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Deborah FORNUTO

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 


Formerly known as Deborah Anne Booe Narbone Gedzius
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Most of the children were pronounced dead of sudden infant death syndrome, a finding that became nationally controversial as scientists cast new suspicion on multiple SIDS deaths
Number of victims: 6 - 7
Date of murders: 1972 - 1989
Date of birth: 1955
Victims profile: Six of her babies, Denise Booe, 5 months; Jennifer Narbone, 4 months; Barbara Jean Narbone, 6 months; Jason Gedzius, 12 months; Delos Gedzius Jr., 2-year-old; and Daniel Gedzius, 10 weeks / Her husband, Delos Gedzius, 33
Method of murder: Suffocation / Shooting
Location: Chicago/Burbank/Alsip, Cook County, Illinois, USA
Status: Never charged. Died in a Las Vegas car crash on July 11, 2002
 
 
 
 
 

Mother of 6 SIDS' children dies in car crash

The Associated Press

July 12, 2002

Las Vegas, Nevada. A former Illinois woman who came under suspicion after six of her young children died in what were initially ruled SIDS-related deaths was killed in a car crash here this week.

Deborah Fornuto, 47, formerly known as Deborah Anne Booe Narbone Gedzius, was killed Thursday after the car she was a passenger in sped through a red light, causing a four-car crash, Las Vegas police said. The driver of Fornuto's car, Thomas Mannix, 32, of Las Vegas, fled the scene but eventually was captured and charged with 15 felony counts, including involuntary manslaughter, DUI and reckless driving, police said.

Fornuto's story made big headlines in the Chicago-area. Between 1972 and 1987, six of her babies died, none living longer than two years. The explanation for the first four was Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

According to a medical theory of the day, SIDS could run in families, but experts have now largely dismissed that theory.

Because Fornuto moved so often and changed names as she remarried, no one made a connection between the deaths for some time. Harry Gedzius, Fornuto's one-time brother-in-law, first alerted the medical examiner's office in 1980, after the fourth baby's death that Deborah's previous babies had also died mysteriously.

Then a fifth child died on Feb. 11, 1984, Fornuto saying she found her 2-year-old son dead after napping with him. Harry Gedzius contacted the medical examiner again and was told they were already investigating. Again, nothing conclusive was found and SIDS was suspected, although the boy's death was labeled "undetermined."

A sixth child, another boy, died three years later, despite a fetal monitor that was supposed to warn of breathing problems.

On April 27, 1990, Cook County's medical examiner, Dr. Robert Stein, wrote a letter to the Cook County State's Attorney's office after re-examining the cases.

"After careful consideration, it is my opinion that all of the deaths were caused by suffocation, and the manner of death is homicide," Stein wrote.

A grand jury was convened, but Fornuto was never charged. A spokesman for the state's attorney's office, Jerry Lawrence, said Friday there was never enough evidence to file charges, but that all six cases remain open.

n April 1989, Fornuto's husband Delos Gedzius was found shot in the head in his apartment, a few days after dining with Deborah to settle their divorce. Fornuto claimed she was miles away with a policeman at the time of the killing. Police investigated but she was not charged.

Deborah later married James Fornuto, a Chicago policeman who was fired after he was convicted of theft, and they moved to Nevada.

 
 

Quest to find killer turns life-consuming

By John Keilman - Chicago Tribune

July 21, 2002

Harry Gedzius has spent 22 years trying to solve the murder of his brother and the mysterious deaths of six babies.

He has hounded police and prosecutors, spent thousands of hours investigating on his own and tried everything from confrontation to vandalism to goad a confession out of the woman he was sure had killed them all: Deborah Fornuto, better known to Chicagoans as Deborah Gedzius.

Fornuto died in a Las Vegas car crash July 11. Some say that could make it nearly impossible to crack the murder of her one-time husband, Harry Gedzius' brother Delos, or resolve the deaths of Fornuto's six children. Most of the children were pronounced dead of sudden infant death syndrome, a finding that became nationally controversial as scientists cast new suspicion on multiple SIDS deaths.

But Fornuto's death has not sidetracked Harry Gedzius. The Bridgeview resident still is calling police and prosecutors, poring over old newspaper stories and case documents and working out new scenarios in his mind.

