his wife, Marlene, settled down in front of the television at their Cook County, Illinois, home to watch the Oscars. According to Marlene:

“I must have dozed off. And the next thing I knew, there was this loud explosion that woke me up. And I saw this cloud of smoke from behind the television set. When I went in the kitchen, Ralph was laying on the kitchen floor.”

A man cast in shadow aiming a revolver at Ralph through a window

The killer knew where Ralph would be standing

Ralph had been shot once in the back of the head. By the time help arrived, he was dead. Ralph was a 30-year-old Cook County sheriff’s officer. Ralph left behind his wife, three small children and a series of baffling questions that still remain unanswered nearly 50 years later.

Four days after his murder, Ralph was laid to rest. On that afternoon, his partner and friend, Bob Borowski, made a silent pledge:

“As I stood beside the casket and looked down at Ralph, I made a vow to him that I would find his killer, and I would not rest until I got him. I figured it would be solved quickly. But it didn’t turn out that way.”

Bob and Ralph met for the first time in 1964, shortly after Ralph graduated from the police academy. The two men were both assigned to the special elite tactical squad. According to Bob:

“Everybody else in the department looked up to the tact unit. We were a very elite unit. We were all spit and polish, and we were a very proud bunch. And Ralph was not only a partner, he was also a friend. And it was that sort of relationship. You could depend on him and he could depend on you.”

Many students standing at attention at a police academy

Ralph met Bob after graduation from the academy

Ralph played things strictly by the book and made some powerful enemies. A few months before his death, Ralph and Bob were assigned to guard a notorious mobster named Sam DeStefano, who had had been transferred from prison to a local hospital after complaining of stomach trouble. The officers did not allow any visitors into the room and insisted that Sam eat the hospital food he was given. Bob also said that Ralph handcuffed Sam:

“When Ralph handcuffed DeStefano to the bed, he became very irate and threatened to kill him. We really didn’t take it very serious. We felt that he was just a big bag of wind and just brushed it off.”

Ralph’s wife, Marlene:

“I don’t think that the risk ever entered Ralph’s mind. I really don’t. I think to him, it was a job. He enjoyed it, and I don’t think he was ever afraid. I imagine in the back of anyone’s mind, something could happen. But I don’t think he dwelled on it.”

A police officer aiming his gun at the window where Ralph was shot

Police fired a shot 15 feet from the window

On the night of Ralph’s death, police found a suspicious pattern of circumstantial evidence. It appeared that Ralph had been shot through the kitchen window. No one in the neighborhood saw the gunmen, though a few people did hear a shot. The bullet that killed Ralph ricocheted off a kitchen cabinet and then fell onto the stove. It was fired from a rare .41 caliber magnum handgun that had only recently been manufactured. Although there were only 2,000 of these guns in the United States, police were unable to locate the murder weapon.

The only likely suspect, Sam DeStefano, was immediately cleared. There were no other obvious suspects, except Ralph’s wife. Marlene insisted she had been asleep and awoke to smoke in the house:

“I know from the beginning of the investigation, I think what puzzled everybody was how I had seen smoke inside the house. If the gunman had been outside, there wouldn’t have been smoke inside. And yet when I woke up, the first thing I saw was this small cloud of smoke coming up from in back of my television set.”

This puff of smoke led police to suspect that the shot had been fired from inside the house. Adding to their theory was the fact that broken glass from the window was found in the yard, not on the kitchen floor. Jerry Harmon was originally in charge of the investigation:

“When you have a murder investigation, one of the first places you start with is with the family.”

The investigators conducted a test to see if Marlene was telling the truth. First, they fired a shot fifteen feet away from the kitchen window. There was no smoke and the glass fell inside. But then, they fired two inches away from the window. According to Jerry Harmon:

“There it was, the puff of smoke inside the house. We found the glass came out back onto the shooter and fell to the ground and we had the puff of smoke inside the house. From that point on, we knew that Marlene was telling the truth. We determined that the shooter would’ve had to have been 5-foot-11 or taller in order for that projectile to follow the path to where it struck Ralph. To strike the center of the back of the head, where the entry point was, took one terrific shot. He could’ve been a professional hit man. And he could always have been a law enforcement person.”

