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Investigators try to balance prosecution, public pressure
By John Carpenter | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 8/4/2009 5:03 PM | Updated: 8/4/2009 10:12 PM

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Originally published Jan. 8, 1994

As the circles under Palatine Police Chief Jerry Bratcher's eyes continue to darken, one man who can say he's walked in Bratcher's shoes is sympathetic.

It was just over 11 years ago that then-Illinois Attorney General Ty Fahner was fielding questions from a supercharged media contingent, all of whom were wondering when investigators would solve the case of cyanide-laced Tylenol capsules.

"I sympathize with them," Fahner, now a Chicago attorney, said. "I also admire very much the job they have done out there. I believe the Palatine murder will be solved."

Fahner said one of the most difficult aspects of handling an unsolved case is dealing with reporters. The news media can help the investigation by publicizing information that can develop leads, Fahner said.

"But they can also latch on to tiny pieces of the investigation. It's very hard when you can't comment on it," Fahner said.

Rolling Meadows attorney Terry Sullivan remembers when he was on the team prosecuting John Wayne Gacy.

"They go after every microscopic piece of the investigation," Sullivan said. "It's hard when you are looking at the big picture."

Both Sullivan and Fahner said Bratcher was correct to keep details of the investigation close to the vest. While it is important to keep the public informed, it is more important to prosecute the case.

"If everything is happening is put in the public eye," Fahner said, "it makes it that much more difficult to prosecute the case. An informant isn't going to come forward if he thinks the investigation is full of leaks."

"Before we arrested Gacy, we met with investigators and said it was imperative we have no leaks," Sullivan said. "If that story had hit the press before we got Gacy, we might not have gotten him."

Sullivan said his only criticism of task-force officials would be that they should have made it clear early on that the case would be a difficult one to solve.

Sullivan noted that in the recent murder of a woman in Winnetka, police were almost pessimistic.

"I remember watching that on television and thinking, 'This guy took his lesson from Palatine,'" Sullivan said of a press conference by the Winnetka police chief in which the chief repeatedly warned reporters the case might not be quickly solved.