At 54, his own marriage is over. His health is failing. He can't work anymore, and his sole income is a monthly $1,100 disability check. What keeps him going is a belief that some clue is out there, that some long-silent witness will finally speak up.

"At times I just wish that I could let it go, small periods of time where I try to occupy myself with other things, but it always comes back to me. It'll keep coming back to me until I get answers," he said. "All I can say is I'm hopeful, now that Debbie's gone, that people will come forward."

Harry Gedzius met Fornuto in the mid-1970s when his younger brother, Delos, who was fresh out of the Marines, began dating her. She was pregnant, recently separated from her second husband, and two of her children had already died without apparent cause. Word among some people in their Southwest Side neighborhood was that she had killed them, Harry Gedzius said.

Fornuto's third child was born and died six months later. That did not stop Delos Gedzius from marrying her.

And despite any misgivings Delos Gedzius may have had, he stayed with his wife as three children he fathered with her inexplicably perished, one by one.

Brother's suspicions

Harry Gedzius said his brother once confided to him that he thought his wife was a murderer. But Harry Gedzius took it upon himself to call the medical examiner when Fornuto's fourth child, a 1-year-old named Jason, was found dead in 1980. That gave authorities their first inkling that something was wrong.

Still, the Cook County medical examiner's office made the same ruling it had in the deaths of Fornuto's first three children: SIDS, a controversial diagnosis where infants apparently stop breathing in their sleep.

Harry Gedzius said that after he made the call--as he did after Fornuto's fifth and sixth children died--he was forced out of his brother's life. His suspicions about the children's deaths rankled even within his own family.

"My mother and my sister, for years they would say, `Harry, will you get off it? Knock it off. All you're doing is causing trouble in the family,'" he said.

Delos Gedzius and Fornuto separated in the late 1980s, and Delos Gedzius moved into an apartment in Merrionette Park. Police found him there the night of April 25, 1989, when, after three days of non-stop television and radio noise, a maintenance man opened the door and smelled death. Delos was lying on his couch, a bullet hole in his temple.

The murder jump-started an investigation into all the deaths associated with Fornuto. A grand jury heard evidence. Police interrogated her for as long as 36 hours at a time, according to Rick Halprin, her former lawyer. But her assertion of innocence never wavered.

Inquiries stalled

With little else to go on, official inquiries stalled. Harry Gedzius decided to take matters into his own hands.

He lived across the street from the Southwest Side bar Fornuto owned and put up posters in the neighborhood promising a $1,000 reward for information leading to his brother's killer. The posters were promptly torn down. Each time he put up more, he said. Someone smashed his car's windshield--three times.

Harry Gedzius said many people in the neighborhood were scared of Fornuto. But emboldened by his certainty that she was a murderer, he stood outside her tavern day and night, staring at her. He wrote down the license plate numbers of bar customers. Once, he said, he spray-painted "Killer" on the side of her building.

"I just tried to harass her, to get her to break down, to get her to do something to me," he said. "I was just possessed with it, with the fact that she could get away with all this stuff, and here I was getting all these false promises from the authorities."

He also spent long hours in the library, compiling studies about SIDS, peppering the medical examiner's office with questions to convince authorities that the six deaths didn't add up.

Others came to share his suspicions. In 1997, after research cast severe doubt on the prevailing view that SIDS could run in families, medical examiners took another look at the deaths. This time they revised their earlier rulings and pointedly called all of them undetermined.

2nd grand jury

A second grand jury investigated Fornuto. But with no physical evidence linking her to the deaths, authorities needed an eyewitness or a confession, said Cook County Medical Examiner Edmund Donoghue. They got neither, and Fornuto was never charged.

Harry Gedzius' obsession loosened after the grand jury dissolved. He had his own children to look after and a marriage that was failing, in part because of his fixation on the case. Last year, degenerative joint problems forced him to quit his job as a heating and air conditioning technician and go on disability.

In the meantime, Fornuto remarried, moved west and began working in a Nevada casino, according to her former lawyer. She drew perennial interest from tabloid reporters and local law officials, who discovered her past during a job-related background check. Last year, she was busted on a marijuana charge along with Thomas Mannix, a man 15 years her junior.

Police say Mannix was driving Fornuto's Buick Roadmaster this month when it sped through a red light in Las Vegas and slammed into a van. Fornuto died in the crash. Mannix, who allegedly was drunk, faces a dozen felony charges.

