SYCAMORE – DeKalb County Sheriff Roger Scott knows the public has not forgotten. People regularly approach him and ask about it.
“Have you got anything on that double-murder case?”
But police know little about the person or people who broke into the rural Sycamore home of Patricia A. Wilson, 85, and her son, Robert J. Wilson, 64, and beat them to death.
Police said the Wilsons were killed Aug. 14 at their home at 16058 Old State Road, sometime between 7:45 p.m., when Patricia Wilson had a phone conversation with a relative, and midnight. An autopsy found the Wilsons died from being beaten with a blunt object.
The 5-month-old investigation has been a determined one. For weeks, more than 20 investigators worked the case, racking up more than $80,000 in overtime and generating more than 1,000 leads. The sheriff’s office now has two detectives assigned to work on it full time, chasing each lead as far as it will go.
They have determined some things about the crime. There were signs the killer broke in, but it was not a robbery. It was not a crime of passion. It does not appear to have been a serial killer.
But they said they do not know what motivated the killer or killers. They do not have any suspects. They do not know if the person or people responsible were local or from out of town.
Scott and Chief Deputy Andy Sullivan say investigators need the public’s help to break the case. They urged anyone with information they haven’t told police to contact them.
People with information can call the sheriff’s office at 815-895-2155. Or they can remain anonymous by calling DeKalb County Crime Stoppers at 815-895-3272. There is a $25,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest.
“Anything that the public may know, any information, we really want to hear because maybe we haven’t heard it yet,” Sullivan said. “Maybe it’s something new, maybe they haven’t called because they thought we already knew it, something like that.
“Nothing’s too small.”
Investigators were at a disadvantage from the start on the case. The killings occurred almost 24 hours before the crime scene was discovered about 6 p.m. Aug. 15.
The killer or killers were careful not to leave a lot of evidence at the scene, Sullivan said. They might have approached the home from the Great Western Trail, which runs close behind the home’s backyard.
Although Robert Wilson had won a $1 million lottery prize in 1988, robbery does not appear to have been the motive – the only thing taken from the house was Patricia Wilson’s white, 2010 Chevrolet Impala.
Sullivan was among the first on the scene on the evening of Aug. 15, and county crime-scene technicians spent hours at the home, taking the next four days to complete their work. Investigators have sent more than 100 items to the state crime lab for analysis, Sullivan said.
Police have not revealed much of what they found at the crime scene. It is common for investigators to withhold information from the public so they can verify whether tips they might receive are legitimate.
Police activated the DeKalb County Major Case Squad, a cooperative in which the county’s largest police departments all contribute their best-trained detectives to try to solve major crimes. In addition, state and federal authorities provided support and air surveillance.
More than 20 investigators from the sheriff’s office, as well as DeKalb, Sycamore and Northern Illinois University police worked on the case from Aug. 15 until Sept. 23. In all, they logged more than $80,000 in overtime, in addition to the regular hours, equipment costs and other costs associated with the investigation.
Early on, investigators were focused on finding the vehicle, searching locations one could ditch a vehicle – in old barns, creeks and other out-of-the-way places. Finally, after 10 days and countless hours of searching, Chicago police located the Chevy legally parked in a lot near the Lincoln Park Zoo, where it appeared to have been for several days.
“We were focusing on the vehicle and finding the vehicle because they needed to process it for evidence,” Sullivan said.
After the vehicle was found, investigators went to the hundreds of businesses between Sycamore and Chicago on Route 64 to request surveillance camera footage.
“We were looking to find the vehicle and see inside the vehicle, maybe find an image of the driver,” Sullivan said.
They found video of the vehicle traveling along the road that night. But none of the shots captured the face of the suspected killer behind the wheel.
SUSPECTS IDENTIFIED, ELIMINATED
Investigators have thought more than once that they were closing in on an arrest, Scott said, only to decide the person of interest wasn’t guilty after looking at more evidence.
“Obviously, we don’t put that out every time because then everybody’s on the same roller coaster we are,” Scott said. “ … Part of our job is to prove that somebody didn’t do it to the best of our ability, and that’s what we’ve done. The guys worked hard at that, and it’s disappointing, but it’s satisfying in that you know your case is going to be solid when you do make it.”
After examining evidence, investigators have ruled out the Wilsons’ immediate family members – who also live in the area – as suspects. Sullivan speaks with them regularly, to provide updates on the case. Family members have declined to speak publicly about the crime.
