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  1. #1
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    IL - Mary Ann Becker, 16, Atkinson, 9 Sept 1974


    Mary Ann Becker
    Murdered in her home, September 9, 1974, Atkinson, IL

    Police still looking for clues in Atkinson teen’s 1974 murder
    Posted Mar. 11, 2014 @ 10:00 am

    Mary Ann, 16, was strangled to death in her home during the evening hours of Sept. 9, 1974. Mary Ann was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Tony Becker, Jr.

    According to a 1974 Geneseo Republic article, Mary Ann’s body was found by Mrs. Becker when she returned at approximately 11 p.m. from the Gulf Plaza, a restaurant on Interstate 80.

    The Republic reported, “Miss Becker was tied to a piano with an electric cord and rope which was also wrapped around her neck and which apparently caused the death by strangulation.

    “The living room in which she was found was in slight disarray, according to authorities. A piano stool had been overturned and sheet music scattered about.”

    Read more: http://www.starcourier.com/article/2...#ixzz2yjD0sOk4
    It's believed that the killer was someone who knew Mary Ann and/or her family.

    The night she was killed, her father had returned to work after being out sick for two weeks.

    In the weeks prior to the murder, the family had received phone calls inquiring if Mr. and Mrs. Becker were at home.

    Four agencies including the Henry County Sheriff’s Department, Illinois State Police, Illinois State Crime Laboratory and the Atkinson Police Department worked the investigation, but the murder remains unsolved.
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  2. #2
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    Originally Posted Online: March 28, 2010, 6:26 pm
    Last Updated: March 29, 2010, 1:22 pm

    "I remember it as being kind of a quiet, cool and gray day," said the Henry County sheriff, a relatively new deputy at the time.

    The Moline Daily Dispatch from Sept. 10, 1974, said that a law enforcement official who asked not to be identified said that Ms. Becker had been tied to a piano in the home and apparently beaten. A friend of Ms. Becker's told the paper that she and some other friends had visited her that night and everything had seemed normal when they left.

    Sheriff Cady said several sketches of people seen around town that night were created, but none led to more information. Sheriff Cady said he remembers doing whatever he could to try and find anything that might be a clue to who killed the girl.

    The Beckers were well-known, and the murder changed the feeling of the small Henry County town, he said.
    http://www.qconline.com/archives/qco....php?id=485955

    The murder of Mary Ann Becker is the oldest unsolved case on the Illinois State Police website.

    Contact Information: Anyone with information regarding this case is asked to contact Special Agent Brian Masters, Illinois State Police, at 309-752-4915 ext. 4934, or PSA Larry Kot, Illinois State Police, at 847-608-3230.
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  3. #3
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    Thanks Bess

    Not sure if they are trying to indicate she died as a result of being tied to the piano, and was strangled, by the placement of the rope, or manually strangled, by the offender.

    If you were to investigate this, you would check 1st see if there were any burglaries, or break ins in the area (Possibly Home invasions, which were rare back then)

    I didn't see anything indicating anything of value was taken, so it doesn't seem likely that this was a robbery or burglary

    theres nothing to indicate a forced entry, which could indicate, someone familiar with the victim, however, there have been more than a few cases of criminals simply walking right through an unlocked, door .

    This seems looks an upscale community so its possible doors were left unlocked.

    It also doesn't say she was sexually assaulted, but she was beaten

    It would be important to know whether or not she was strangled before being tied to the piano, (where the ligature furrow wouldn't match the placement of the rope around her neck), after she was tied, or if it appears her bindings caused her death, by placement
    Last edited by Kell1; 04-13-2014 at 03:39 PM.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by RichKelly View Post
    Thanks Bess

    Not sure if they are trying to indicate she died as a result of being tied to the piano, and was strangled, by the placement of the rope, or manually strangled, by the offender.

    If you were to investigate this, you would check 1st see if there were any burglaries, or break ins in the area (Possibly Home invasions, which were rare back then)

    I didn't see anything indicating anything of value was taken, so it doesn't seem likely that this was a robbery or burglary

    theres nothing to indicate a forced entry, which could indicate, someone familiar with the victim, however, there have been more than a few cases of criminals simply walking right through an unlocked, door .

    This seems looks an upscale community so its possible doors were left unlocked.

