Police say Gary Swiercz, who began his firefighting career in Worth
in 1984, had a knife, 8-inch sex toy and lubricant when he broke into woman's
By Laura Bolin
A Chicago Ridge Fire Department official is accused of trying to sexually
assault and kill a woman after he allegedly broke into her Tinley Park
condominium and attacked her last Saturday.
Gary M. Swiercz, 49, who lives in the same building as the alleged victim,
has been charged with attempted first-degree murder, aggravated criminal sexual
assault, aggravated unlawful restraint, home invasion and residential burglary.
Swiercz, the deputy fire chief in Chicago Ridge and a former chief of the
since-disbanded Worth Fire Department, allegedly broke into the woman's unit
early Saturday morning at the building in the 8100 block of 168th Place. Swiercz
allegedly beat the woman, attempted to tie her up and sexually assault her, and
threatened to slit her throat with a folding knife.
At one point during the attack he allegedly forced her to the floor and
smashed her head against the tile surface. The alleged victim was reportedly
treated on the scene for minor injuries.
Swiercz reportedly entered the apartment with the knife as well as rope,
zip-ties, an 8-inch sex toy and a bottle of lubricant.
A neighbor who reportedly heard a woman screaming reported the alleged
incident to police, who reportedly found Swiercz in the parking lot of the
condominium building and arrested him at 2:35 a.m.
Swiercz has been placed on indefinite leave from the department pending an
"investigation surrounding criminal charges regarding an allegation of home
invasion," according to a statement from the Chicago Ridge Fire Department. At
the time of the alleged attack, Swiercz was "off duty and not performing any
duty in his official capacity with the Chicago Ridge Fire Department," according
to the statement. Fire department officials refused to comment further on the
Swiercz, who retired Monday after posting $15,000 bail, is under
court-mandated electronic surveillance while staying at his parent's home in
Swiercz has been with the Chicago Ridge Fire Department for 24 years. No
members of the department ever had a problem with him and he has never before
been placed on administrative leave before, said Chicago Ridge Fire Chief Robert
Swiercz began his firefighter career in Worth in 1984 as a paid on-call
firefighter, a position he held until 1991. He began working full-time as a
deputy chief in Chicago Ridge in 1988. He returned to Worth in 2004 as a
part-time fire chief, and served in that role until November 2006 following the
death of Chief Don Stefaniak, then served another five months in Worth as
parttime chief from August 2008 to December 2008. The Worth Fire Department was
dissolved Jan. 1, 2009 when control was handed over to the North Palos Fire
At one time, Palos Park was a place where buffalo roamed and marksman from
all over the country with nicknames such as "The Terrible Dane," "The Stock
Crank" and "Our Ammunition Factory" came to compete in sharpshooting contests.
It was once a place where writers such as Pearl S. Buck and Sherwood Anderson
and sculptor Lorado Taft hung out.
In 2014, the village turns 100 years old and one of the special projects that
will take place will be the debut of a book jammed with photos and stories about
Palos Park's first century of existence.
While members of the Palos Park Public Library have been gathering material
for this book in recent weeks, they are still seeking out more photos and
information. They have pushed their original deadline from Jan. 31 to
mid-February and people can share their history by dropping items off at the
library, 12330 S. Forest Glen Blvd., or at the Kaptur Center, 8999 W. 123rd St.
The library requests that people place is the photos and information in an
envelope marked "Palos Park Centennial Pictures" and to provide their name,
address, e-mail address and phone number on the back of each photo and that the
story is attached to the photo.
The library is working in conjunction with Arcadia Publishing, which has
produced hundreds of books like this under its "Images of America" series,
including books about nearby Worth and Oak Lawn.
Administrative Librarian Sheila Sosnicki and Public Services Librarian
Jeannine Kacmar are helping to oversee the project.
"These books are usually a compilation of photos of an area," Sosnicki said.
"We're looking at doing this for Palos Park. We also want to emphasize some of
the interesting parts about Palos Park's history. Horseback riding was really
huge back then. It was interesting to hear stories about farms that the families
had. People are really interested in their history and they are happy to share
their stories and talk. Someone brought in school pictures from the 1920s and
from the 1940s and it was fun looking at those."
They discovered that buffalo had roamed in the village limits in the 1920s.
"The Cook County Forest Preserve stocked buffalo," Kacmar said. "I'm not sure
why they did that, but we have photos of them grazing in the forest preserve. We
have photos of people hunting them."