“They’re waiting for me to call and tell them I have somebody in handcuffs,” Sullivan said. “I don’t have that, so it’s been difficult. But someday we’ll get it.”
Police have provided all the details they’ve learned about the case to the FBI in Quantico, Virginia. The federal agency operates the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program. ViCAP serves as the national repository for violent crimes and helps law enforcement agencies from different jurisdictions find links between crimes. Details on the slaying of Wilsons were entered into the system almost immediately after the crimes were discovered, Sullivan said. The in-depth data can include details on the victims, type of trauma, crime scene specifics, vehicle descriptions, modus operandi and other details. The system is only available to law enforcement agencies.
“We did a telephone conference with [the FBI] in Virginia,” Sullivan said. “… They have all of our case, so they’re actively reviewing that, looking for any similarities anywhere else.”
It doesn’t appear the killings were the work of a serial killer, Sullivan said. Whoever is responsible has made no attempt to contact police.
Law enforcement agencies around the state are aware, however. As recently as December, police in Normal contacted the sheriff’s office after a stepfather and son were kidnapped from their home. The family had recently won the lottery.
A South Peoria man has since been charged in connection with the incident, in which one of the two people abducted died. It does not appear to be related, Scott said.
Work on the case has never stopped, even after the Major Case Squad was deactivated, police said. It’s common with cases such as this for all those who work on it to feel a sense of responsibility, especially officers such as Sullivan who are among the first to arrive at the crime scene.
Although the home where the Wilsons lived is outside the Sycamore city limits, Robert Wilson was a beloved member of the Sycamore Moose Lodge 1506 in downtown Sycamore. He and his mother were both longtime members of the community.
Sycamore Police Chief Glenn Theriault said the roughly $20,000 in overtime costs that his department’s investigators logged working on the case were about two-thirds of the annual overtime budget.
Area investigators remain in constant contact about the case, Theriault said.
“This case, like a lot of difficult cases, the difficulty is keeping everybody on point with it because these are marathons, not sprints,” Theriault said. “But you’re constantly gaining ground on the case, and you’re constantly moving toward the finish line.”
“It’s frustrating when you don’t have somebody in custody and somebody to be held accountable for viciously murdering two people,” he added.
DeKalb police also invested significant time in the investigation, with officers putting in more than $19,000 in overtime in addition to about $59,000 worth of regular hours worked by detectives and two top commanders. The investigators were working out of the DeKalb Police Station for weeks because there wasn’t enough parking at the sheriff’s office with the ongoing jail construction, officials said.
The case has now been returned to the sheriff’s office, where two detectives were assigned to it full time as of this month, Scott said. With more than 1,000 leads generated by investigators from the Major Case Squad, as well as the continued test results arriving periodically from the state police crime lab, they will have plenty of work to do every day, Scott said.
But they’ll also be ready for the day when someone talks about the crime, and it reaches the ears of someone willing to come forward. Police said they will listen to anyone – provided they have a verifiable story.
“I’m not sure this person has a conscience, if they do have one it’s probably so modified that it doesn’t bother them, but they do talk, and so somebody may hear,” Scott said. “And that’s what we’re hoping, that somebody will call.”
Eventually, Scott believes that someone will talk, someone will come forward, or some new information will surface to provide investigators with the break they need to make an arrest.
“I’m confident it’s going to be solved,” he said, “but I obviously don’t know how long it’s going to take us.”
• Daily Chronicle News Editor Brett Rowland contributed to this report.
$25,000 reward offered
Investigators still need the public’s help with information about the killings of Robert Wilson, 64, and his mother, Patricia Wilson, 85, on Aug. 14 at their home at 16058 Old State Road.
Police said the killings occurred sometime between 7:45 p.m. and midnight that day. There were signs of a break-in at the house. Any information that someone knows that they haven’t reported – no matter how small – could help solve the case.
To report a tip, call the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office at 815-895-2155.
Callers can remain anonymous by calling Crime Stoppers at 815-895-3272. Police will protect the identity of callers to Crime Stoppers, who can still receive a reward.
Costs of a homicide
More than 20 trained investigators from the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office, DeKalb police, Sycamore police and Northern Illinois University police worked on the case while the Major Crimes Task Force conducted its investigation from Aug. 15 until Sept. 23.
Costs of the investigation, by department:
DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office
Overtime: about $36,500
Regular hours: about $71,500
• The Sheriff’s Auxiliary also provided 200 hours of volunteer assistance on the case at no cost.
Regular hours: $59,040
Overtime: About $20,000
Northern Illinois University police
Source: Local police departments