Bob believes that Ralph may have been working secretly, on his own, to bring down a vice ring. In fact, several days before his death, he had been seen at the home of an ex-convict named Frank Calvise. Ralph had spoken with Calvise’s wife, and then left.

One week before the murder, a man resembling Calvise looked at a home for sale across the street from Ralph’s home. As he toured the house, the visitor asked the owner whether the floor plan was similar to the one across the street. It was. However, after identifying Calvise in a police line-up, the neighbor changed his story. Some are convinced he feared retaliation. Frank Calvise died seven years later in 1974. No charges were ever filed in connection with Ralph’s death. In the meantime, Bob Borowski isn’t about to give up:

“Ralph had information on something, whether it be vice, pornography, or a fencing operation. And whoever killed him knew that he was going to talk about it. And they killed him before he could. At this time, I am unofficially still working on the case and whoever did it, I’ve been making them awful nervous because he knows that I’m not giving up, that somehow, someway, somebody’s gonna say something and he’s gonna get caught. So somewhere, somebody’s awful nervous and I’m going to keep him that way.”

Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season two with Robert Stack and season seven with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.




  1. John

    I lived in Hometown on the same street (Corcoran)…about 4 houses away. I heard the shot…my mom and I were watching the academy awards. My mom said it was a shot right away…..about 3 or 4 minutes later the ambulance came screaming past our house.


  2. Anthony Gianoulos

    Too bad there isn’t any evidence that can be examined by dna


  3. Melissa

    Dean, did you not see the part where they did a test putting his wife in the clear?


  4. Dean

    I believe the wife had something to do with it. I always found it odd how someone got him in the kitchen at that exact time. Odds of that being a stranger are quite low.


  5. Reggie Reconnoiter

    Ralph was finding out about how many businesses paid how much weekly to the Mob for “protection” money. He found out about how many uniformed Cook County Deputies were also “bag men” who collected this money for the Mob every week. One of those Deputies had a .41 hand gun and spent time in a federal prison by using his criminal friends to steal from the homes he was supposed to protect.


  6. robb

    Sam threatened to kill him his sons and daughters might still be alive Beanie, Roberta, Alexia and Eljean, and their sons Donald and Bertie.


  7. Jesika winkelman

    This is my grandparents neighbor, I grew up in the house that shares a driveway with them. They are very nice people. Still can’t figure out why his dog didn’t bark at the shooter, my grandpa said the dog barked at everyone


  8. Dean

    The mob guy in the hospital I’m sure has him iced…….very odd this was never solved.


  9. Randal

    My guess is that the guy interested in the floor plan of the house is that is the way that he could get a feel for the layout of Probst house so to know where would be the best location to fire from.


  10. thinkingoutloud

    even if Frank killed Ralph, why would he ask if the house he was viewing had the same layout of Ralph’s house if he was just going to shoot him outside?


  11. Bill Blaski

    Very sad story here. I do believe the fugitive they were watching at the hospital is guilty of murder.


  12. Jane Doe

    This sounds really similar to a murder in Marietta, OH in 1981. Lieutenant Ray “Joe” Clark was shot in the head through the kitchen window. I winder if there is a connection.


    • Tom

      Lieutenant Clark’s murder was finally solved by a cold case team. It was an ex cop who had been fired for excessive force. He was convicted.


  13. Chanita

    I Will Pray 4 Him And His Family! And Unsolved Mysteries Can U Please Explain Why He Was Shot In The Head Execution Style! Who Would Have The Motive And Time Frame To Do That To Him! And Can U Please Return My Comment I Just Wanna Know!


  14. Nelda Fairley

    I just saw the story of your friend on Unsolved Mysteries. I hope and pray that you will finally figure out who killed Ralph and why. His memory needs justice and the person who did it needs to be in prison. God bless you for sticking to your promise. I hope someday that you can make this case be solved. R.I.P Ralph.

    Nelda D. Fairley


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