Northern Illinois man's body to be exhumed in 1948 cold case

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Friday, May 29, 2015

OREGON, Ill. -- The former mayor of a northern Illinois city is making a final attempt to crack an unsolved double homicide dating back to 1948.

The shooting deaths occurred on the outskirts of Oregon, about 100 miles west of Chicago. Telephone operator and Navy veteran Stanley Skridla, 28, was killed while on a date with Mary Jane Reed, 17, who was found dead four days later about 2 miles away.

Former mayor Mike Arians, who has been investigating the killings for more than 15 years, is coordinating an exhumation and autopsy of Skridla's body on Thursday. He hopes the autopsy reveals evidence that will make a break in the nearly 67-year-old case.

Arians has spent more than $100,000 on his investigation since becoming enthralled with the slayings after moving to Oregon in the late 1990s, he told the Chicago Tribune. Arians' personal quest to identify the killer has led him to believe it could have been a now-dead local law enforcement officer who had an affair with Reed, and that a cover-up was orchestrated by other local authorities.

His theory, which is almost entirely based on circumstantial evidence, prompted an Ogle County sheriff's investigation in the mid-2000s, which determined that two brothers most likely killed the couple in a botched robbery attempt. But no one was charged, and Arians refuses to accept the official conclusion due to botched police work in the original investigation.

After Arians organized the exhumation of Reed's body in 2005, a forensic anthropologist discovered that the skull in her casket didn't match the rest of the body.

Arians also claims Reed's spirit routinely visits his restaurant in Oregon and that paranormal activity there increases anytime his work on the case slows.

Although Arians has dedicated lots of time and money on the investigation, it will be finished if the exhumation and review don't lead to new evidence, he said. But he remains hopeful that his efforts will be fruitful.

"There's a better than 50-50 chance that we're going to find something out of the ordinary" in Skridla's remains, said Arians, who believes bullets may be found in the body.

Arians expects autopsy results by Friday.

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