Some believe Fornuto took any secrets she held about her children's deaths to the grave. Donoghue said that lacking a confession, the medical examiner's office can do no more.

"I think the state's attorney will close this case also, because the chief suspect is dead," he said. "I don't think there were any other suspects in this case."

Cases still open

The Cook County state's attorney's office declined to comment, other than to say the cases are still open.

Harry Gedzius' sister Joyce Mullin, while still hoping for answers, believes Fornuto is facing divine justice. She sometimes wishes her brother would ease up "for his own sanity. But he has to do what he has to do."

Gedzius, still bitter about what he sees as bungled investigations, isn't ready to give up on his brother's murder. He is convinced that Fornuto was responsible in some way.

Maybe she let something slip to her friends or drug connections in Nevada. Maybe now that she's dead, fears will ease and a witness will come forward.

And so he presses on, calling Merrionette Park police and Cook County prosecutors, pulling out old letters and notes and clippings, hoping with a vengeance that it's not too late.

"I get the feeling that time makes people forget and [the investigation] doesn't have the push behind it that it did before," he said. "Everybody's gotten older, people have passed away. It's something that's been laying to the wayside, just waiting."

 
 

1 Mother, 3 Fathers, 6 Babies That Died: Was It SIDS or Homicide?

Mystery: None lived more than two years; the syndrome was blamed. But now a grand jury investigation has begun.

By Lindsey Tanner - Associated Press - Los Angeles Times

December 28, 1997

CHICAGO Having babies came easy to Debbie Gedzius. Keeping them alive was the problem.

From tiny Denise Marie, born in 1972 when Gedzius was an unmarried schoolgirl, to angel-faced Danny, who lived just two months in 1987, her babies died, one after the other--six in all.

For all those years, birth and death seemed like the only constants in Gedzius' life. She quit high school, married three men, moved at least eight times, worked in a cafeteria, taught dance, tended bar.

In different homes, in different cities, she had babies. None lived longer than two years. The explanation was always Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, SIDS, one of the most heartbreaking tragedies of infancy.

Was it a horrible coincidence, or something more sinister?

According to the favored medical theory of the day, SIDS could run in families. But, these days, experts are saying it is not so. And Debbie's former brother-in-law, Harry Gedzius, calls the theory "a license to kill."

Now, Cook County's medical examiner has changed the death certificates for Debbie's children. A grand jury investigation is underway.

And Deborah Anne Booe Narbone Gedzius, now in her early 40s and using her current husband's last name--Fornuto--is living outside Las Vegas and preparing for what may happen next.

*****

It was Harry Gedzius who first alerted the medical examiner's office--in 1980, after the fourth baby's death--that Debbie's previous babies had also died mysteriously.

Because she had moved so often and changed names as she remarried, the connection had gone unnoticed for eight years.

Harry met Debbie in the mid-1970s when she dated his brother, Delos, a handsome, hard-working pipe-fitter just out of the Marines. Debbie was a cafeteria worker and pregnant with her ex-husband's child, her third baby.

Barbara Jean Narbone was born on Nov. 13, 1976. She died two days after Christmas, just 6 weeks old.

Debbie "said it was something with the genes, the father. But there were already two fathers," Harry Gedzius recalls.

Delos' response was, " 'There's nothing wrong with my genes.' "

Then the couple's first child, Jason, died on Sept. 5, 1980, six days past his first birthday. Debbie said later she had been napping with the baby while Delos was at work. "She woke up and he wasn't breathing," said Joyce Mullin, Harry and Delos' sister.

Delos, sobbing, called his brother. The scene Harry found at the couple's home unnerved him. "I heard all this music blaring, it was like they were having a party." Debbie was dancing with relatives.

Harry called the medical examiner's office and said, "My nephew just died. You know, he's the fourth one."

"We didn't know about that, we'll look into it," was the response.

He called repeatedly after that. The answer was always the same.

With Delos Jr., born in 1982, it seemed the curse was broken. Delos Jr. was put on a home monitor designed to sound an alarm if he stopped breathing. He grew past infancy, into a bright-eyed, brown-haired 2-year-old who loved toy trucks and doted on his dad.

Then, on Feb. 11, 1984, Debbie said she found Delos Jr. dead after napping with him.

