Search continues for Rolling Meadows teen in 1975 cold case

  • Authorities are searching for the remains of a missing Rolling Meadows teen at a house near Joliet. A former Joliet man on his deathbed confessed to the killing of Michael Mansfield in 2011.

    Authorities are searching for the remains of a missing Rolling Meadows teen at a house near Joliet. A former Joliet man on his deathbed confessed to the killing of Michael Mansfield in 2011. Eric Ginnard/Shaw Media

  • Michael Mansfield of Rolling Meadows went missing from his home in 1975. Police are searching a property near Joliet this week for his remains and other clues to his disappearance.

    Michael Mansfield of Rolling Meadows went missing from his home in 1975. Police are searching a property near Joliet this week for his remains and other clues to his disappearance. Daily Herald File Photo

  • Russell Smrekar

    Russell Smrekar

 
 
Updated 1/26/2017 5:42 PM

Rolling Meadows police continued digging for clues Thursday at a home near Joliet in their attempt to close a cold case more than four decades old.

The disappearance of Michael Mansfield 41 years ago has led police to a single-story ranch home on Barber Lane just northwest of Joliet in unincorporated Will County. Authorities say they are looking for remains or other evidence of his whereabouts.

by signing up you agree to our terms of service
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Rolling Meadows police detectives and evidence technicians from the Cook County Major Case Assistance Team, many dressed in protective bodysuits, have been searching inside the house and backyard since Monday. Yellow police tape has been placed around the property, and temporary white tents have been set up in the yard where much of the work has taken place.

"We're not leaving until we're completely satisfied -- until we've done everything we need to do over there," said Rolling Meadows Police Commander Tom Gadomski. "We don't know how long this is going to take. We're certainly in no hurry. Possibly something's there, or not."

Mansfield, a 19-year-old college student, was last seen on New Year's Eve 1975 when he left his Rolling Meadows home to visit a friend in Arlington Heights.

In October 2011, Mansfield's one-time college roommate, Russell Smrekar, gave a deathbed confession to killing the teen, but police never located his body. Smrekar, who hailed from the Joliet area, was serving a 300-year prison sentence for a 1976 double-murder when authorities say he confessed at the downstate Menard Correctional Center.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Property records show the house being searched near Joliet at one time was owned by a relative of Smrekar.

Police haven't said what led them to the house or why they're searching it now. But they long suspected Smrekar. The two were fellow students living in different dorms at Lincoln College, about 25 miles northeast of Springfield.

Mansfield was scheduled to testify against Smrekar in a theft case just six days after going missing. Smrekar was suspected of stealing record albums from a girl's dorm room, but the charges were dismissed after Mansfield disappeared.

Smrekar was convicted of killing a man and his pregnant wife a year later in Lincoln. That man was scheduled to testify against Smrekar in a separate theft case -- this one alleging he stole steaks from a grocery store.

Rolling Meadows police have taken the lead on the investigation at the Joliet-area house. Officers are being assisted by the Cook County Major Case Assistance Team, which includes investigators from 23 law enforcement agencies in the Northwest suburbs. The team was formed after the Brown's Chicken murders in 1993 in Palatine.

Will County sheriff's office officials are also providing logistical assistance on site.

0 Comments
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.