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Cop Turns to Newspaper Ad to Keep 20-Year Vow to Find Partner’s Killer

March 5, 1987

CHICAGO (AP) _ Police Officer Bob Borowski made a graveside vow nearly 20 years ago to find his partner’s killer, and, after two decades of chasing leads, has turned to a newspaper ad.

″Plenty of people have told me to give it up,″ Borowski said Thursday during a break from his patrol duties with the Cook County sheriff’s police. ″I think that’s what makes me stronger.″

Last week he began running an ad in the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun- Times, paying so far about $200 of his own money.

″Unsolved homicide,″ it reads. ″Anyone having information on the murder of the Cook County Sheriff’s Police Officer Ralph Probst on April 10, 1967, please write: P.O. Box 741, Lemont IL 60439. All information confidential.″

On that spring night, Probst, 30, the father of three and an up-and-coming investigator, had been bragging cheerfully about a mysterious big case and had been watching the Academy Awards on television with his wife at their suburban Homewood duplex.

When he walked into the kitchen for a drink of water, his wife heard a shot and the crash of glass breaking. He found Probst shot in the back of the head.

″I made the promise when we buried him at St. Mary’s,″ said Borowski, now 47 and a 26-year veteran of the force.

″I stood there and swore it on his grave: ’Ralph, I’m not going to give it up.‴

For two years, dozens of investigators worked every lead and, Borowski now figures, trampled a few of the best ones.

Ballistics evidence pinpointed the murder weapon as a .41-caliber Magnum pistol, then a rare weapon.

Two weeks before his death, Probst had started training for the canine unit, which would have freed him to spend evenings with his family.

Before that, he had been assigned to a special organized-crime unit. His files for some of those cases have never been found.

Then there was Probst’s run-in with the late mobster Sam DeStefano in January 1967, when DeStefano was serving a contempt sentence and being treated at Cook County Hospital for stomach pains.

″He had a big fancy Chinese dinner brought in and baskets of fruit all over,″ Borowski recalled. ″Ralph sent the food back and put on the handcuffs. ... And Sam didn’t like that. Not one bit.″

Jerry Harmon, another former Cook County investigator, recalled DeStefano telling Probst, ″You’ll be very sorry you treated me this way.″

DeStefano was killed in 1973 and was never linked to Probst’s death.

Borowski said he could accept finding that Probst’s murderer was already dead, so long as the case got solved.

His family and other policemen understand his quest, Borowski said, but civilians say, ″It’s done. Let it go.″

″They just don’t understand how close policemen get, especially when your lives depend on each other,″ he said.

″I’m sure he would have done the same for me.″

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