Vincent Yankavich’s name had been mentioned in the Rockford newspapers many times over the years. He was a star baseball and basketball player in high school. Vincent was so popular with the other basketball players that he was chosen Captain of the team in 1925.
Vincent had such potential as an athlete that he was chosen to play for Cedar Rapids semi pro baseball team in the Mississippi league. The whole city of Rockford was proud of Vincent and many would attend any game he was involved in just for the chance to see him play.
But Vincent faded from the headlines and other athletes took his place. He settled down to a quiet life, working for National Lock and living in the home with his mother, Magdaline. By the beginning of 1937, Vincent had faded from most people’s memories.
This made the headlines of February 6, 1937 even more unbelievable. People were shocked when Vincent was once again mentioned in the Rockford’s papers. On this particular morning, Vincent’s name was splashed across the paper for committing a murder.
He had been acting strangely for a couple of months and that intensified in the week leading up to the murder. In fact, Vincent’s sister and brother had become quite alarmed by his actions. They spoke to their mother, Magdaline about it but she assured them that Vincent would be fine. She promised to speak to Vincent about his bizarre behavior. Magdaline was certain that his behavior was due to his excessive drinking.
There were no witnesses to the crime that early morning in February but police were able to piece together a theory of the altercation that took place. Apparently, Magdaline did confront Vincent and told him that he needed to stop his drinking. Vincent flew into a rage and tried to choke Magdaline. She broke away from him and ran out of the house screaming for help. Seeking safety, she ran to the rental house in the back of the property. She was admitted inside by two young girls. Magdaline sent them to a nearby house to alert the authorities.
Vincent quickly followed his mother into the house. A neighbor, Oscar Turnquist heard Magdaline’s cries for help and burst through the back door. As he entered into the living room of the house, he found Vincent sitting on the couch with blood on his face and hands. Magdaline was lying face down on the floor. Her head was badly damaged. It appeared that Vincent had used the wand from the canister vacuum cleaner to kill her. Vincent stood up, handed Turnquist the wand, and walked out the door.
Police arrived to find Vincent in the family home at 1224 23rd Avenue. He was calmly washing his hands. The police asked him if he had anything to do with his mother’s death. He calmly replied, “Sure I did. “ When he was asked why he would do such a horrible thing, Vincent claimed that Magdaline missed her husband, Charlie who had died about ten years prior. “I sent her to heaven.” Vincent stated.
Vincent continued to demonstrate bizarre behavior even after he was incarcerated in the City jail. He continuously struck the bars of his cell and the guards grew so concerned that they were forced to tie him to the bed.
The judge presiding over the case decided that Vincent should be examined by an alienist (the name for psychiatrists of that time). No one was surprised when Dr. E. W Fell pronounced Vincent to be criminally insane. The judge sentenced Vincent to be committed to Menard’s Prison for the Criminally Insane in Chester, Illinois.
In August of 1937, Vincent made headlines once more. On August 16, Vincent hung himself in his cell at the Chester Penitentiary. His family had his body sent to Rockford to be buried next to his mother in St. Mary’s Cemetery. It was a sad ending for a boy who once showed so much potential.
Copyright © 2020 Kathi Kresol, Haunted Rockford Events