    It also doesn't say she was sexually assaulted, but she was beaten

    It would be important to know whether or not she was strangled before being tied to the piano, (where the ligature furrow wouldn't match the placement of the rope around her neck), after she was tied, or if it appears her bindings caused her death, by placement
    Rich, I interpret this statment to mean the piano was an element of the ligature strangulation.
    The Republic reported, “Miss Becker was tied to a piano with an electric cord and rope which was also wrapped around her neck and which apparently caused the death by strangulation.
    http://www.starcourier.com/article/2...#ixzz2yjD0sOk4

    Heaven have mercy on the poor mother who returned home after work to be met with such horror. Some parents spend many years tortured by questions of what happened to their missing children, and others, like Mary Ann's parents, know all too well. I can't help but wonder which is worse.

    When reading about Mary Ann's murder, two details in particular jumped out at me.

    1. Victim tied to a piano.

    2. Two forms of ligature: rope and electrical cord.

    Both are unusual, and indicate planning and forethought. The electrical cord might've been one already in use in the home, but more than likely the rope was brought to the scene by the killer. Then tying the victim to the piano, that seems very personal to me. If nothing else, the killer had to know he would have time to complete the act. It's no wonder the consensus back then was that the killer knew the family, and was aware both parents were at work. Yet, from what I've read, LE didn't turn up any strong suspects. I'd be looking at a peer acquaintance, a teacher, a co-worker of either parent, or someone who recently had done work inside the home, like a painter or a plumber.

    As to the question of sexual assault, it's jmo, but what I've come to realize after researching hundreds of older cold cases, unless it's stated that no sexual assault occurred, it's safe to assume it did. It just wasn't the norm at the time to report it, especially when the victim was a minor. On the other hand, in the cases of prostitute vicitms, rape/sexual assault often was overstated to sensationalize the story. Some might disagree, but that's my impression, fwiw.
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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by bessie View Post
    Rich, I interpret this statment to mean the piano was an element of the ligature strangulation. http://www.starcourier.com/article/2...#ixzz2yjD0sOk4

    Heaven have mercy on the poor mother who returned home after work to be met with such horror. Some parents spend many years tortured by questions of what happened to their missing children, and others, like Mary Ann's parents, know all too well. I can't help but wonder which is worse.

    When reading about Mary Ann's murder, two details in particular jumped out at me.

    1. Victim tied to a piano.

    2. Two forms of ligature: rope and electrical cord.

    Both are unusual, and indicate planning and forethought. The electrical cord might've been one already in use in the home, but more than likely the rope was brought to the scene by the killer.
    Actually the use of the electrical cord seemed to indicate it wasn't a planned, event. However I believe though the origin of the rope is unknown at this point , so it may've come from the same house.

    Though its entirely possible that the killer brought the rope, and didn't have enough, which would indicate unfamiliarity with that type of action. And present a mixed, scene in terms of behavior

    Then tying the victim to the piano, that seems very personal to me. If nothing else, the killer had to know he would have time to complete the act. It's no wonder the consensus back then was that the killer knew the family, and was aware both parents were at work. Yet, from what I've read, LE didn't turn up any strong suspects. I'd be looking at a peer acquaintance, a teacher, a co-worker of either parent, or someone who recently had done work inside the home, like a painter or a plumber.
    In ANY homicide of a child PARTICULARLY one inside a home, where they reside, you investigate the family 1st . This is especially true if there's any history of the child being injured, whether they were initially cleared, or not.

    Unfortunately sometimes parents & siblings, kill children.

    You interview, anyone and everyone, you come across, in connection to the victim.

    Next you look to see what type of crimes, were committed in the area.. any break ins, burglaries, any robberies, any sexual assaults?

    Forensically, depending on how intricate her bindings, were you could speculate (I hate to use that word here) her killer was comfortable within the residence , indicating some familiarity with the residence, and the victim, OR you can make the assumption (again hate to "assume" anything) he was in a panic, and grabbed whatever he could to bind her to the piano, after beating her.

