Originally published in The Rock River Times.

The Little Spring Creek winds its way through Whiteside County near the small town of Coleta.  The creek has been drawing people to its banks for many years.  The area once hosted hay rides through the woods along the creek for families to enjoy.  

When three teenage boys began their hike alongside the Little Spring Creek on April 15, 1995, they were probably hoping to find something exciting in the woods.  They had no way of knowing that their hike would begin a story that is still unsolved 24 years later.

The boys were hiking along the bank and came to a part of the creek where tree branches had built up.  They spotted what appeared to be a leg in the water.  At first, they believed it to be part of a plastic mannequin, so one of the boys decided to check.  One can only imagine his horror when he discovered it was flesh and bone.   The boys raced to Milledgeville to report the gruesome find.

Police descended on the area and 18 hours after the first discovery, they had found the other leg, two arms and a torso.  The body had been mutilated and at first, police could not identify whether it was a male or female.  State pathologists were called to help.

The sleepy little town of Coleta was soon over run with police and visitors who flocked to glimpse where the body was discovered.  The town population was only 150 at the time but police later stated that at least another 150 people came to see the location on the Sunday following the discovery.

Almost a week after the initial parts were discovered the authorities finally found the victim’s head.  It was inside a plastic bag and weighted down by rocks in 4 feet of water.  Though badly decomposed, the police were hopeful that identification could be made.  Whiteside County Sheriff Roger Schipper was quoted in the paper, “This was a very disturbed person-someone very angry –and by doing this they thought they wouldn’t get caught.”  Schipper believed that the victim had been killed somewhere else and dumped into the fast moving creek.  The creek’s current was running so quickly at the time that the body could have been transported for miles.

He also had a theory that whoever had killed Kimberly knew the area of Little Spring Creek well.

Authorities agreed stating that the area was remote and that “most people from Rockford would never even know it (the creek) was here.”

Whiteside County Coroner Joe McDonald autopsied the body and noticed that the victim had received major dental work.  He was hopeful that the distinctive work, including a ceramic tooth would help identify the victim.  McDonald was unable to find the cause of death because of the advanced state of decomposition and the mutilation to the body.

The body was soon identified as 27 year old Kimberly Mabry.  Her family had reported her missing from Rockford in September 1994. Because of Kimberly’s life style the family did not realize she had been missing until September 23.  The last time anyone could remember seeing Kimberly was around September 1.

Kimberly once had the promise of a brighter future far away from where bad decisions and circumstances beyond her control led her.  She had graduated from high school, spent two years at Rock Valley College and had dreams of opening her own design and marketing business.  Friends spoke of her amazing natural artistic talent.  They also spoke of her love for her young son.

Somewhere along the line, Kimberly’s world became dark.  She struggled with a chronic painful diagnosis of lupus which caused her to become depressed. She lost her dreams of building her own business and worked as a go-go dancer at Dancer’s Lounge on 7th Street. Then Kimberly lost custody of her little boy.  Friends and family said she spoke often of getting him back. 

Kimberly was last seen as she left an appointment on September 1.  She seemed very anxious and afraid on that day.  By the time police received the missing persons report over three weeks had passed.  That is a lot of time to make up in a case like this.  Police officers interviewed friends and family to establish when she was last seen.  They even took the unorthodox approach of appealing to the people who frequented the seedier establishments in the city. They questioned dancers, prostitutes, drug dealers and even the homeless people trying to get someone to come forward who might have seen something.  But the case went cold early on. 

Police haven’t given up on the case and Kimberly’s name appears on several websites for cases of unsolved murders and missing people.  One only has to visit one of these websites to see how daunting the task of solving her murder has been.  Hundreds of names fill each website and it is heart wrenching to see the victims faces and read their stories knowing that their families will never receive the justice they deserve.

But hopefully Kimberly’s family can take some small comfort that authorities were able to find her and bring her home.  She was buried next to family in Scandinavian Cemetery.

Twenty four years have passed since those three boys went for their hike on that remote creek miles away from Rockford.  Authorities still remain hopeful that maybe someone who knows something about Kimberly’s case will step forward.  They ask that anyone with any information please contact Whiteside County Sheriff’s Lt. John Booker at 815-772-4044 or email him at jbooker@whiteside.org

Those wishing to remain anonymous can call Crimestoppers at 815-625-7867.

 

Copyright © 2019 Kathi Kresol, Haunted Rockford Events