The people that lived on Pershing Avenue all knew each other. This was pretty typical in Rockford in 1961. It was a different city back then. People knew and looked out for their neighbors. So it wasn’t surprising that it was the neighbors who notified the police that they hadn’t seen their neighbors in a few days.
Milford and Ionis Ihlenfield worked from their home breeding dogs. Milford previously worked for a construction business but the couple hit a rough spot in the summer of 1961. Milford lost his job and the financial strain caused the couple to fight almost constantly.
Then in early August of 1961, there was an explosion at the house. Ionis was cooking up some food for the seventeen dogs that they had at the house when the pressure cooker she was using exploded. The fire caused $1500.00 worth of damage to the home. This certainly did not help the couple’s financial situation.
On Monday, August 13 in the evening a neighbor saw Milford outside the home. They chatted for a while about the Ihlenfield’s situation. The neighbor would tell authorities later that Milford seemed to be very upset about losing his driver’s license. He had gotten pulled over and the police officer kept his license because, as Milford told it, he didn’t have car insurance. The men said goodnight and the neighbor was startled when Milford began walking away and suddenly stopped. Milford turned back and said, “There really isn’t any point to go on any longer.”
A short time later the quiet neighborhood was shaken by the sound of a loud argument. They breathed a sigh of relief when the noise finally stopped.
Everything seemed back to normal over the next few days. But then the neighbors noticed that it had been awhile since anyone had since Milford or Ionis. They all knew that the couple owned seventeen dogs. No one had seen them for a few days either. One neighbor questioned another until the whole neighborhood was talking about the couple. Finally, on Friday, August 19 one neighbor realized they had not seen the couple since Monday night.
The authorities were called. They arrived and had to kick in the door to gain access to the home. The first officers that entered were horrified at the sight before them. There was a body lying face down on the floor. There was another, this one a female, lying on the sofa.
The investigation was hampered at first by the dogs that were wandering all over the house. When the house was searched, the officers found one dog dead and the others near death.
The officers received assistance from the Rockford Animal Hospital who sent food for the animals. The dogs were transported to Winnebago County Human Society.
The police questioned neighbors and were able to put together a timeline for the couple. The last time anyone had seen the couple was Monday evening. Coroner Sundberg determined that Milford has shot his wife while she slept on the couch at around 11:00p.m. Then Milford put the shotgun to his own head.
Coroner Sundberg, the police officers, and the North Park Fire Department worked for hours to get the animals delivered to safe lodgings. They also cleaned the house and had the blood spattered furniture removed.
Ionis was laid to rest at Cedar Bluff Cemetery and her grave marked by a nice stone. Milford was also buried there according to the burial records, right next to Ionis. There is, however, no marker for his grave.
Copyright © 2016 Kathi Kresol, Haunted Rockford Events