47 Years Since the Disappearance of Michael Mansfield – why have authorities failed to investigate important new leads?

New Year’s Eve 2022 marked 47 YEARS since the disappearance/murder of Michael Mansfield. The Rolling Meadows IL Police Department never conducted a thorough investigation into Michael’s disappearance. Why not?

There are currently probable accomplices at large in connection to serial killer Russell Smrekar who was the number one 1976 suspect in the murders of Mansfield and also Lincoln, IL real estate agent Ruth Martin.

A year or two prior to Mansfield’s disappearance, there was an incident involving Mansfield and POLICE BRUTALITY. What Michael’s parents were pressured to do back at that time was, and remains, appalling and corrupt.

The below dialogue is taken from a chapter in Buried Truth, The Unabridged Trilogy, Part Three: Plea for Justice and a 2008 interview I conducted with Marvin and Renee Mansfield (Michael’s parents). Michael disappeared from his family home in Rolling Meadows, IL the afternoon of December 31, 1975. He left on foot and was never seen again.

First, a little background:

At the time of his disappearance, Michael was a 19-year-old Lincoln College (Lincoln, IL) honor student. He was scheduled to testify against Russell Smrekar in a Theft Over $150 dorm room burglary case in Logan County. Smrekar, 20 at the time, was a Lincoln College student and a known thief from Joliet, IL, who’d just been released from the Will County, IL Jail prior to enrolling at Lincoln College.

The night of September 18, 1975, Smrekar showed up at Mansfield’s dorm room with an armload of record albums asking to temporarily store them there. Mansfield reluctantly allowed him to do. Smrekar then made several trips in and out of Mansfield’s room lugging in more albums. After Smrekar theft, (and hitchhiked north to Joliet for the weekend) Mansfield suspected Smrekar had stolen the records, and he moved them outside his room near a stairwell and trash chute. Another student who saw Mansfield unloading the records reported him to the Dean of Students the next day. Two female students had also reported that their dorm room had been burglarized – the items stolen were approximately 150 record albums and an expensive guitar.
That same day, Mansfield was arrested and charged with Theft by Possession.

Smrekar was also arrested when he returned to campus. There had been a rash of burglaries occurring at the college, and Smrekar was the presumed culprit. Thus, he and Mansfield became co-defendants in the burglary case. Mansfield denied involvement in the crime and swore he knew nothing about the stolen guitar.

The Logan County State’s Attorney’s office (my father, Roger Thompson’s office) offered to defer Mansfield’s charge if he would agree to turn state’s evidence and testify against Smrekar in the burglary matter. Mansfield agreed. After signing the Deferral of Prosecution Agreement on Dec. 18, 1975, Michael left Lincoln to spend the Christmas/New Year’s holidays with his family in Rolling Meadows, IL.

The afternoon of New Year’s Eve, Michael was helping his parents decorate for a party at their home that night. The phone rang around 2 p.m., and Michael answered it. His parents didn’t know who’d called or where he was going. They only knew he was going out and would back in about an hour. He put on his buckskin coat and walked out the front door, leaving his wallet behind. Michael didn’t have a car and would walk almost everywhere.

The hours ticked by and Michael never returned home for the party. Everyone wondered where he was. He still hadn’t returned the next morning or the following day. To this day he’s never been seen or heard from again. He disappeared 6 days before his scheduled appearance in Logan County Court to testify against Smrekar in the dorm room burglary case.

In June of ’76, another witness against Smrekar – involving a shoplifting incident at Lincoln’s Kroger grocery store – also disappeared 6 days before she was to testify against Smrekar in Logan County. Lincoln realtor Ruth Louise Martin, 51, disappeared from her home the morning of June 2, ’76. Blood and a mutilated spent .22 caliber bullet were found in the Martin garage, and Ruth and her car were missing. On June 4, ’76, Ruth’s car was found abandoned 30 miles north of Lincoln at the Bloomington IL Holiday Inn. Blood was found covering the trunk mat and additional evidence was gathered from her vehicle, however Ruth remained missing. She, like Mansfield, has never been found, and the Lincoln, IL Police Department is involved in a COVER-UP relating to critical blood evidence discovered and collected in her case. This bombshell blood evidence provides the name of a suspect/accomplice in Martin’s murder, and the LPD has been concealing and lying about this evidence for 47 years. They even withheld information from and lied to Logan County State’s Attorney Roger W. Thompson (my father) about this critical evidence. It’s possible, and even probable, that Smrekar might have divulged information about Mansfield’s murder to this named suspect connected to the blood evidence in Ruth Martin’s murder. This named suspect has never been investigated. IT’S OUTRAGEOUS!