Harry contacted the medical examiner again and was told they were already investigating. Again, nothing conclusive was found and SIDS was suspected. But because the four previous deaths were now linked, Delos Jr.'s death was labeled "undetermined."

The designation, though unsettling, assigned no blame.

Three years later, Danny Gedzius was born. He, too, was put on a monitor. When he was 10 weeks old, Debbie turned the device on and went to work at the Gedzius family's tavern.

She said she returned home to find Delos passed-out drunk and the monitor shrieking. The baby was dead, and she blamed her husband for not responding to the alarm, Mullin said.

Delos "was crazy over that one," Mullin said. "I really believe he went to his grave thinking he had something to do with that one."

The marriage began to dissolve. Then, in April 1989, Delos was found shot in the head in his apartment, a few days after dining with Debbie to settle their divorce. Harry Gedzius said the last time he was seen alive was by Debbie, who drove him home. She said she went into the apartment to use the bathroom.

Debbie said she was miles away with a policeman at the time of the killing. Police investigated, but no one has been charged.

Debbie married James Fornuto, a Chicago policeman who was fired after he was convicted of theft, and they moved to the Southwest.

*****

SIDS cases--which number about 3,500 a year--are true medical mysteries. Seemingly healthy babies die in their sleep for no detectable reason. SIDS is a diagnosis given when all other causes have been ruled out. The vast majority of cases are not murder.

But on April 27, 1990, Cook County's medical examiner, Dr. Robert Stein, wrote a haunting letter to the state's attorney's office. The investigation into the death of Delos Gedzius Sr. had led to a reexamination of the deaths of Debbie's children.

"After careful consideration, it is my opinion that all of the deaths were caused by suffocation, and the manner of death is homicide," he wrote.

But Stein never changed the death certificates. His inaction is a mystery, though it may simply have been an oversight by the elderly pathologist, who died four years later at 82.

Bill Merritt, the assistant state's attorney to whom Stein addressed his letter, says he never read it. Merritt left the office two months later and thinks he likely gave the unopened letter to an assistant.

"If I certainly had ever seen that letter, that would have been what I needed" to put Debbie on trial, said Merritt, now in private practice. "I was convinced in my own heart that she killed the kids."

Dr. Marie Valdes-Dapena, one of three specialists who reviewed Debbie's case in 1990, said, "Suffocation . . . with an adult holding his or her hand over the baby's nose and mouth for over three minutes will kill a baby and not leave a mark."

That's what makes it so difficult to distinguish from SIDS. Still, she was convinced Debbie's babies had all been killed.

"It cannot be called SIDS" if there are three or more deaths in one family, the doctor said.

There was also circumstantial evidence, according to Dr. Mary Jumbelic, a Stein assistant who investigated with two Chicago police detectives:

* The children had no disease that would explain their deaths;

* They had different biological fathers, reducing the chance that all shared a genetic defect;

* Their mother was present or had access to them at the time of their deaths.

* There was no medical explanation for the deaths.

Said Larry Nitsche, then a detective who worked with Jumbelic: "I don't think, I know they were homicides."

*****

It was Dr. Alfred Steinschneider who had theorized that cases of SIDS ran in families. He was inspired by a case in Upstate New York involving Waneta Hoyt, mother of five children who succumbed.

In 1995, she was convicted of murder. And Steinschneider's theory began to crumble.

Pediatrics, the medical journal that published Steinschneider's study in 1972, printed an apology in October in a review of a new book about the Hoyt case. The book suggests Steinschneider's theory led some cases of infanticide to be misclassified as familial SIDS.

Dr. Edmund Donoghue, Cook County's current medical examiner, says the apology led him to change the death certificates for Debbie's children to "undetermined"--meaning, the death is suspicious.

A grand jury has been convened, but a spokesman for Cook County state's attorney Dick Devine declined to discuss the investigation.

For Harry Gedzius, seeing his former sister-in-law charged "is like the most important thing in my life," he said. "These are my nephews and my brother. I want it solved."

Debbie's attorney, Rick Halprin, says charges "would seem to be inevitable." He said his client didn't want to talk about it, and attempts to reach her by telephone at her Nevada home were unsuccessful.

"She's always maintained her innocence," Halprin said. "By all accounts, she was a very caring mother."

