Gruesome history - Part 1
It was a nice day for a bike ride May 19, 1983, when two young men stopped their bikes on a small bridge over Funk’s Run Creek.
They had traveled at their leisure in Tazewell County, crossed over into Woodford County and stopped to rest and stretch. The sun was going down, as they talked about the day’s ride.
There was a slight, warm spring breeze kicking up and the boys enjoyed the moment. One of them commented about an odor in the air. His companion sniffed and walked east as the aroma got stronger.
They stopped in horror as they looked down at something sticking out of a green, plastic bag. They inched closer until the realization of what they were looking at dawned on them.
Once they slowed their heart rate down enough to act, they hopped on their bikes and raced off toward the nearest telephone to call the sheriff.
It was dark as a Woodford County deputy pulled his patrol car up to the edge of the bridge the boy’s had described.
He sat a moment listening to the noise of the evening outside his rolled down window.
He snapped on the cruiser’s flashing lights, grabbed his flashlight and got out of the car.
The breeze held a foul smell, and it was coming directly at him.
The deputy trained the light ahead and walked to the side of the bridge.
Moments later he was back at his vehicle, radioing in his gruesome discovery. The officer was careful not to be too descriptive as he reported to the sheriff.
“I’m two miles north of Route 116 right here at Funk’s Run Bridge. No doubt it’s ours here in Woodford County, Upper Spring Bay Road. It’s real rural out here so we’ll need some lights.”
A busy night
The deputy repositioned his squad car and put out flares on both sides of the road.
He would turn back any car that happened by, but none ever approached the bridge.
A few minutes later the officer heard the siren off in the distance and moments later the flashing lights of the Spring Bay Fire Department.
Snapping on his flashlight, he stood ready to guide the truck up to the bridge.
As it pulled up he greeted the driver and told him to position the truck close enough so he could shine the powerful truck’s spotlight on the object.
Soon, the firemen and deputy were staring down at a green bag that had been tossed off to the side by the bridge. One of the firemen made a move toward it but was stopped by the deputy.
“Better wait until the sheriff gets here.”
The sheriff’s car could be seen coming down the rural road followed by a couple of other vehicles. The deputy greeted his boss, as the other cars parked behind the sheriff’s car.
Once out of the car, Sheriff Quentin (Jim) Durst instructed everyone with a flashlight to make a thorough search of the grounds. He told them to be careful, and to bring back anything that looked out of place. He then went with his deputy over to the green bags, to have a look for himself.
The powerful light bathed the bags in an eerie cast of light and shadow as Durst snapped on his own flashlight.
He squatted down moving his flashlight back and forth. With his gloved hand he pulled one of the bags open and viewed the grisly contents. He ordered photographs as he turned to his deputy.
“It’s a murder no doubt, but it doesn’t look like the killing was done here. No, the body was dumped here.”
The sheriff started assigning his men to tasks as he began to make contact with nearby towns and departments he needed to aid him. He called the State of Illinois to ask for the services of Robert DuBois, a crime scene investigator. The press and anyone that thought they belonged at the scene flocked out to the old rural bridge. The officers began blocking off the road and flashing lights filled the night with colorful hues.
They worked well into the night, taking more pictures, continuing the search around and under the bridge. The media sniffed out the scene and soon their camera lights added to the brightness of the night.
The coroner soon took over and he made a lot of requests as the men scurried about trying to secure the scene. Once the coroner ordered the remains, or what was left of them, taken away, soil samples under the body were taken.
More photographs and finally the squad lights were turned off. One lone deputy was left at the scene as the eastern sky lit up with the first signs of a new May morning dawning.
The body in the bags
Cars from the sheriff’s office were back at the scene before the sun came up with orders to make another thorough search of the entire area.
The sheriff would talk to the boys that discovered the body and of course a house-to-house investigation would be made of the surrounding area.
Someone might have seen something that would help with the investigation.
Durst was at his office conferring with the coroner, deputies and waiting for the photographs to be developed and handed to him. He also had a few more telephone calls to make.
Later in the day, Durst called the Peoria Police Chief. As far as the sheriff was concerned, most of his job was done.
Of course he would continue his questioning of local folks but the important information he had discovered would send the case back over to Peoria County.
“Afternoon, Chief, I wanted to get back to you on that body we found in the trash bag over here. The dead man is Jeffrey J. Williams, age 26. His listed address is 401 Hayward over there in Peoria. No doubt the body was dumped over here, Chief. I think you got yourself a murder. I’ll wait to hear from you once you check out his address.”
Sheriff was right
Once the Peoria detectives followed up on the sheriff’s clue the rest seemed to come easy to the Peoria officers.
The detectives quickly visited the Hayward address and the case seemed to simply come together. Armed with search warrants, police investigators swarmed over the house at 401 Hayward, searching every square inch of the place with every forensic piece of equipment they had available in 1983.
It took very little time to convince them that Jeffrey Williams had been murdered and butchered in that very house. Detectives outside the house were making headway in running down the girlfriend of the victim, and soon the pieces fell into place like a horror jigsaw puzzle.
Once the body of Williams was taken to a funeral home another horrible discovery was made … some of his body parts were missing.
Both his legs, as a matter of fact, and now the case took on a more bizarre twist and the media swarmed over it from all over the area.
Police were piling up the evidence collected from the house. Bloody towels, blood samples from the sinks and bathtub, and scores of other evidence that needed to be analyzed.
They went to work on the neighborhood convinced that someone must have heard the shots and knew a lot more than the police knew. They talked to every single person they could, but got very little information. The connection between the dead man and his girlfriend seemed to be about all they really needed.
Thirty hours after The Woodford County Sheriff had handed the case to them, they arrested Jeffrey Willams’ lady friend. They charged her with concealing a homicide. They had not revealed her name as yet, but plenty of neighbors knew who she was.
To be continued.
Norm Kelly is a local historian, author and lecturer. This story is abridged from his book “Murder In Your Own Backyard.”