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Detective in Elkhart, Indiana, Wrongful Conviction Case Dies in Apparent Suicide

Steve Rezutko, the former Elkhart police detective, was central in an investigation that led to a high-profile pair of wrongful convictions.

This article was produced in partnership with the South Bend Tribune, a member of ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network in 2018.

The former Elkhart police detective who was central in an investigation that led to the wrongful convictions of Keith Cooper and another man died this week in an apparent suicide, authorities said.

Steve Rezutko, 78, was found Tuesday afternoon at his home on Sturdy Oak Drive, just north of Elkhart, county coroner James Elliott said.

Rezutko was an Elkhart police officer for more than 30 years, starting in 1969. He served in the Army for three years before joining the Police Department. On the police force, he rose to the rank of sergeant and then was named a detective. After resigning from the Police Department, Rezutko worked as a corrections officer at the St. Joseph County Jail. He retired last year.

Rezutko was the lead detective in a 1996 shooting that resulted in the convictions of Cooper and Christopher Parish. After the evidence in the case unraveled, Parish had his conviction overturned in court and got a $4.9 million settlement, and Cooper received a gubernatorial pardon based on innocence.

Rezutko’s death this week came in the midst of a lawsuit filed by Cooper against the city of Elkhart, Rezutko and several other former officers. Last month, the city disclosed long-missing records that showed Rezutko’s 2001 resignation from the Police Department came after an internal investigation into improper contact with female informants. For more than a decade, the city had failed to disclose those records in lawsuits filed by Parish and Cooper.

Cooper alleges he was wrongfully convicted largely because Rezutko showed witnesses suggestive photo lineups. His lawsuit also claims the city of Elkhart condoned or enabled misconduct that led to his conviction.

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