Originally published in The Rock River Times.
The three women in the following story had several similarities. They were all young, they were all white, and they were all murdered. All three are part of a large club in Rockford that no one ever wants to join. The unsolved murder club.
The first of the three murders was discovered at 8:30a.m. on October 25, 1986, at the Kishwaukee Gorge Forest Preserve on Black Hawk Road. The young woman was found lying in the grass about 40 feet from the gate. A forest preserve employee spotted the woman. She was completely clothed except she was missing one of her red high heeled shoes. The body had a single stab wound to her chest. Authorities thought the woman had been dead about 12 hours and that she had been killed somewhere else.
The dead girl was later identified as 22-year old Cheryl Griffin. Cheryl had lived her whole life in Rockford. She had three children and a family who loved her. But Cheryl had made some bad choices and ran with a rough crowd. She frequented drug houses and was reported to be a prostitute.
The newspapers ran the story for months, especially when authorities found out that Cheryl was supposed to testify in the attempted murder trial of Michael Hall. Cheryl had witnessed a dispute between Hall and Terry Taylor. The two men were fighting on the 600 block of Mulberry Street when Hall shot Taylor in the lower abdomen. According to what Cheryl had shared with investigators, both men were known as pimps and they were fighting over the “proceeds” from the girls that worked the area. The police did not believe the cases were related. Hall was found guilty of the attempted murder and sentenced to 30 years.
Unfortunately, because of Cheryl’s high risk lifestyle and the fear of what would happen to anyone who helped police, the case went cold fast. Cheryl was last seen in the 7th Street and 4th Avenue area by two cab drivers who knew her. No one saw who picked her up.
While investigating Cheryl’s case, the police had plenty of people to question: associates, friends, and family members. The people might not have any information that they wanted to share, but at least the police had somewhere to start. The next case would be very different.
On October 28, 1990, three men were walking on the west side of Rockford. They were carrying loaded B B guns and were shooting at different targets in the woods. They were around the intersection of Cunningham Road and Horace Avenue. The men stumbled on the nude, partially decomposed body of a young woman. The area was known as a dumping ground for garbage. There was a lot of debris around but the authorities didn’t know if any of it belonged to the victim. The medical examiner thought she had been outside for ten days prior to the discovery. The authorities were able to identify her through her fingerprints.
Elizabeth was not from Rockford. She grew up in Dixon, Illinois and left her family to move to Rockford. The family had no idea where Elizabeth lived, worked or who any of her friends were. They had not heard from Elizabeth for a while. Elizabeth died from blunt force trauma to her head and body. The authorities admitted that they needed someone who knew Elizabeth to come forward and give them information.
The next girl was found a couple of months after Elizabeth. On January 15, 1991 at 10:00 a.m. a man working for the Rockford Park Cable Company was checking wires behind the Doyle’s Circle K Lounge at the intersection of Sandy Hollow and Alpine Roads. He found the partially clothed body of Connie Heerdt. The 30 year old woman had been beaten and strangled to death.
Connie, like the other two girls in this story had made some bad choices in her life. She had gotten involved with cocaine and ran with a rough crowd. But she remained close with her family and was trying to get her life back on track when she was killed. The last sighting of Connie was at 2:30 in the morning on January 15. A police officer spotted her walking on 7th Street and 12th Avenue.
In each of these three cases, the girls lived on the fringe of society. They had high risk lifestyles that put them in harm’s way. But they were also someone’s daughter, someone’s sister and in one case, someone’s mother. One of the girl’s family members stated, “No matter how bad her life was, she didn’t deserve to be beat to death and strangled.”
The authorities want to solve these cases but they need someone to come forward with information. If you have any information regarding these or any of the cold cases please call. Winnebago County Sheriff’s Police Detective Bureau 815 319-6400 or email ColdCases@wcso-il.us
You can also call Crimestoppers 815-963-7867. Crimestoppers will never ask your name and does not have caller ID.
Copyright © 2019 Kathi Kresol, Haunted Rockford Events