Samantha Hochmann is a historian by trade and also a paranormal enthusiast. She is the Executive Director of Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum, a widely known paranormal hotspot in the Rockford community. She also participates with various historical committees and boards in the Rockford area. Sam has been volunteering with the Haunted Rockford team for the past couple of years.
Sam’s love for history started at a very young age, and her interests in the paranormal stem from growing up with a sensitivity to the paranormal realm. When she is not researching in the library or giving tours of the museum, you can find her reading spooky stories and walking through the local cemeteries.
Most people in Northern Illinois wouldn’t have recognized the names Catherine Rekate, Carl A. Reimann, or Betty F. Piche. But that would change on December 29, 1972. It was a Friday night and the Christmas lights were still up in the Pine Village Steakhouse and Tavern in Yorkville, Illinois. The dinner rush had ended and 16 year old Catherine Rekate was finishing her shift as a dishwasher. Her father, Donald, was already out in the parking lot to give her a ride home. Catherine had begged her parents to let her get the job only a few weeks before. She wanted extra money to buy Christmas presents.
There were only a few other people inside the restaurant when Carl A. Reimann walked in with his girlfriend, Betty F. Piche. The staff knew the couple but one waitress, Harriet thought it odd that Betty was wearing a blonde wig that night. Harriet was working in the back a few moments later when the terrifying sounds of gunfire rang out. She ran out the back door and across the yard to the owner’s house. Wendell Flint couldn’t quite understand the hysterical girl that pounded on his door that night. He only understood the words “gunshots fired”.
Catherine’s father, Donald Rekate was an amateur radio buff and he quickly called the police on his scanner when he heard the gunshots. He was able to give a description of the couple that came running out of the steakhouse. Donald also managed to notice the direction the car headed as it sped away from the parking lot.
Police Officer Richard Randall and owner Wendell Flint arrived at about the same time. They were horrified by the scene. “There were bodies all over the place.” Flint would state later. Officer Randall would describe it as the most heinous crime scene of his career. There were three bodies behind the bar and one victim was on the floor in front of the bar. Another man who tried to flee made it to the dining room before he was shot.
Kendall County Coroner, William Dunn would later describe the scene as a “bloody massacre.” Everyone was astonished to find one of the victims clinging to life. John Wilson was a bartender at the restaurant. He had been shot twice in the head. Though all efforts were made to save him, Wilson succumbed to his injuries a few days later.
The officers’ horror at the brutal scene quickly grew when they realized that there was a couple with two small children hiding under one of the tables near the bar. They rushed the hysterical family to safety. The family told officers they had entered the restaurant just as Reimann and Piche were gathering the money from the cash register. Reimann told them to sit down and not to look at them. Later police would find out that Reimann had planned to shoot the family but he ran out of ammunition.
Coroner Dunn made his way through the restaurant examining the dead. The victims were: 35 year old Dave Gardner, who stopped by the restaurant to get his family dinner, Robert Loftus a 48 year old retired Navy Veteran, 73 year old George T. Pashade, a chef at the Pineville for 11 years and 16 year old Catherine Rekate. One doesn’t even want to think about what was going through Donald’s mind as he waited outside the scene for news about his daughter.
Forty minutes later near the small town of Morris, Illinois a police cruiser spotted the 1959 Chevrolet and pulled it over. Carl A. Reimann still carried the .32 caliber chrome automatic revolver that he had used in the shooting spree. The police were also able to recover the money that was taken. The $500.00 amount seemed too small for the death of five people.
Authorities learned that Reimann had served two years in a Nebraska prison for armed robbery. He came to live with his mother in Sandwich, Illinois upon his release. They theorized that maybe this time Reimann decided not to leave any witnesses.
This crime changed life for everyone in Northern Illinois. People found it hard to believe that the slight, young man could shoot five people in cold blood. The defense team argued that there was no way that Reimann and Piche would receive a fair trial in Kendall County. The lawyers won their argument and the case was shifted to Winnebago County.
The week-long trial began in May of 1973. Seven men and five women listened to all the horrendous details of the crime. It was the first time that the details were released to the public. Some of the victims had been shot more than once but they had all been killed with shots to the head.
Carl A. Reimann was sentenced to a 50 to 150 year for each of the 5 counts of murder and a 20 to 60 year sentence for the robbery charge. Betty F. Piche was sentenced to serve a 20-60 year term for each of the 5 murders and a 10 to 30 year term for the robbery charge.
This case has continued to gain headlines even though 49 years have passed. Piche served her sentence and was released in 1983. She died in 2004. Carl A. Reimann was paroled under a lot of protest in 2018. In fact, people in the towns where he tried to settle protested three times before the state could find someplace for him to live.
Officer Randall kept in touch with Catherine Rekate’s family through the years. The Rekate family’s greatest fear was that Reimann would be released from prison. Donald passed away on December 30, 1995, long before Reimann walked free. Randall remembered that people in Yorkville were grateful for that. “There is only so much heartache one family can take.”