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Auxiliary Sergeant Denis P. Foley | Will County Sheriff's Office, Illinois Will County Sheriff's Office, Illinois

Auxiliary Sergeant

Denis P. Foley

Will County Sheriff's Office, Illinois

End of Watch: Wednesday, August 17, 1983

Bio & Incident Details

Age: 50

Tour: 3 years

Badge # Not availa

Cause: Gunfire

Incident Date: 7/16/1983

Weapon: Gun; Unknown type

Offender: Never tried

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On Saturday July 16, 1983, approximately 3:25 a.m. at 143rd and State - Will County Auxiliary Sergeant Denis Foley and Auxiliary Deputy Stephen Mayer and were mortally wounded in an ambush slaying.

The deputies had been shot in what they thought was going to be a routine stop to help a motorist. They stopped to assist the driver of a pickup truck. The rear of the truck was blocking part of the road, while its front bumper was up against a red car parked in a rutted turn-around area. As the officers approached, their assailant said, "We need a jump,"

When the officers exited Squad 301A, the gunman suddenly shot both of them. Mayer died shortly after being shot; Foley was seriously wounded in the throat. A few minutes later another car came around the curve and slowed down. The gunman opened up on them. The driver was killed; his passenger was shot six times. The car rolled on down the road and into a bean field. Wounded and frightened, the female went looking for help.

The deputies in 301A were in trouble but they couldn't be found and other officers were frantically searching in the darkness of rural Homer Township. Between 3:25 a.m. and 3:40 a.m., county police officers searched for Squad 301A.

Sergeant Foley, badly injured from one bullet that had shattered his mouth and teeth, attempted to speak over Squad 301A's radio microphone. Most of his words were garbled. He couldn't give his location. He was instructed to turn on his siren and shine his spotlight in the air. Meanwhile, a farmer who lived in the area called county police to say he could hear racket behind his buildings, including a siren. Officers met the citizen and less than a minute later, the site of the ambush was located.

After finding the two auxiliary deputies, responding units located the bodies of a 25-year-old female, and a 32-year-old male who had been in the car parked in front of the pickup truck.

The auxiliary officers' guns and wallets were missing. Mayer's body had been dragged across the gravel road and left in a ditch. In a reconstruction of the crime scene, it was determined that before he died, Mayer, as he leaned on 301A, had attempted to flag down the last car that was also ambushed. "Stop! Stop!" he had called out. As he was calling for help, the gunman had zigzagged between the front of the pickup truck and the squad car firing shots at the car. The female survivor saw a man in a uniform shirt shouting at them. She thought the officer was shooting at them.

The killer struck again on July 17, 1983. A young 18 year old spent the day at Great America in Gurnee with his fiancée. On the way home to downstate Emden, they felt tired and pulled over on Interstate 55, at Mile marker 242, to take a nap. The young man was murdered when a bullet crashed through the car's window while he was sleeping. His fiancée was sexually assaulted, stabbed several times and left for dead. The female victim lived to point an eyewitness' finger in court at the killer. He was convicted and sentenced to death in 1984.

Another mass murder took place on Aug. 20, 1983, just after 11:00 a.m. Four bodies were located in a ceramic shop on the east side of Joliet. Four females, whose ages ranged from 29 to 75, were brutally murdered.

The killer, on parole from a vicious 1973 rape was arrested at the St. Charles Boremeo Work Release Center in Romeoville, Illinois. He was charged and convicted of the four murders in addition the murder and attack on July 17, 1983. In each case, he was given the death sentence.

The killer was never charged but remains the major suspect in the roadside ambush in which five citizens were murdered, including Will County Sheriff's Auxiliary Deputy Steve Mayer and Will County Sheriff's Auxiliary Sergeant Denis Foley. Hundreds of investigative hours were involved in this case. One of the main pieces of evidence was the receipt found under Mayer's body. It is believed to have blown out of the killer's pickup truck. The receipt was the major piece of evidence that helped to put detectives on the trail of killer.

The Will County State's Attorney left the case open in the event the killer had his previous sentences overturned. On January 11, 2003, outgoing Governor George Ryan commuted the death sentences of all 167 Illinois death-row inmates as one of his last acts in office.

Will County Sheriff's Auxiliary Sergeant Denis Foley was a three-year veteran of the department; his two sons and three daughters survive him. His wife preceded him in death in 1982.

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Related Line of Duty Deaths

Auxiliary Deputy Steven W. Mayer
Will County Sheriff's Office, Illinois
End of Watch: Saturday, July 16, 1983
Cause: Gunfire

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Most Recent Reflection

I was in the area recently and tried to locate where this happened. It is so developed now a big warehouse may be sitting on the site. The farmsteads are gone. It was a hot and incredibly humid July night with a big bright moon over the deserted farm fields at the gravel road curve of 151st and Gougar Rd. well after midnight. As the story made news that Saturday morning as I recall, the details became more incredible of what happened the night before. But Foley and Mayer are not forgotten. They were in the begining ot it. 1983 was an unreal time in Will County. The fear and anxiety in the Joliet area was palpable, you could feel it especially after the women in the pottery store were murdered. Everyone was carrying a gun until the person responsible was finally apprehended and found responsible for all of the murders. But I want to let the families know things have surely changed but many of us have not forgotten Deputies Foley and Mayer.

Chicago area resident
August 19, 2016


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