 
 

6 Infants' Deaths Still Puzzling To Experts

Prosecutors Question Sids Victims' Family

By Steve Mills and Peter Kendall - Chicago Tribune

May 20, 1997

It is a fine line that sometimes separates medical mystery from murder. Few cases, it would seem, illustrate that as well as the deaths of the Gedzius children.

One after another, Debbie Gedzius' six infant children died between the fall of 1972 and the spring of 1987, years of tragedy that seemed to arouse as much suspicion as sorrow. After all, people asked, how could so many children in one family die?

When the Cook County State's Attorney's Office tried to answer that question in 1989, its investigation was stalled in large part by the view of one of the nation's leading experts on SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

He hypothesized that the Gedzius children, none of whom lived past their 2nd birthdays, likely died from some kind of breathing disorder. His conclusion, though, was based on research that later was thoroughly and sensationally discredited.

That expert, Dr. Bruce Beckwith of Loma Linda University in California, has since changed his mind, however, and the state's attorney's office has rekindled its investigation, serving subpoenas to a number of Gedzius' relatives, according to Gedzius' lawyer, Rick Halprin.

Beckwith, who defined the syndrome in the late 1960s, said in a telephone interview that he now believes "the deaths of those children was infanticide."

Gedzius, who lived in the Mt. Greenwood neighborhood at the time of the children's deaths, is now somewhere in the Southwest, according to Halprin. She could not be reached for comment, but she has always denied a role in the deaths of her kids.

If Beckwith's flip-flop sounds confusing, that is how it is with SIDS. Despite the ability of the scientific community to cut SIDS deaths in half in recent years, down to about 1 in every 1,000 births, SIDS remains baffling to researchers.

Some babies die of SIDS, at least according to current thinking, when their faces are too close to bedding or pillows, rebreathing their own carbon dioxide. Quickly, their lungs and blood are starved for oxygen. In most cases, babies cough or gasp, then wake up.

The fundamental question researchers cannot answer is what makes some babies sleep through conditions that should wake them up. Researchers are divided on whether it is a developmental delay, some disorder or another anomaly that leaves some babies vulnerable to SIDS.

"When you're dealing with SIDS," said Dr. James Filiano of Dartmouth Medical School, "you're dealing with hypotheses. Nothing really is certain."

What researchers do know is that SIDS deaths drop if parents put their babies down to sleep on their backs and keep them off soft, fluffy bedding.

Still, there are deaths even after the precautions are taken, and in older infants whose breathing is not as likely to be affected by bedding or sleeping position. They know, too, that studies show that the sibling of a baby who dies of SIDS is at greater risk of dying of the syndrome.

But even with this understanding of the syndrome, an increasing number of researchers doubt SIDS is responsible in many cases where the syndrome takes more than one baby in a family. Which leaves prosecutors and medical examiners with hard questions.

The fact is, the very helplessness and vulnerability of babies creates a virtually unique circumstance in which natural death and homicide can be so easily confused.

In some cases, it is almost impossible to determine from physical signs if a baby was deliberately suffocated or stopped breathing because of a SIDS condition. Not all suffocation cases exhibit the tell-tale trauma at the mouth, while not all SIDS cases show the tiny hemorrhages on the lungs' surface that are thought to mark the disorder.

So, a child might be in the age range for SIDS--broadly from 2 months to a year--and show no signs of suffocation or other malady, yet doctors still might not be able to say SIDS is the cause of death. In many cases, the absence of evidence leads to a SIDS ruling.

"If you find nothing else and it fits the appropriate parameters of age and such, then it could be a SIDS," said Filiano. "But you are never sure."

That, in large part, is what has made the Gedzius case such a tough one.

"Part of forensic pathology is combining the physical circumstances and all the other circumstances," said Dr. Mary Jumbelic, a former assistant Cook County medical examiner who now is with the Onondaga County Medical Examiner's Office in Syracuse, N.Y.

"You have to look at everything. The autopsy doesn't work in a vacuum."

The deaths of four of the six Gedzius children were initially attributed to SIDS. The deaths of the other two, one of whom was almost 2, were unexplained.

In 1989, after Gedzius' husband, Delos, was found shot to death in his Merrionette Park apartment--another crime that has never been solved--the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office took another look at the deaths of the children.

Under this review, the deaths were ruled homicides, the cause suffocation.

