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Saturday, August 1, 2009

Today's Spotlight On: 29 Year Old Cold Case Solved!

To get the full background of this story, click here. The reason for my interest in this particular case is because it occurred in my hometown, less than a mile from my parent's home, in 1980 when I was ten years old.
The events of that late summer I have never forgotten and over the 29 years that has ensued, there were times when I thought about it from time to time. Something would remind me of it, and I would recall it vividly and would always wonder; who had done his crime? Where was this person now? And most of all, would any of us ever find out what happened to these two young people?
I cannot help but feel a great deal of sympathy to the families of the two young people who were murdered, because I can't imagine how painful it must be to not know, to wonder.....when even I, a complete stranger who didn't even personally know them, still remember it so much. How much more agonizing it must be to those who loved them.
Even at 10 years old, I could not escape the knowledge of what had happened then. It had occurred so close to my home, in a place that was so familiar to me, and very close to the elementary school where just two months earlier I had finished the fourth grade. There was no way that you could not know about it. It was everywhere; in the news, the TV, on the lips of everyone. The police cars all over the town and air searches by helicopters could not be ignored as they passed over our house. Some of the murdered girls' clothing was found along the highway that passed in front of our house. Nobody could talk about anything else.
Jefferson County then was very rural; and in a way it still is, although it is much more populated now and there are less dairy farms and more houses than there was in my youth. Concord was, and still is, an unincorporated little blurb in the road. It consisted of, in short; one street, a town hall, a bar, a church, and an elementary school. A few houses along Concord Center Road terminated at the Concord House and adjacent campgrounds, past which there was nothing else but woods and farm fields. The Concord House was a former slaughterhouse, turned into a large, rustic dance hall. My parents' home was only a mile from it. I attended many dances at the Concord House myself when I was older, and perhaps a half a dozen wedding receptions as well. What had happened there was never far from anyone's mind when we would go there. I never liked to go out into the vast, dark and mostly un-lighted parking lot by myself. I don't think most of us liked to do so, and parents were always sure to warn us about the dangers of it.

"Don't go out into the parking lot by yourselves and even if you are with someone, be careful. You all know what happened out there to those other kids." was what they would say to us in cautionary tones. At age 14, and attending one of the frequent Snowmobile Club dances, myself and a friend would warily venture outside occasionally so we could talk to boys un-observed by adults. We never strayed too far from the lighted area by the numerous doors both in front and on the sides of the large building. When I was there for wedding receptions even years later, if I had to run out to my car for any reason, I still loathed to go alone, even as an adult.
When the two young people were found to be missing, the largest manhunt in the county failed to find them. Everyone feared the worst, especially when weeks went by and nothing was found. It wasn't until almost 3 months later their remains were found, at the edge of some woods and a cornfield on Hustisford Road. I remembered feeling a nasty shock about that, and an eerie chill. I had started the fifth grade that September and rode a school bus to Watertown every day. Our school bus always took Hustisford Road and we passed by that cornfield and woods every day. I remember gazing out the bus windows at those same fields as we passed; never suspecting that the murdered teens were lying there, undiscovered, for another month. There are houses there now. I don't live in the area anymore and have little occasion to pass by Hustisford Road, but whenever I have, I always remember that's where they found them and I always wonder if the people who built their house there know about it. It seems a morbid thought, but one I cannot help but remember. Like I have said; it was something that I never forgot and I know I was not the only one either. In these small rural towns, you don't expect things like that to happen and when it does, I think it's such a shock to the system that it can never lose it's vividness for those who lived there, even 29 years later.
I recall that the TV show Unsolved Mysteries featured the case sometime in the late 80s, early 90s. I believe I was out of high school or almost out of high school, and I remember watching it on TV and that my boyfriend's mother taped the segment on her VCR. We all wondered if any new information that could solve the case would come of it, but apparently, if it did generate any leads, I never heard about them. Again, there was almost as much discussion of the murders in town after the TV airing as when it had happened. Most people had felt at the time, and still felt 9 years later, that the murderer was not a local, long-term resident and that he (it was always assumed it was a man, perhaps more than one man) had probably left the area soon after. Even though this was the thought, nobody could be sure, of course, which is why people always were on their guard at the Concord House, and other places like it, even though it was highly unlikely the perpretrator would strike again at the exact same place. "But", as we often remarked to each other, "you never know and it doesn't hurt to be careful".
Ironically, perhaps, I had just mentioned the case to E only a few weeks ago. An acquaintance had mentioned to E that he knew the current owners of a place called the Concord House in Jefferson County, and he thought that he might be able to set up a show there for E's band, even if it was quite some distance from the Milwaukee area and their usual gig locations. E said he was very familiar with the place and had heard of it, through me, of course. The Concord House still has wedding receptions, dances and bands play there, of course. When E mentioned this to me, I exclaimed in surprise. I asked him if I had ever told him about the murders there.
It had become the stuff of grotesque and dark urban legend in the last 29 years, even though we all knew it was a true legend. He said he had recalled me mentioning it once when we drove past it after a visit to my mother's house (she still lives in Concord), but apparently I had never given him the full account of it. After I had done so, I said aloud for the hundreth time, "I wonder if they will ever solve that case!"

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