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Local Editorials

Lack of report disclosure is unacceptable

Five weeks after an Iowa man was found dead along Interstate 88, the Illinois State Police still won’t disclose facts about its failure to find him while he was still alive. Why don’t police want the public to know?

The Illinois State Police has been unwilling to provide additional information about the death last month of a retired teacher from Bettendorf, Iowa, along Interstate 88 in Lee County.

We object.

The deceased man, Lee Catlin, 65, was found dead the morning of Nov. 13 on I-88 just west of Dixon, next to the Hoyle Road overpass, with his feet pointing toward the road.

His body was right where at least two motorists, whizzing past at interstate speeds, saw him, alive, about 12 hours beforehand, around 8:40 p.m. Nov. 12. Both called 911 and told the dispatcher that they saw a man lying alongside the roadway, waiving his arms toward traffic.

The dispatcher connected one caller, a truck driver, to Illinois State Police District 15, based in Downers Grove – the district that covers the Illinois Tollway. According to a 911 transcript, the trucker gave specific information: The man was on the eastbound side of the highway, lying near the overpass, half on the grass, half on the shoulder, near the 51.5 mile marker.

Both callers were assured that police would respond.

The police say they did respond and found nothing.

The next day at about 8 a.m., Catlin was found in the location identified by the passing motorists. By then, unfortunately, he was dead. His car was found less than a mile west of there.

What on earth happened?

A man in distress was noticed by motorists traveling at highway speeds. Yet the state police, given specific information about his location, failed to find him?

We requested information on how many police officers responded to the scene to search for Catlin, when they responded, where they looked, and how long they looked.

The incident report should contain that information.

However, the Freedom of Information Act officer for the State Police denied our request for that report, stating that the case is “an active investigation.”

We assume he means a criminal investigation, which is one of the exemptions for disclosure allowed by law – even though an autopsy conducted Nov. 13 by the Lee County coroner’s office determined that foul play was not a factor in the death.

Five weeks later, the public is no closer to learning the reason that police did not find Mr. Catlin until it was too late.

Why don’t they want the public to know?

That is unacceptable.

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