Who Is R.J. Vanecko?

The first public image of R.J. Vanecko came just before Christmas in 1976.  He was sitting in his grandfather’s lap in what would later be re-named Daley Plaza. 

Eleven days after the photograph ran in the Chicago Sun-Times, Mayor Richard J. Daley, Vanecko’s grandfather and namesake, died.

Now Vanecko has been charged by a Special Grand Jury with one count of involuntary manslaughter in the April 2004 death of David Koschman of Mount Prospect.

The charges contradict a March 2011 decision by police and prosecutors that Vanecko acted that night in self-defense.

Vanecko was 29 at the time of the incident on Chicago’s Division Street. He had been to an engagement party and was on his way to Butch McGuire’s bar with friends Kevin and Bridget McCarthy and Craig Denham, when they bumped into a group that included David Koschman.

Koschman and four friends had spent the night in the Division Street bars, according to family and friends.

On the street that night a verbal argument ensued, according to the police report.  One punch was thrown. Koschman fell striking his head on the pavement. Eleven days later, the 21-year old died as a result of injuries sustained by the blow.

Nearly seven years later, on March 1, 2011, and only after questions were raised by the Chicago Sun-Times, police concluded Vanecko threw the punch that ultimately killed Koschman.  Police and prosecutors declined to press charges, citing self-defense. 

In 2004, at the time of the incident, Vanecko stood approximately 6’3”and weighed about 230 pounds. Koschman at the time of his death was about 5’5” and weighed approximately 140 pounds.

The Cook County Medical Examiner ruled Koschman’s death a homicide.

Immediately after the altercation, Vanecko, according to police reports, left the scene in a cab.   He appeared in a police line-up 25 days later but police said Koschman’s friends could not positively identify him.

Scott Allen one of Koschman’s friends who was with him that night, told the Chicago Sun-Times in 2011 he believed he correctly identified the man in the lineup who threw the punch.  Allen said police told him he was incorrect.

Vanecko is the nephew of former mayor Richard M. Daley, former Cabinet member and ex-White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, County Commissioner John Daley and prominent attorney Michael Daley.

Robert Vanecko, the father of R.J., has been a leading surgeon at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where Koschman was taken in the early morning hours of April 25, 2004.  Dr. Vanecko, according to hospital records, did not treat Koschman.

R.J. Vanecko attended Loyola Academy and according to school records played defensive tackle at John Carroll University in Cleveland. His major was history.   

This is not Vanecko’s first run in with the law.

In 1992, while at a party at Mayor Daley’s summer home in Grand Beach, MI, Vanecko and his cousin Patrick Daley, took part in what was termed a brawl.

Vanecko, 17 at the time, according to police reports, held a shotgun while a 15 year old from Northwest Indiana was struck in the head with a baseball bat. Vanecko entered a guilty plea of alcohol possession and pointing a firearm with malice, both misdemeanors.

Vanecko has declined comment in the Koschman case.  His attorney Terence Gillespie has said his client is the target of a “witch hunt” and fought against the appointment of a Special Prosecutor.

Currently Vanecko is believed to be living in southern California and working in the entertainment industry.

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