Suffolk homicide chief to retire

Det. Lt. Jack Fitzpatrick, commanding officer of the Det. Lt. Jack Fitzpatrick, commanding officer of the Suffolk County Police homicide squad, addresses media near scene where a body was found in a burning vehicle inside the parking lot of Short Beach in Nissequogue. Photo Credit: James Carbone

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Suffolk's chief homicide investigator is leaving the department a little more than two years after his reappointment, according to state records and law-enforcement sources, ending a 39-year career on the force.

Det. Lt. John "Jack" Fitzpatrick, 61, has filed retirement papers with the state comptroller's office. His official date of retirement is listed as April 25, the comptroller's office said. Police spokesman Kevin Fallon said it's too soon to say who is going to replace Fitzpatrick.

To many Long Islanders, Fitzpatrick and his thick gray handlebar mustache are familiar from his many appearances as the face of the department on several high-profile cases. It's a job he had before. Fitzpatrick led the homicide squad from 2002 until he was removed by former Commissioner Richard Dormer in 2010.

Law enforcement sources said Fitzpatrick, who most recently was put in charge of another widely-reported case -- the investigation into the shooting last month of Oheka Castle owner Gary Melius -- is leaving even though the recently approved Superior Officers Association contract would guarantee him more than $10,000 in raises on July 1.

No arrests have been made and police are not releasing any information on the case.

It's not clear why Fitzpatrick was tapped to lead the case of the Oheka Castle shooting.

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Fallon called Fitzpatrick one of the most respected officers in the history of the department both inside the force and outside the police department.

"He's one of the most knowledgeable, competent, confident leaders that we had," Fallon said. "Somebody who is a true role model for police officers, detectives and supervisors, and he's going to be very difficult to replace."

Fitzpatrick did not respond to calls seeking comment on his departure.

Fitzpatrick was named March 1, 2012, to replace Lt. Gerard Pelkofsky, who retired after two years as the squad's commander. He was appointed about two months after the county announced Suffolk Police Chief James Burke would lead the department but officials had yet to announce a permanent commissioner.

He was appointed at a time when all eyes were on the Gilgo Beach serial killer case.

"You know, one of the interesting things is that now, I'm here," Fitzpatrick said then. "There are other people in the office who are now back, and the case is going to be looked at again, from perhaps a different perspective."

But the department has been ordered by the top brass to keep quiet about the Gilgo case since December 2011, echoing department policy on the Oheka Castle shooting that no public announcements be made until there is a solid break or new information.

Fitzpatrick is the highest-ranking officer leaving the department. Two police officers, Jane Rail from the Fourth Precinct crime section and Salvatore Yovino of the Seventh Precinct are also set to retire, as are Sgt. Jack Magnum of the Fourth Precinct crime section, Det. Christopher Cusimano and Det. Roscoe Palmer of the Fifth Precinct.

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