Real Name: Ralph E. Probst
Nicknames: No Known Nicknames
Location: Cook County, Illinois
Date: April 10, 1967
Details: Thirty-year-old Ralph Probst was a Cook County, Illinois Sheriff's Officer. He and his wife Marlene had three young children. Initially, Ralph had been a chemical engineer; however, he later decided to pursue a career in law enforcement. On the night of April 10, 1967, he and Marlene watched the Oscars together. At some point, she fell asleep on the couch. Later that evening, she woke up to the sound of an explosion and glass breaking. She saw a cloud of smoke from behind the television set. When she went into the kitchen, she found Ralph lying on the floor. He had been shot once in the back of the head through his kitchen window. By the time Marlene summoned help, Ralph was dead; he never regained consciousness.
Four days after the murder, Ralph was laid to rest. At the funeral, his partner, Bob Borowski, vowed to catch his killer. The two first met in 1964, shortly after Ralph graduated from the police academy. They were both assigned to an elite unit called the Tactical Squad. The two forged a close friendship. Ralph earned himself the reputation of someone who played strictly by the rules. This gained him at least one bitter enemy: notorious mobster Sam DeStefano. A few months before Ralph's death, he and Bob were assigned to guard DeStefano, who was ill in the hospital. When Ralph kicked out DeStefano's visitors and handcuffed him to his bed, he told Ralph that he was going to kill him.
Police found out that Ralph had been shot with a rare .41 caliber magnum; this gun had only recently been manufactured. Although there were only 2000 of these guns in the United States, police were unable to locate the murder weapon. The bullet that killed Ralph had ricocheted off of a kitchen cabinet and landed on the stove. Nobody witnessed the gunman, while some did hear a shot. It is believed that the killer was watching Ralph through the kitchen window, lying in wait until he had the right chance to shoot.
When investigator's learned of DeStefano's threats, he was suspected, along with Ralph's wife Marlene. Both were later cleared of any involvement in the case, and police then began to suspect that Ralph may have been secretly working to bring down a vice ring. Investigators learned that on the afternoon of the murder, Ralph visited a gas station and made a call from a pay phone. Bob believes that Ralph was told that he would receive another phone call later that night. He believes that this was a setup to ensure that Ralph would be in the kitchen when the gunman arrived.
Investigators suspected that an ex-convict named Frank Calvise might have been the killer, especially after it was discovered that Ralph had apparently visited Calvise shortly before his death. Also, a man resembling Calvise looked at a home for sale across the street from Ralph. The man had asked if the layout was similar to the layout of the Probst home. However, in 1974, Calvise died without ever being charged in the case.
Bob believes that Ralph had information on some illegal operation. He believes that Ralph was killed because he was going to tell others about this information. Bob plans to continue to work on the case until Ralph's killer is found.
Suspects: Mobster Sam DeStefano was first suspected of being involved in Ralph's murder. Ralph and his partner Bob Borowski were assigned to guard DeStefano who had been convicted on charges of conspiracy. He had recently been transferred from prison to a hospital after complaining of stomach problems. One evening, the officers kicked out DeStefano's visitors as they were not allowed to be in there with him. They also took out food and gifts given to DeStefano.
When Ralph handcuffed DeStefano to the bed, DeStefano became very irate, threatening to kill him. At the time, the officers did not take the threats seriously. However, after Ralph's death, Bob suspected that DeStefano may have been involved. Investigations later cleared him of any involvement. Ironically, he was later murdered himself; his case was also never solved.
Ralph's wife Marlene was also suspected in his murder. Investigators could not understand how she had seen the puff of smoke unless the gun had been fired from inside the house. In addition, glass had been found in the yard, but not on the kitchen floor. Investigators noted that whenever someone is killed, they always look into the family first.
Investigators conducted an experiment to see if Marlene was telling the truth. First, they fired a gun fifteen feet away from the kitchen window. There was no smoke and the glass fell inside. However, when the gun was fired two inches away from the window, there was indeed a puff of smoke seen inside the house. Also, the glass fell outwards into the yard. This, along with other evidence, cleared Marlene of any involvement in her husband's death.
Investigators determined that the shooter would have been at least 5'11" or taller in height. They also noted that the shot to the back of Ralph's head was "one terrific shot". This led them to believe that the killer was a professional hit-man or even a fellow police officer.
Investigators believe that Ralph was killed while trying to bring down a vice ring. Ex-convict Frank Calvise became a suspect when investigators learned that Ralph had visited his home shortly before the murder. He spoke with Calvise's wife, then left. One week before the murder, a man resembling Calvise visited a home across the street from Ralph's that was for sale. As they toured the home, the man asked the homeowner if the home had the same layout as the Probst residence. The layout was, indeed, the same. However, after identifying Calvise in a police lineup, the neighbor changed his story. Some believe he was frightened into changing his story. Calvise was never charged in the case; he died in 1974.
Extra Notes: This segment ran for the first time on August 22, 1990.
Some references to this case claim "the partner of Ralph Probst" was murdered, which is incorrect.
Results: Unsolved. An investigation into a missing heiress, Helen Brach, led investigators to new leads regarding Ralph's case. There is speculation that his case is connected a stable owner and convicted murderer, Silas Jayne. Jayne was convicted of his brother's murder and died in 1987. Interestingly, he also has connections to several other unsolved cases, including the murders of Barbara and Patricia Grimes.
- Ralph Probst on Unsolved.com
- Ralph Probst on Cook County Sheriff's Office
- Still a mystery, 20 years later
- Cop Turns to Newspaper Ad to Keep 20-Year Vow to Find Partner’s Killer
- Officer Pursues Partner's Killer Throughout Two Decades
- Officer runs newspaper ad to keep vow to find killer
- Mob vs. cops murder trails hard to track
- Missing heiress case may help solve other slayings
- Brach case opens door to 3 other unsolved slayings
- Ralph Probst at Find a Grave