His late father was a legendary Chicago Police Department homicide detective with an infamous Irish sense of humor and a knack for solving big murder cases.
Dad’s photo was often splashed across Chicago’s front pages as he escorted a variety of crazed killers in cuffs to their doom. Those were big shoes to fill for Bill Donnelly Jr.
His dad wasn’t crazy about his son joining the police, but when it’s in your blood there’s no denying it.
Now retired after a 32-year career in law enforcement himself, as a CPD Detective and investigator, He’s known today as a cop’s cop and above all, a stand-up guy.
They called in the Secret Service and next thing you know the place is crawling with feds, who ask Bill, “Do you know who this guy is? We’ve been looking for this guy!”
One of the highlights of Bill’s career came when he and his partner Jay Hegarty captured the most notorious counterfeiter in history, Art Williams.
“It was a beautiful sunny day; Jay and I are in an unmarked car and the beat car is asking for help. They got a juvenile in the back seat who got clipped by his dad. So we talked to the kid, he sez my dad slapped me around because I got mouthy with his girlfriend.
"The cops had separated father and son and cuffed them both cuz they were fighting each other. The kid manages to squeeze a fake twenty out of his back pocket and tells the cops, “I got this from my dad….and there’s more up in the apartment.”
Dad sez 'that’s bullshit and you can even search if you want' and Bill tells me ‘That was my opening.' He gets the dad to sign a search form, they go upstairs and find a fake twenty on the stairs, a hundred-dollar bill on the landing, and a couple more on the kitchen table, with an exacto knife and other ominous stuff laying about.
They called in the Secret Service and next thing you know the place is crawling with feds, who ask Bill, 'Do you know who this guy is? We’ve been looking for this guy.'
Now retired, Bill is currently an investigator for the Cook County Sates Attorney’s Office. Locating people, tracking witnesses, victims, delivering subpoenas, “just trying to bring people back into the court system.” He’s been a piper with The Emerald Society Pipes and Drums for over a dozen years.
That’s gotta be a change of pace from the days when he was tracking “Dracula” across the south side of the city.
“We got on to this one guy and figured out there was a pattern going on of stickups. The offender was using a knife.”
“Sometimes you get a whisper from somebody on the street. This was in the ‘Back of the Yards’ in particular, this guy was doing stickups from Ashland all the way to Kedzie. So he was picking on the Mexican immigrants. I don’t even know if he spoke Spanish. He was very Americanized, but when we got onto him we kept hearing the whisper of “Drac” Who is this “Drac” guy? Well short for Dracula. Once we finally met him and throw a stop on him, you see he had these huge canines. He looked like Dracula. He was very proud of it.
"To give you an idea how proud he was he had 'Drac' tattooed in big eight-inch block letters across his abdomen.
"Drac had a whole crew of accomplices involved in the knife stickups across the neighborhood. So this guy’s a penitentiary rat…he’s doing stickups during his rock diet, cocaine was his favorite. The guy was just evil.”
Drac and his pals would terrorize folks and then go celebrate with drugs in an abandoned two-flat. And then one night Bill Donnelly and his crew busted them all.
“It was a rainy night. So we’re coming up to the door and we’re hearing these blood-curdling screams, it sounded like a little girl screaming, we go in through the door and there’s Drac.”
Inside they find Drac torturing one of his accomplices, with a can of hair spray and a Bic lighter, his home-made blow torch, as the guy crabbed backwards up the stairs.
Bill and his cop crew busted them all and when interrogating Drac he asked him what was the deal with the blow torch? Drac sez, “I can be a bad mutha fucka when I wanna be.”
Drac went back to jail for a long time, thanks to Detective Bill Donnelly.
Bill Donnelly Sr. up in heaven is mighty proud of his son the cop.