When prosecutors called on Beckwith, one of the nation's leaders in SIDS research, he expressed doubts. He mentioned a 1972 study on SIDS by Dr. Alfred Steinschneider, now president of the American SIDS Institute in Atlanta.

Steinschneider's work allowed some researchers to conclude, unlikely as it might seem, that multiple children in a single family could stop breathing and die from natural causes.

Prosecutors closed their investigation, though they harbored much doubt.

"Without question," the office said in a statement in July 1990, "the circumstances surrounding the deaths . . . raise suspicions regarding those deaths."

At the center of Steinschneider's study were five children named Hoyt, who over many years died in their home near Syracuse, N.Y. Steinschneider was studying the family while the last two children died. Among his methods was hooking the children to breathing monitors that were to sound if breathing suddenly stopped. But the children died when they were not hooked to the monitors. Nonetheless, in the absence of conclusive evidence, he decided the deaths reinforced his belief that the first three died of SIDS.

Though it seems like circular research, it colored how a generation of police officers, pediatricians and pathologists looked at sudden unexplained deaths of children. But when the children's mother, Waneta Hoyt, confessed she had killed them, and when she was convicted in 1995 and sentenced to 75 years in prison, Steinschneider's research was undermined. And Beckwith changed his mind.

All of which makes clear just how murky SIDS is, even today.

"There is just no black and white in this research," said Phipps Cohe, spokeswoman for the Baltimore-based SIDS Alliance. "There are unidentified metabolic disorders (outside of SIDS) that can cause the deaths of children in the same family.

"People who don't understand those complexities want to think that the parents killed their own children, when that is something that rarely happens."

But one expert who testified at Hoyt's trial was Dr. John Brooks, a colleague of Filiano's at Dartmouth. When asked during the trial if he thought it was possible for five children in one family to die from SIDS, he testified that he knew of no such cases.

Tribune reporter Carri Karuhn contributed to this article.

 
 

The Gedzius Case

6 Babies Died In Their Mother's Care

Channel 5's Carol Marin Asks Why

By Rick Kogan, TV/radio critic - Chicago Tribune

June 29, 1990

Their names were Denise, Jennifer, Barbara, Jason, Delos and Danny. They are all dead: tiny babies, buried with secrets.

They are the silent focal points of one of the most disturbing documentaries I've ever encountered, as Carol Marin examines their deaths at 7 p.m. Friday on WMAQ-Ch. 5 in "Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep."

The title's use of the familiar children's prayer is purposefully ironic. Six times between 1972 and 1987, a woman named Deborah Gedzius did lay her children down to sleep. They never got up.

None of the children lived beyond two years. The first four children's deaths were attributed to sudden infant death syndrome, a statistical impossibility according to one of the show's experts. The causes of the latest two deaths, which occurred in 1984 and 1987, were listed as "undetermined." "Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep" examines each case and raises some unsettling questions.

Did the medical examiner's office fail to aggressively pursue suspicious findings? Did the police and the state's attorney's office do a superficial job of investigating? Why won't Medical Examiner Benjamin Stein talk about the case? Who is responsible? Why did the system fail?

The show also travels to Schenectady, N.Y., where a similarly ghastly set of circumstances-the death of the nine children of Mary Beth Tinning-eventually resulted in the conviction of Tinning in connection with one of her children's deaths.

One expert says that six consecutive SIDS deaths are possible, but his is a lone voice.

Asserting that she is the victim of persecution, Deborah Gedzius is not talking-about the children or about her estranged husband, Delos Gedzius, the father of three of the children. He was found fatally shot in his south suburban apartment in April 1989, after dining with Deborah.

The husband`s death led the medical examiner to change the classification of all the SIDS cases to suffocation, and compelled the police to further investigate the deaths of Deborah Gedzius' children. But, like the previous investigations, this one has proven inconclusive.

Marin broke this story in May on WMAQ's news. Although she provides a steady on-camera presence, producer Don Moseley and researcher Wendy Frame deserve equal credit for creating this sorrowful, chilling, painstaking and painful program.

'COUNTERSTRIKE'

9 P.M. SUNDAY, USA

Christopher Plummer, an undeniably cool guy and gifted actor, has chosen to make his television series debut in a paltry package called "Counterstrike," a USA cable network offering that shows no shame over lifting ideas from the wallets of any number of action-adventure shows.