    There are some elements of this crime, that seem "staged" to throw off the investigation, though without the actual reports, and crime scene photos.. again speculative

    You would need to determine 1) Was she tied THEN beaten.. IE Any cast off blood, on the outside of bindings, and surrounding area, where she was found, or 2) was she beaten, THEN tied to the piano- IE blood on the inside of he bindings, but not in the immediate area in which she was found

    This would show 2 very distinct, differing Offender behavior patterns

    Though its possible her attacker strangled, her and then set it so it looked as if her positioning, caused, her to die of strangulation, If the report of the binding causing her death is accurate, you might even call her death "accidental" (in terms of how she actually died)


    As to the question of sexual assault, it's jmo, but what I've come to realize after researching hundreds of older cold cases, unless it's stated that no sexual assault occurred, it's safe to assume it did. It just wasn't the norm at the time to report it, especially when the victim was a minor. On the other hand, in the cases of prostitute vicitms, rape/sexual assault often was overstated to sensationalize the story. Some might disagree, but that's my impression, fwiw.
    Figures, and that would be a key piece of evidence, in determining motive.

  6. #6
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    Paul John Knowles

    This is perhaps unlikely, but just thought I would mention that the date of this murder falls within the time Paul John Knowles was on his 'round-the-country traveling and killing spree.

    Online sources for the specific dates of his crimes can be contradictory, but for convenience I'm using Wikipedia here: He killed a man in Lima, Ohio on Sept. 3, 1974. On September 18, he killed an elderly couple in Ely, Nevada. The date (Sept. 9) and state (Illinois) of Mary Ann Becker's murder are "on his way" between those known murders.

    Paul John Knowles - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    (I KNOW that there are some inaccuracies in the Wikipedia article, but I'm hoping that on the dates of the two murders mentioned, at least, it's accurate.)

    I do think this is a long shot, because I don't see why Knowles, if he was the killer, would have neglected to "catalogue" this murder on the tapes he recorded -- and if he had, I assume the case would have been solved. But the date and location do "fit", so thought I'd mention him.

    Knowles killed a woman in my home county by strangling her with the telephone cord cut from her phone -- in the bathtub or bathroom, I believe. I don't know whether there was any sign of forced entry to her home, but I rather think not, because, until Knowles came to light, local LE was looking almost exclusively, at least for a while, at the boyfriend with whom she lived. Thankfully, Knowles' tapes removed suspicion from him.

    It would be interesting to see some of those sketches made of "people seen around town that night" mentioned in one of the articles.
    Last edited by bessie; 11-12-2014 at 08:08 PM. Reason: repaired link

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Backwoods View Post
    This is perhaps unlikely, but just thought I would mention that the date of this murder falls within the time Paul John Knowles was on his 'round-the-country traveling and killing spree.

    Online sources for the specific dates of his crimes can be contradictory, but for convenience I'm using Wikipedia here: He killed a man in Lima, Ohio on Sept. 3, 1974. On September 18, he killed an elderly couple in Ely, Nevada. The date (Sept. 9) and state (Illinois) of Mary Ann Becker's murder are "on his way" between those known murders.

    Paul John Knowles - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    (I KNOW that there are some inaccuracies in the Wikipedia article, but I'm hoping that on the dates of the two murders mentioned, at least, it's accurate.)

    I do think this is a long shot, because I don't see why Knowles, if he was the killer, would have neglected to "catalogue" this murder on the tapes he recorded -- and if he had, I assume the case would have been solved. But the date and location do "fit", so thought I'd mention him.

    Knowles killed a woman in my home county by strangling her with the telephone cord cut from her phone -- in the bathtub or bathroom, I believe. I don't know whether there was any sign of forced entry to her home, but I rather think not, because, until Knowles came to light, local LE was looking almost exclusively, at least for a while, at the boyfriend with whom she lived. Thankfully, Knowles' tapes removed suspicion from him.

    It would be interesting to see some of those sketches made of "people seen around town that night" mentioned in one of the articles.
    Excellent recall

    Definitely cant be discounted, Knowles was a friggin animal, but I believe he admitted, to all his crimes, (at least ones, they could verify) , so I cant see him leaving this one out.

    I also believe (if I recall correctly) there was some form of sexual aspect to Knowles crimes, (at least most of them) primarily with younger victims, and many thefts.

    If it was Knowles, I don't think there would be ANY question as to whether or not the victim was manually or mechanically strangled, by her bindings, id also expect to see at least some type of sexual assault as she was definitely within the age range of the women he did rape and that she was home alone.

