The two young girls that lived at 3013 Edelweiss Road in Rockford were getting ready for bed around 11:30 on the night of December 4, 1979. They lived in a duplex that was a mirror image of their neighbor’s place and they heard strange noises coming from the bedroom of the adjoining apartment. The girls would later describe the sounds as “loud thumping” and “muffled screaming”. At first, they were curious but that quickly turned to fear and concern. The girls knew the young couple that lived next door. They noticed that 23-year old Rosemary’s car was parked in her usual place. Rosemary lived in the apartment with her 23 year old fiancé, Willard. The girls noticed that his car was missing from the parking area. They figured that Willard was working late and Rosemary was home by herself.
The two girls were concerned enough to go around to the front of Rosemary’s apartment and knock on the door. They called out to the girl and asked if everything was alright. A man’s voice answered saying, “Rose and me just had a fight.” The girls assumed that Willard must be home after all and returned to their apartment.
They were even more startled a few minutes later when they heard Rosemary shouting for help and asking them to call the police. The girls didn’t phone the police but raced around to the front of the building. They found the front door unlocked and entered the apartment. What they saw in the bedroom was too horrible for them to comprehend.
Rosemary was on her bed with one arm tied to the bedpost with a neck tie. Part of her clothing had been removed and the girls could see that she had been stabbed numerous times. One hand was almost completely severed from the wrist. A machete and four steak knives were left on the floor. When they arrived, even the seasoned police officers were stunned by the brutality of the attack on Rosemary. The fact that many of them had sisters or daughters the same age as Rose made them even more determined to catch the man who had hurt her.
Rosemary was taken to St. Anthony Hospital where the doctors rushed her into surgery. Though they worked on her for hours and gave her 50 pints of blood, Rosemary died the next evening, without regaining consciousness. The injuries inflicted on the once pretty girl were horrible to see. Her cause of death was a blow to the head and the massive blood loss she sustained from her injuries.
Everyone who knew Rosemary couldn’t believe that the beautiful and bubbly girl was gone. It was even harder for them to understand the motive for the vicious attack. Since the door showed no signs of forced entry, the police theorized that Rosemary knew her attacker and let them inside. Her friends and family were adamant that Rosemary would not have opened the door to a stranger.
The police worked diligently to solve this case. The only clues they had were the murder weapons and a pair of blood soaked pair of gloves. Every detective on the force was assigned to work the homicide and by the end of the first week, more than 50 interviews had been conducted. They started the investigation by taking a closer look at her fiancé, Willard. Willard’s co-workers stated that he had been at work the entire time. The police also spoke to dozens of Rosemary’s co-workers both at her current job and her former one at the Belvidere Chrysler Plant. No one they questioned to could give them any insight into the case. None knew of any motive for someone to hurt the popular young woman.
People in the neighborhood were frightened by the attack and many replaced locks and armed themselves. As police worked their way through the quiet streets in the surrounding area, they noticed other emotions, as well. Some of the neighbors felt guilty that they hadn’t heard the life and death struggle that was taking place mere feet away from where they lived. Other people living in the area were angry that someone had come into their safe neighborhood and attacked one of their own. They spoke of revenge and of bringing the man responsible to justice.
But that justice would never come. This December will mark the 40th anniversary of the attack on Rosemary Peterson. Police have spent years working through the theories and rumors. They have followed every lead and talked to hundreds of people. In the beginning, the authorities thought they would solve it quickly. They were sure that someone would talk, whether it was the perpetrator bragging or someone he had told about the vicious attack.
There was new hope in 1981 when Police Chief Delbert Peterson brought Crime Stoppers to Rockford. Rosemary’s murder was featured along with several others. A reward was offered and a dramatization of the crime was shown on local television stations. No new leads surfaced.
Hope for a solution has all but faded now and as of this writing, no one has been held accountable for the brutal attack on Rosemary Peterson. The newspapers haven’t mention the case in a while but Rosemary’s case is remembered on the Illinois Cold Case Files on Facebook and through the Crimestoppers website at http://www.rockfordcrimestoppers.com.
Anyone with information of Rosemary’s murder is urged to call the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Police Detective Bureau at (815) 319-6400 or Crime Stoppers (815) 963-7867.
Copyright © 2019 Kathi Kresol, Haunted Rockford Events