Its primary idea-source would be the sadly bygone "The Equalizer," in that Plummer is an independent operator "compelled by tragic events to seek out and eradicate injustice worldwide." It helps, of course, that he is fabulously wealthy and is able to employ all manner of sophisticated technology and clout in his do-gooding.

In the wake of the ill-explained kidnapping of his wife, Plummer has created an anti-crime strike force composed of a sauve ex-cop-aren't they all?-played by Simon McCorkindale; a sleek French con artist played by Cyrielle Claire; and a slick soldier of fortune played by Stephen Shellen in a manner that suggests he's handier with a hair dryer than a handgun.

In the first episode, Plummer, working the phone from a massive, futuristic office, dispatches his team-Chris' Angels?-to search for the cabal behind a bombing. In a plodding fashion, and without much fireworks, they go about their business, burdened by McCorkindale's flashbacks about his relationship with one of the women involved in the case.

Except for the obligatory car chases, there isn't much action, and many of the high-tech gizmos look as realistic as $5 toupees. I do, however, very much like the wood-paneled plane in which our crime fighters hop the globe.

If this first episode-the series slot is 9 p.m. Sundays on the cable network-doesn't hold your attention, and that's a very real possibility, you may be intrigued by the themes of future episodes: art theft, Latin American human rights troubles and Colombian drug lords.

No? Oh, well, that's quite understandable.

 
 

Perplexing Trail Of Tragedy

Deaths Of Woman's Husband And 6 Children Probed

By David Elsner and Ronald Koziol - Chicago Tribune

May 8, 1990

Delos Gedzius' neighbors were upset by the loud television and blaring radio that came through the thin walls of his Merrionette Park apartment for three straight days.

And they thought it unusual that his car in the parking lot hadn't been moved in that time.

So when maintenance man Robert Will used his pass key to open Gedzius' door one night just over a year ago, he really wasn't surprised. "I smelled the odor, and called the police," he recalled Monday. "I said, 'I think I have a dead body here.'"

What Will found was Gedzius' body on his living room couch, as if he had gone to sleep while watching TV. But when Merrionette Park police turned the body over, they found a single bullet hole in his left temple.

Since that night of April 25, 1989, when the 33-year-old pipefitter was found slain, investigators have been trying to sort out an unusual series of deaths that may or may not be linked, but all of which touch upon the life of Gedzius and his estranged wife, Deborah.

It was Gedzius' slaying that forced police and medical examiners to look harder into the deaths of all six of Deborah Gedzius` children between 1972 and 1987. Most of the deaths had earlier been attributed to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), a largely unexplained phenomenon also known as "crib death" that kills some 7,000 children a year in the U.S.

Earlier this year, Dr. Mary Jumbelic, of the Cook County medical examiner's staff, recommended that the recorded cause of death for all six children be changed to suffocation.

So far, no charges have been brought in connection with either Delos Gedzius' death or those of Denise Booe, aged 5 months; Jennifer Narbone, 4 months; Barbara Jean Narbone, 6 months; Jason Gedzius, 1 year; Delos Gedzius Jr., 2; and Daniel Gedzius, 2 months.

But without saying whether she is a suspect, police confirmed that they have questioned Deborah Gedzius, a Southwest Side resident, in connection with all the deaths.

Dr. Robert Stein, county medical examiner, said all of his records related to the children's deaths have been turned over to the state's attorney's office.

A source in that office said a grand jury currently is hearing testimony related to Delos Gedzius' slaying, but the investigation of the children's deaths has not yet gone that far.

According to Cook County and Chicago authorities familiar with the Gedzius case, investigators are looking into the wife`s relationship with a Chicago police officer. They believe she may have seen the officer shortly after she had dinner with her husband at a Crestwood restaurant four days before his body was found.

It was that night, investigators believe, that Gedzius was killed. Merrionette Park Police Chief Robert Stevens said Monday that there were no signs of forced entry at Gedzius' first-floor apartment at 3052 W. 119th St. Nor were there any signs of a struggle, he said.

The gun used to kill Gedzius was either a .38-caliber or a .357 Magnum handgun.

Stevens said police have several suspects, "but no time frame for an arrest."

