Originally published in The Rock River Times.
Ann Bergman and her roommate Rachel had decided to stay at their little apartment on School Street for the evening on August 7, 1962. At least that was the plan before someone knocked on the door. As soon as Rachel saw who it was, she knew their quiet night at home was over. Ann’s boyfriend, 32-year-old Octavio (Chico) Martinez stood at the door, flashing his great smile. That smile had won 18-year-old Ann over as soon as she saw it a few months ago.
It was obvious to Rachel that Ann was smitten with Chico but she wasn’t sure that he return the affection. Rachel knew he liked Ann, but she also realized that he saw other girls. Ann believed that Chico would marry her and take her to Mexico for their honeymoon. That was what Chico had promised Ann. But for that hot August night, it was dancing that Chico wanted. He and Ann were so good that they won several local dance contests. Chico mentioned the Town Hall Tavern on West State Street was having a dance contest that August evening. It wasn’t long before Ann had changed for a night on the town. Rachel just shook her head as she watched her beautiful friend dance out the door. She had no way of knowing that it would be the last time she would ever see Ann alive.
Ann and Chico were a big hit at the tavern. They won the first place prize of a pink bottle of champagne. Witnesses would testify later that the happy couple left at 12:50 a.m. on what was now Wednesday, August 8. Chico’s car was parked about a block away from the tavern.
The phone call came in to the Police Department at 1:20a.m. It was a from a truck driver, John Stannard who spotted a man’s body on a part of Belt Line Road close to the Kishwaukee intersection. Police arrived within a few minutes to find a bullet ridden body of a man on the side of the road. He had been shot once in the shoulder and twice in the left chest. The bullets pierced his heart. He had other damage to his body and one of his shoes was scuffed up.
Police quickly identified Chico Martinez and realized that he had been accompanied by a young lady that evening. The frantic search for Ann Bergman began. The police followed the trail left by both Chico and Ann until they could account for their whereabouts except for a seven minute window. It was during this seven minutes that the couple was forced into a vehicle and driven toward the outskirts of town. Police believed that Chico had panicked and a struggle took place during which he was shot. They thought that Chico’s foot might have gotten caught when he attempted to jump from the vehicle. The driver stopped the car and the shooter put two more rounds into his body before jumping back into the vehicle to make his getaway.
Police believed that young Ann had been a witness to Chico’s killing. They also guessed that she would not be found alive. It took seven agonizing days for the theory to be proven correct. Ann’s family and friends searched everywhere for her. They hoped that she had gotten away from the men who had so brutally killed Chico and was hiding somewhere, too afraid to come forward.
The weather on the evening of August 14 was pleasant and Richard Boehm of Byron was taking his five children for a walk down the road by his home. It was 8:15 when Richard walked along Highway 72 on the east side of the river and spotted something in the long grass. As he walked closer, he was horrified to see a foot sticking up in the long grass. Unfortunately for the police, the story broke before they had the chance to notify Ann’s family. Her parents and four younger brothers discovered the horrible truth when news anchor Bruce Richardson interrupted the show they were watching on the television with an announcement of the police finding Ann’s body. It was a moment that would haunt both the police and the family for a long time.
The coroner conducted the autopsy under a tent placed over the spot where they found Ann’s body. She had suffered damage to her body including a shattered shoulder. She had been shot once through the heart. Police thought that Ann had died the same night as Chico. They believed that they had been killed at the same time and for some reason, they loaded Ann back into the car and drove on Kiskwaukee Road until they dropped her body in those bushes. The authorities presented this theory to the family in hopes that it gave them some relief that Ann was not terrorized before she was killed. The thought of her riding in that car after witnessing Chico shot and knowing that she was next was too much for the family to bear.
The newspapers ran this story many times over the years. They even offered a $5,000 reward. But the money was never claimed. Police searched for years for a motive to these killings. The only thing they came up with is that perhaps Chico’s play boy ways caused someone to want him dead. Unfortunately, Ann was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
These murders have been cold for a long time. The mystery of their deaths haunted the entire community. Chico left behind two young children who grew up without their father. Ann’s parents died without ever knowing who killed their beautiful daughter. Her four brothers spoke often of their family motto, “You aren’t dead unless you are forgotten.”
Copyright © 2018 Kathi Kresol, Haunted Rockford Events