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Voices from the Grave: The mysterious deaths of Stan Skridla and Mary Jane Reed
By Kathi Kresol
Local historian, paranormal investigator and operator of Haunted Rockford Paranormal Events
“Time heals all wounds” is a familiar saying, and while it may work that way for some things, even time can’t heal the wounds that the families of Stan Skridla and Mary Jane Reed have suffered. It has been 66 years since the two young people were found murdered, and while there has been much speculation and many accusations, no one has ever been arrested for the crimes. The only thing the people involved in the investigation can agree on is that on the evening of Thursday, June 24, 1948, these two people were attacked.
Stanley Skridla was 28 years old in 1948. He was born May 8, 1920, and attended school in Rockford, graduating from Rockford High School. Stan served in the U.S. Navy from October 1943 until December 1945. He had been stationed in the Pacific and had seen action on the island of Guam during World War II. He was honorably discharged Dec. 20, 1945.
In February 1946, Stan was employed by the Illinois Bell Telephone Company as a lineman. He was working in the Oregon, Illinois, area in 1948 and living with his widowed mother, Amelia, in a house on Loomis Street in Rockford.
Mary Jane Reed grew up in Oregon, Illinois. Her parents were Mr. and Mrs. Clifford Reed, and her father worked at the silica plant in Oregon. Mary Jane was reported to be popular, especially with the opposite sex. That is easy to understand when one sees her picture. She had a very captivating smile, blondish-red hair and beautiful blue eyes.
Stanley and Mary Jane met through their jobs with the telephone company. She was a telephone operator with DeKalb-Ogle Telephone Company, and Stanley was working in the area. They arranged for a date on Thursday, June 24, 1948, when Mary Jane finished her shift at 10 p.m.
They visited several taverns, and the details of their evening get murky rather quickly. The last time they were seen was around 11:30 p.m. when they left a local tavern. The next time either of them was spotted was at 6 a.m. when Stanley’s body was found by a local man, Jack Eckerd. Eckerd was headed down a country road known for being a “lover’s lane” when he saw Stanley’s body in a ditch. Police discovered that Stan had been shot four times, once in the chest and three times in the lower abdomen. His car was found later in the day, abandoned on White Pines Road, just off Highway 2. His keys and wallet were missing. Mary Jane was nowhere to be found.
Police started a search, but felt right from the very beginning that it would be a body recovery instead of a rescue operation. Unfortunately, those fears were realized June 29 when a truck driver taking a load from the silica plant stopped to let another truck pass him. He said he smelled a strange odor, and when he looked around, he found Mary Jane Reed’s body lying face down in a ditch. Weeds obscured her body, but it was evident that she was dead. Mary Jane was found dressed only in panties and a bra, though later Coroner Horner said there were no signs of a sexual attack. The cause of death was a gunshot wound. Details differ here, as some state she was shot in the head, some in the back.
Mary Jane’s body was taken to the Farrell Funeral Home. Her family dressed her in the beautiful gown they had purchased for Mary Jane to wear in her brother Donald’s wedding the weekend she was killed.
Police have interviewed hundreds of people to try to get a clear picture of what actually happened on that lover’s lane so long ago. The details were never clear. Theories were offered, but never proven, and the families never received the justice they so longed for.
Haunted Rockford is hosting a bus tour to visit the locations for the 1948 unsolved murders of Stan Skridla and Mary Jane Reed on Sunday, Aug. 17. Kathi Kresol will relate the details of this horrible crime, and psychics Paul Smith and Sara Bowker will share their impressions from the other side. Please visit the website at www.hauntedrockofrd.com to register for the event.
Kathi Kresol is a local historian, paranormal investigator and operator of Haunted Rockford Paranormal Events. Through Haunted Rockford, Kathi gives paranormal and haunted history tours and sponsors other paranormal events in and around Rockford throughout the year. For more of Kathi’s history articles, and for information about upcoming paranormal events, visit www.hauntedrockford.com.
From the Aug. 13-19, 2014, issue