An Illinois police officer is gunned down in his kitchen and his partner vows to catch the killer.
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:
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:
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:
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:
Ralph’s wife, Marlene:
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:
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:
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:
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: