In a murder mystery right out of CSI, a Chicago cop is now accused of possibly washing away evidence that could show whether or not a woman he was visiting actually committed suicide when she died from a shot to the head from his gun.
The officer, Steven Lesner, washed his hands. If there was any gunshot residue on his hands, he would have destroyed it.
The death of Catherine Weiland (pictured) in the early morning hours of Feb. 17, 2009 was ruled a suicide. She had a single gunshot wound to her left temple -- the bullet coming from a gun belonging to Lesner, a police sergeant who rescued the 47-year-old pharmacy technician from an argument with a boyfriend at Chicago restaurant earlier that evening.
Lesner said that after he drove the woman home he finished his shift and returned to her Northwest Chicago apartment at around 11:30 pm, at her invitation.
Sometime around 1:30 in the morning, Lesner went to use the bathroom, removing his gun from around his ankle and leaving it on the floor before doing so.
While in the bathroom, he said, he heard a single shot. He came out to find Weiland dead. Lesner then called the cops.
And then he washed his hands, according to forensic reports obtained this week by the Chicago Sun Times newspaper.
In doing so, he could have washed away any gunshot residue on his own hands, making it much more difficult to determine whether Lesner fired his gun that night.
“It’s (gunshot residue) a form of evidence that’s relatively fragile, and you can wash it off,” said Jody Weis, the police superintendent at the time of the investigation. Weis said Lesner would have known that washing his hands would destroy any possible gunshot evidence.
Weiland's death was ruled suicide. But there were inconsistencies.
Police reports initially said that the gun was found resting near Weiland’s left hand. But the woman was right-handed and the fatal wound was to her right temple. Later, the medical examiner decided she shot herself with her right hand after all.
Lesner, a veteran of nearly 20 years on the force, is now under investigation by the Chicago Police Internal Affairs division. He was not suspended after Weiland’s death.
SOURCES: Chicago Sun Times (2)