    Id also expect some type of theft from the residence, as well

    I don't think it was Knowles, though its entirely possible

  8. #8
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    FWIW, the first thing that popped into my head when I read rope was a clothes line from the yard.... I wonder if the evidence has been tested for dna.

    From an above linked article:
    Page 2 of 2 - Anyone with information regarding the case is asked to contact Illinois State Police Special Agent Brian Masters at (309) 752-4915, Ext. 4934, or Illinois State Police PSA Larry Kot at (847) 608-3230.
    Callers with information also may contact Henry County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-227-2324. Calls are anonymous and rewards are offered for tips leading to an arrest and conviction
    Read more: http://www.starcourier.com/article/2...#ixzz3DFRMNVWe
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  9. #9
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    Illinois State Police Reopen 40-Year-Old Cold Case


    Illinois State Police officials are re-interviewing people who were questioned 40 years ago about the strangulation death of a 16-year-old western Illinois girl.
    Mary Ann Becker was found beaten and strangled on her Atkinson home's living room floor in 1974. Illinois State Police investigators started researching the cold case again in January, saying it's the oldest in the East Moline office.
    Investigators renewed their search for the suspect in January, The (Moline) Dispatch (http://bit.ly/1tu5zn9 ) reported. Since then, they have discovered several people who were never interviewed after the slaying.

    <snip>

    Henry County Crime Stoppers recently increased its usual $1,000 reward by $15,000 for information leading to an arrest. But investigators realize the killer may already be dead.


    http://www.wsiltv.com/news/three-sta...274619701.html
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  10. #10
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    http://www.galvanews.com/article/201...1316/FRONTPAGE

    Becker's parents have both died and the remaining family members have moved away, leaving the two-story home abandoned.

    The homicide is one of the most traumatic things that's happened in the small town, Endress said, and the remaining residents still remember it vividly. Horrifying details of the incident, such as the use of a clothesline and electrical cord in the strangulation, have stuck with people who were alive at the time... Many residents speculated about the killer. Some people thought he or she could've been a local, while others thought the suspect used Interstate 80 for a quick exit out of town...

    "Our suspect could certainly be 50, 60-plus years old. We understand that, but we have to see this thing through," Endress said. Investigators hope new technology, including DNA testing and forensic examinations, will lead to answers... The investigation could finally be resolved if a person comes forward with information they didn't think was important 40 years ago, he said.


  11. #11
    Hi, I have seen two different photos of the victim, Mary Ann Becker, but they appear to be photos of two different girls. One has long hair, the other very short. The noses don't look the same either. Does anyone know which photo is correct?

  12. #12
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    Yes, details about the case seem lacking. I understand why they might not report sexual assault at the time to spare her family the thought but the time for that has pretty much passed. They could at least tell us if she was still fully clothed or not. The tying her to a piano seems quite odd since robbery doesn't appear to the motive. It looks like maybe an element in some sort of sexual perversion. Did they give an estimated time of death beyond the window of when the friends left and when her mom got home? What time would she be expected to go to bed? Had she changed into her sleep clothes? Was her bed turned down?
    This my opinion and to the best of my knowledge, that is, if I'm not joking.


    Stan Reid

  13. #13
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    Not forgotten. Prayers for the family, peace and resolution.

  14. #14
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    Forty years after 16-year-old Mary Ann Becker was murdered, Henry County officials this fall exhumed her remains hoping clues from the grave will lead to her killer. Her body was removed from St. Anthony Catholic Cemetery south of Atkinson on Sept. 29 and taken to Bloomington where forensic pathologist Dr. Scott Denton performed a second autopsy, nearly four decades after the first. The next morning, her remains were returned to Vandemore Funeral Home in Atkinson, where Ms. Becker's family held a private reburial service. The Vandemore family offered to provide a new vault and casket for the reburial.

    Ms. Becker would have turned 57 this year.

    Investigators hope advancements in forensic science, such as fingernail scrapings and DNA analysis, since her 1974 death may offer new evidence in a case that has plagued this tiny Henry County town.
    http://www.qconline.com/news/crime/n...56bc57479.html

  15. #15
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    Hoping for answers.
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