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Arians asks Durbin for FBI help

Mike Arians talks about the Mary Jane Reed case Nov. 13 during a press conference.
Mike Arians talks about the Mary Jane Reed case Nov. 13 during a press conference.

In his quest for an FBI investigation of a 60-year-old murder case, an Oregon restaurant owner has enlisted the help of a U.S. Senator.

In a press conference Nov. 13, Mike Arians announced that he sent a letter to Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Illinois) asking him to request that the FBI investigate the murder of Oregon teenager Mary Jane Reed, who was shot to death in June of 1948.

“We’re just looking for the truth. We’re trying to give the Reed family some closure,” Arians said.

He distributed copies of a reply from Durbin, in which the Senator promised to contact the FBI and let him know the response.

Durbin said in his letter to allow 30 to 60 days for the FBI’s answer.

Arians said his requests that Ogle County Sheriff Greg Beitel call the FBI for help have gone unheeded.

“He refuses to call the FBI and ask for their assistance,” he said.

Beitel, however, said Tuesday that he called FBI officials in Rockford more than two years ago, but they declined to get involved.

Mary Jane, then 17, failed to return home after a date on June 24, 1948. She and Stan Skridla, 28, Rockford, apparently her companion on the night she disappeared, were subsequently found shot to death.

Skridla’s body was discovered the next morning on County Farm Road south of Oregon. He had been shot five times.

Mary Jane’s body was found four days later in the ditch along Devil’s Backbone Road west of Oregon. She had been shot once in the head.

The double murder has never been solved, although the new investigation of the case by the Ogle County Sheriff’s Department in 2005 pointed to possible culprits, both of whom are dead.

Arians, who heads up the Mary Jane Reed Foundation, has repeatedly expressed his dissatisfaction with the results of 2005 investigation, subsequent exhumation of Mary Jane’s remains, and autopsy, done with the help of the Illinois State Police.

He said several experts agree with his longtime contention that not all the body parts exhumed in 2005 belong to Mary Jane.

“After close scrutiny of four reports composed and collaborated by no less than 10 board certified forensic anthropologists, the only determination that can be made is that the 2005 exhuming and post mortem examination of Mary Jane Reed was either negligently or intentionally botched by those involved,” Arians read from a prepared statement.

He declined to give the names of the experts, saying only that they belong to the American Board of Forensic Anthropologists but do not like media attention.

Beitel said his department and the state police did a thorough investigation four years ago.

“We investigated as thoroughly and comprehensively as we could. Our findings are all in our reports,” he said. “I would like to know where and what is the alleged botch. The Reed family was present throughout the entire exhumation and examination. It was completely recorded on videotape and still photographs.”

At the press conference, Arians showed  X-rays of Mary Jane’s skull and vertebrae taken at Rochelle Community Hospital during the 2005 autopsy.

He said the X-rays show that the C-1 vertebra, the one closest to the skull, is broken.

However, the C-1 vertebra returned after the autopsy is intact, he said, proving the bones were switched before they were returned to Warren Reed, 67, Rock Falls, Mary Jane’s only surviving sibling.

Beitel said he has no way of knowing if the bones Arians is referring to are the same ones taken from Mary’s Jane’s coffin during the exhumation.

“The chain of custody has been compromised,” he said.

After the exhumation and autopsy in 2005, Mary Jane’s remains were reinterred in her grave at Daysville Cemetery, except for the skull, seven vertebrae and femur, which were sent to the Illinois State Crime Lab for further testing.

Ogle County Judge Stephen Pemberton ordered the bones returned to Warren Reed in 2006, over the objections of Ogle County Coroner Louis Finch IV, State’s Attorney John B. Roe, and Beitel, who asked the judge to protect the chain of custody of the evidence by turning the bones over to a funeral director for eventual reburial rather than given directly to Reed.

Arians said Nov. 13 that the bones are currently being kept in a vault in Rockford.

Arians has also long contended that the skull buried in Mary Jane’s coffin is not hers, and has reiterated that belief at several press conferences.

He said Nov. 13  that he believes the skull was switched sometime before she was buried in 1948, and that the sheriff’s department, coroner and medical examiner could have been involved in the switch.

Two years ago, in December 2007, Arians held a press conference to announce the findings of forensic anthropologist Linda Klepinger after she examined the skull and seven vertebrae

In her report, Klepinger, a professor emeritus in anthropology at the University of Illinois, Urbana, said the skull and one vertebra do not match up with the other vertebrae taken from the coffin and could not come from the same person.

Klepinger said the skull and C-1 vertebra belonged to the same person, and vertebrae C-2 through C-7 fit together.

At a press conference last May, Arians said he had written the U.S. Attorney General Patrick Fitzgerald asking that his office conduct a formal investigation of the case because he believed local officials had not done enough to find Mary Jane’s killer.

Five years of legal battles  between Reed and the Mary Jane Reed Foundation versus Finch, Beitel and Roe were settled in September when Pemberton approved an out-of-court settlement.

Pemberton signed an order Sept. 2 dismissing all pending legal issues in the complicated case, which started in January of 2004 when Reed and the foundation filed a petition to have Mary Jane’s body exhumed from its grave for a post mortem examination and forensic testing.

At the time Reed said he hoped that with modern-day technology, the body would yield clues that would lead to his sister’s murder being solved.

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