Unanswered Questions: Sun-Times Watchdogs Probe 2004 Homicide

Screenshot from Newseum.org

The front-page story in today’s Chicago Sun-Times is a must-read, and not only because it so vividly captured the life of a 21-year-old Mount Prospect man killed in 2004 following a Rush Street scuffle.

The real power of the article is in exposing how the criminal justice system worked—or didn’t work—in this instance.

The young man who died was named David Koschman. He was out celebrating with a group of pals when they bumped into another group that included Mayor Daley’s nephew, R.J. Vanecko.

Booze had been flowing, words were exchanged and somebody in Vanecko’s entourage threw a punch. Koschman fell, hit his head and later died. Authorities said the punch was thrown in self-defense, so criminal charges were not warranted.

But there are troubling aspects to the investigation.

Consider the following details that emerged in the Sun-Times story:

  • Vanecko and his buddies took off running after Koschman was hit, although police later identified them. Ever since, Vanecko has refused to speak with detectives.
  • The police version of events—that Koschman was the aggressor, even though he never slugged anyone—does not jibe with what his friends relayed.
  • The cops apparently did not interview witnesses until after Koschman died—12 days after the incident.
  • The Chicago Police Department reopened the investigation only after the Sun-Times inquired about it—and the cops used this new probe to deny a public records request.
  • The case files are now missing from the Cook County state’s attorney’s office, which Daley used to run, and which was run by his longtime friend Dick Devine at the time of incident.
  • The state’s attorney’s office won’t identify the prosecutor who recommended not filing charges in the case.

We weren’t there in the wee hours of April 25, 2004, so we don’t know exactly what happened between Koschman’s group and Vanecko’s group.

But we know this: based on the Sun-Times‘s findings, it doesn’t appear this case has been handled in the most objective, professional manner.

Let’s hope this investigation is not clouded with politics and favoritism, but is driven by the pursuit of truth, regardless of what that is.

A Chicago police spokeswoman said Supt. Jody Weis is “unavailable” for comment on all of this. But she sent a statement to the BGA via email:

Subsequent “to the review of a request received by the Department under the Freedom of Information Act, the Chicago Police Department recognized the case involving the death of Mr. David Koschman was still classified as an open investigation. Given the time that had passed, the case was assigned for a review. The investigative phase is complete, and the case is expected to be closed in the coming days.”

This blog entry was reported and written by Robert Herguth, the BGA’s editor of investigations. Contact us with tips, suggestions and complaints at (312) 821-9030, or at rherguth@bettergov.org.

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2 Comments

Filed under Commentary

2 responses to “Unanswered Questions: Sun-Times Watchdogs Probe 2004 Homicide

  1. frank Kozak

    Andy, please don’t let this story die.

  2. frank

    Don’t let this story die Andy.

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