WMAQ-TV has reported that the Gedziuses, who were living apart, had met over dinner to discuss how to divide their property. The station also said Deborah Gedzius collected on a $100,000 life insurance policy on her husband. According to the maintenance man, Will, Gedzius had lived in the apartment for about a year. He said that despite the Gedziuses` separation, the couple still saw each other.

Police confirmed that the couple saw each other socially as well.

Three of the six dead children had been fathered by Delos Gedzius, Deborah's third husband.

Stein said that in all six cases, Deborah Gedzius said she found her children lying apparently lifeless and that efforts by paramedics or hospital medical teams failed to revive them.

Autopsies that proved inconclusive were performed in each case, Stein said. The first four deaths were classified as SIDS, he added, but the causes of the latest two-in 1984 and 1987-were listed as "undetermined."

Stein said that because of the different names of the children, different home addresses and different police jurisdictions, his office didn't realize the children all had the same mother until it began investigating the death of the fourth child, Jason, in September 1980. Three of the deaths occurred in Chicago, two in Burbank and one in Alsip.

CHILDREN WHO DIED

Denise Booe: 5 months, died Sept. 18, 1972.

Jennifer Narbone: 4 months, May 21, 1975.

Barbara Jean Narbone: 6 months, Dec. 27, 1976.

Jason Gedzius: 1 year, died Sept. 5, 1980.

Delos Gedzius Jr.: 2 years, died Feb. 11, 1984.

Daniel Gedzius: 10 weeks, died March 21, 1987.

Tribune reporters Matt O'Connor and Susan Kuczka contributed to this article.

 
 

Expert Exploring 6 Mystery Crib Deaths

By Susan Kuczka - Chicago Tribune

May 5, 1990

The Cook County states attorney's office has retained an expert in the field of sudden infant death syndrome as part of its investigation into the mysterious deaths of a Southwest Side woman's six children.

Dr. Marie Valdes-Depena, professor of pathology and pediatrics at the University of Miami's School of Medicine, said she has been working on the case for about a month, but she declined to say who had engaged her.

Sources involved in the investigation, however, said Valdes-Depena has already examined some evidence connected with the six deaths that was supplied by the Cook County medical examiner's office. The six deaths occurred between 1972 and 1987.

The mother of the dead children, Debbie Gedzius, a Southwest Side tavern owner, has also been questioned about the April 1989 fatal shooting of her estranged third husband, Delos, in his south suburban Merrionette Park home.

Merrionette Park police declined comment Friday on their investigation into Delos' death, other than to say that they believed they were close to solving the case.

Gedzius, who has not been charged with any criminal wrongdoing in the deaths of her husband or any of her children, could not be reached for comment Friday.

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the mysterious killer of an estimated 7,000 children a year across the nation.

The medical examiner's office initially listed SIDS as the cause of death of Gedzius' first four children: Denise Booe, 5 months; Jennifer Narbone, 4 months; Barbara Jean Narbone, 6 months; and Jason Gedzius, 12 months. The four deaths occurred between 1972 and 1979.

After Jason's death, the office conducted a nearly six-month investigation, then alerted law enforcement officials of the "highly suspicious" nature of the four deaths, said William Juneau, spokesman for Dr. Robert Stein, county medical examiner.

However, no evidence of foul play was found, Juneau said.

When Gedzius' fifth child, 2-year-old Delos Gedzius Jr., died in February 1984 and when her sixth child, Daniel Gedzius, died at 2 months in March 1987, the medical examiner's office listed the causes of death as undetermined, Juneau said.

Earlier this year, Dr. Mary Jumbelic, a member of the medical examiner's staff, recommended that the cause of death for all of the children be changed to suffocation.

Dr. Fred Mandell, vice chairman of the National SIDS Foundation and an associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard University Medical School, said the chances of six SID deaths in one family are rare.

"To have this many die suddenly and this unexpectedly of SIDS is very rare, and it needs to be completely investigated," Mandell said. "To have more than one is unusual. To have three, I would think, would be a rare occurrence. And to have more than three is so unusual it would probably be reportable in medical literature."

 
 


Harry Gedzius holds pictures of his brother, Delos, center, and his three nephews, clockwise from left, Jason, Danny and Delos Gedzius Jr. Harry called authorities after Jason dies in 1980 of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The two other children also died from SIDS. Then Delos Sr. was found shot to death.

 

 

 
 
 
 
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