Mystery writer Eugene Izzi has created another riddle with his own death. Was it murder or suicide?
The body of the 43-year-old author, who sometimes wrote under the name Nick Gaitano, was found hanging outside the 14th-floor window of his office last weekend. The rope around his neck was tied to a table inside.
Izzi was wearing a bulletproof vest and a set of brass knuckles and had a disabling chemical spray in his pockets. In his office was a .38-caliber revolver. No suicide note was found, but police said they think Izzi killed himself.
“There’s nothing to lead us to believe it’s a homicide,” Sgt. John Schillen said Wednesday. “As far as we know, it was a suicide.”
Some facts point in that direction. The office door, broken by authorities to get in, had been locked from the inside and $481 was found in Izzi’s pocket. Police said there is no indication of theft.
But some of his friends say they are sure it was murder - and police have not closed the case.
“I just don’t see him doing that,” said Hugh Holton, a Chicago police lieutenant who is not working on the case. “He had a book coming out, a wife and children - he had a lot to live for.”
Izzi grew up on Chicago’s gritty southeast side and was a steel worker before writing such novels as “King of the Hustlers” and “Tony’s Justice.” His latest, “A Matter of Honor,” is due out in April.
His books twice were nominated for the Edgar awards given by the Mystery Writers of America.
Since Izzi’s body was discovered Saturday, acquaintances have come forward to say he had been concerned for his life and had received at least one threat from a militia group.
“He let me listen to the voice mail,” said Bob Rice, a friend and former homicide detective. “A woman said he’d been found guilty … and he’d be dead by hanging by the end of the year.”
Rice said Izzi had infiltrated an Indiana militia group, but he said he did not know any details.
Mark Jacob, Sunday editor of the Chicago Sun-
Times, said Izzi had submitted a piece to the newspaper about six months ago that was critical of all militias and hate groups. In a cover letter, Izzi mentioned he had been threatened by a militia group, Jacob said.
The piece did not run in the newspaper.
“It was well-written but the tone was quite alarmist,” Jacob said. “It was a little over the top.”
Police said transcripts of threats were found in Izzi’s office. But “the alleged threats were never reported to police,” said Cmdr. John Kozaritz, who wouldn’t describe them. “These were transcribed by himself.”
Rice raised another question: Why would a man who valued his privacy as much as Izzi did stage such a public death?
“He shunned publicity, didn’t like doing interviews or book signings,” Rice said, “and now he’s going to ask strangers to bear witness to his death?”