Former Rolling Meadows family grappling with killer's confession

  • Michael Mansfield of Rolling Meadows went missing from his home on New Year's Eve 1975. His body has never been found, but an ex-college roommate confessed this week on his prison deathbed to Mansfield's murder.

    Michael Mansfield of Rolling Meadows went missing from his home on New Year's Eve 1975. His body has never been found, but an ex-college roommate confessed this week on his prison deathbed to Mansfield's murder. Daniel white/Daily Herald file photo

 
 
Updated 10/29/2011 5:52 PM

After 36 years, Marvin Mansfield expressed relief Saturday over finally knowing the truth about his son Michael's disappearance and death.

"Prior to this time, we were still in hopes that our son might be alive," he said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Michael Mansfield, 19, disappeared from his Rolling Meadows home in 1975. On Friday, police announced that Russell Smrekar, Mansfield's one-time college roommate, confessed to his killing on his prison deathbed.

Smrekar, 56, who was serving a 300-year prison sentence for a 1976 double-murder and was terminally ill, died earlier this week at the downstate Menard Correctional Center.

The Mansfield family is trying to find closure with the news, said Marvin Mansfield, 77, now living in Lady Lake, Fla.

"We're trying to deal with it," he said, adding that his wife and Michael's mother, Renee, still can't talk about it.

Three of Michael's siblings who live in the suburban Chicago area could not be reached for comment Saturday.

Mansfield, a 1974 graduate of Rolling Meadows High School, was a student at Lincoln College, about 25 miles northeast of Springfield. While on Christmas break, he left his family's Rolling Meadows home on the 3900 block of Gull Court on New Year's Eve 1975 to visit a friend in Arlington Heights.

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Family and friends never heard from him again.

Mansfield was scheduled to testify against Smrekar in a theft case six days after he went missing. The charges against Smrekar were dropped, but Smrekar later was arrested and convicted of the murders of a man and his pregnant wife in Lincoln.

Rolling Meadows police long suspected Smrekar in Mansfield's death and had questioned him on and off for about 15 years about Mansfield'ss disappearance. They did so again when they heard he was dying.

The family had a memorial service for Michael nearly 13 years ago and Smrekar's confession merely affirmed what family members knew in their hearts, Marvin Mansfield said.

"After 30 some years, we kind of resolved ourselves to the fact that he probably was (dead)," Marvin Mansfield said. "All I hope is that the police, in their ongoing investigations, will be able to uncover something more than that."

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