The village's rich history in shooting will be highlighted. Palos Park once
housed the Sharpshooter's Association, which hosted competitions for regional
and national shooters.
In the 1910s, the village hosted the George Washington Birthday Cup Shoot.
Marksmen from all over the country to compete including C.T. Westergaard, who
was known as the "Terrible Dane", C.L. Forsythe, otherwise known as "Our
Ammunition Factory" and Frank Dulleck - a.k.a. "The Stock Crank."
The village has not announced any details about the 100-year anniversary
celebration, but in 2012 officials said they were expanding their Autumn in The
Park Festival in 2012 and 2013 in anticipation for the 100-year anniversary in
The aroma of simmering chili fills the Orland Park Civic Center on Saturday,
Jan. 19, when the village of Orland Park hosts its annual "Chilly Willie Chili
Challenge." Now in its eighth year, Orland Park's annual contest draws
competitors from across the country.
"The village's Chili Challenge is an annual winter favorite," said Orland
Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin. "We have people from all over the country come to
Orland Park to compete and our residents help by voting for their favorite
chilies and serving as judges," the mayor said.
The village's competition is sanctioned by the International Chili Society
(ICS) and the Chili Appreciation Society International (CASI). The winner of the
ICS Competition at Orland Park will qualify to compete in the World Championship
Chili Cook Off. The top winners in the CASI competition receive points to add to
their totals qualifying cooks for the national competition held in Terlingua,
Cooks may compete in ICS traditional red, salsa, verde or homestyle and/or in
CASI traditional red chili. Cooks must be active ICS members to compete in the
ICS Competition. Contestants must be 18 years or older to compete.
"Chili is an art form at Orland Park's competition," said Trustee Pat Gira,
chair of the village's Recreation and Parks Committee. "Orland Park is thrilled
to host this annual contest, which is a fun afternoon in the middle of winter
for so many people," she added.
The International Chili Society has added a new category for 2013 -
homestyle. Designed for locals who have always wanted to enter their chili in a
contest, this category permits beans, which are normally not allowed in the
Cooks may compete in either red chili or homestyle but not both. The cost is
$20 to compete for ICS members and $40 for non-members, which includes the $20
membership fee in ICS Homestyle. The membership fee allows a cook to compete in
any homestyle contest for a year. ICS membership applications appear on the
village's entry forms or cooks may join the organization on the day of the
All chili must be cooked from scratch on site on the day of Orland Park's
Chili Challenge. Beans, macaroni, hominy or other similar ingredients are only
permitted in the homestyle category.
"Every year, we hear about the many great chili cooks in Orland Park,"
McLaughlin said. "It's nice that the ICS has opened its competition, enabling
local residents to compete with their homestyle recipes," the mayor said.
Contestants are required to cook a minimum of two quarts of competition chili
plus an additional gallon for the People's Choice/Public Tasting. Judging is
based on aroma, consistency, color, taste and after taste. Awards are presented
to the top winners in each category.
Approximately 100 judges are needed to judge the event. Individuals
interested in helping to judge Orland Park's competition should contact Patty
Vlazny at 403-6145. Judges must be 18 years and older.
Public tasting at the competition begins at 2 p.m. and continues until the
chili runs out. All-you-can-eat tasting cups will be available for purchase for
$5 each with proceeds benefiting the Village of Orland Park Special Recreation
"We encourage those who want to taste the chili to come as close to 2 p.m. as
possible because this is a very popular event," Gira said.
The Orland Park Civic Center is located at 14750 South Ravinia Avenue, one
block west of La Grange Road. Registration information and further details are
available by calling the Village of Orland Park Recreation Department at
Last week's Whatizit?" was a Gerber Daisy, a fact known, as far as we're
aware, only by Chicago Ridge resident Kathy Higgins and Palos Hills resident
Lois Faragher. We also have to extend our compliments to Robert Solner, Dan and
Kathy Higgins, Lois Faragher, and Carol and Jerry Janicki for getting answering
the Dec. 20 "Whatizit?" correctly. Our deadline day that week was Christmas Eve,
so any responses that came in after noon on Dec. 24 were not included in last
week's paper. Same goes for this week, responses received after noon on Monday
will not be included.
This week's clue is: Right 'round, baby, right 'round! Send responses to
under the subject "Whatizit," and include your first and
last names and where you live.