Auxiliary Deputy Steven W. Mayer

Auxiliary Deputy Steven W. Mayer

Will County Sheriff's Office, Illinois

End of Watch Saturday, July 16, 1983

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Steven W. Mayer

On Saturday, July 16, 1983, at approximately 3:25 a.m. at 143rd between Gauger Road and State Street, Will County Auxiliary Deputy Stephen Mayer and Auxiliary Sergeant Denis Foley 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 to 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 the 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, the outgoing governor, George Ryan, commuted the death sentences of all 167 Illinois death-row inmates.

Will County Sheriff's Auxiliary Deputy Steve Mayer was a one-year veteran of the department. He is survived by his new bride of two weeks, his father, who is a Sergeant with the Will County Sheriff's Department, his mother, and his siblings.


  • Age 23
  • Tour 1 year
  • Badge Not availa

Incident Details

  • Cause Gunfire
  • Weapon Gun; Unknown type
  • Offender Arrested, not tried.

ambush, parolee

Most Recent Reflection

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Deputy Sheriff Mayer,
On today, the 40th anniversary of your death I would just like to say thank you for your service and sacrifice for the citizens of Will County. And to your Family and loved ones, I wish to extend my deepest sympathy.


United States Border Patrol

July 16, 2023

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