The early morning hours of October 9, ’76, Jay Alvin Fry and his pregnant wife, Robin (and their unborn child), both 24, were shotgunned to death in their Lincoln home. Jay Fry was also a witness against Smrekar; he was the Kroger employee who’d seen Smrekar steal two ribeyes from the meat department the previous year on October 1, ’75. Smrekar left the store without paying, and Fry and two store managers chased and apprehended him in the parking lot. Prior to being apprehended, Smrekar had tossed the stolen steaks under Ruth Martin’s car just as she was headed back to it with her groceries. Smrekar was arrested and charged with Theft Under $150. Jay Fry was murdered 9 days before he was to appear in a hearing on the shoplifting case.

On October 18, ’76, Russell Smrekar was arrested at the Logan County Courthouse for the Fry double homicide. Russell’s two girlfriends and another man accompanied him to courthouse that day. The two girlfriends remain suspected accomplices in these disappearances/murders.

In ’76, Smrekar’s cousin, Cheryl Pasdertz, and her husband, Jim, provided Russ with an alibi for the night of the Fry murders. They told authorities Russ was at their house in Joliet watching the movie “Bonnie and Clyde” on TV and not in Lincoln. Russ was known to hang out at the Pasdertz home, especially when he wasn’t getting along with his mother, Martha (Russ lived with his mom).

In 2006, Smrekar’s former girlfriend, Missy Smith, told me Russ was at the Pasdertz house the day of Mansfield’s disappearance helping Cheryl “plant rose bushes” on December 31, ’75 (🚩red flag). There are additional probable accomplices to Smrekar, especially in relation to the abduction/murder of Ruth Martin. None of these probable accomplices at large have ever been properly or thoroughly investigated (and some have never been investigated at all in connection to some of these murders).

Smrekar was convicted of the Fry double homicide in 1977. Years later, in October 2011, he reportedly died at Menard Correctional Center in southern IL. Before expiring from an unspecified “terminal Illness,” authorities claimed he made an alleged “deathbed confession” to also killing Mansfield and Martin. Authorities claimed Smrekar admitted burying Martin under IL Interstate 55, which was under construction at the time of Martin’s disappearance. This, of course, is an area that can never be excavated. Authorities said Smrekar didn’t divulge any information about what he’d done with Mansfield’s body.

The Lincoln, Illinois Police Department provided false information to the public relating to Smrekar’s alleged deathbed confession and what he’d done with Ruth Martin’s body the day of her disappearance. These claims presented by the LPD go against established facts in their own records from 1976 (records that I also have). They had to have known the information they’d fed to the public was not true. Why would they do such a thing?

In 2008, Mansfield’s parents, Marv and Renee, relayed the following disturbing information to me in an interview I conducted with them on June 24th. The following is verbatim dialogue from that conversation.

BONNIE THOMPSON: Was Mike ever arrested before the theft by possession charge? Did he ever have any other trouble with the police or anything that you’re aware of?

MARV: Well, I’m aware of something, but I don’t know if we want to . . . .

Despite his initial reluctance, Marvin explained that Mike traveled mostly on foot, no matter where he was going. He would often walk to Woodfield Shopping Center to check out a music store. One evening, Mike was walking along the highway, and he crossed it to get to Woodfield (located on the other side). A police officer saw him cross the highway and began “hassling” him. Evidently, the situation got out of hand, and there was some “police brutality” involved.

MARV: Mike got a bit banged up. They did so much as to take him to the hospital, and, yes, we were there. They were giving him a hard time, and they tried to say that he was assaulting a police officer. This is while he was still in high school.

RENEE: Yeah, but Marv, they wanted us to sign releases saying . . . .

MARV: Releases saying that the police officer didn’t hurt him.

BT: Oh, they wanted . . . .

RENEE: Us to sign a release . . . .
BT: The police?

MARV: Or they were gonna . . . .

RENEE: Or Michael would have a police record.

MARV: Yeah.

BT: So the police wanted you to sign a release saying that they had not done anything, but yet he had bruises? What was the extent of his injuries?

RENEE: He went down on his face, and his face was all cut up. They wanted us to say that they did not do that . . . that he slipped and fell . . . did it to himself.

BT: And you didn’t do that.

MARV: Uh, well . . . .

RENEE: We did.

MARV: We refused, but then . . . .

RENEE: But then they told us, “Well, then he’s gonna have a police record.” It was like a threat, you know.

MARV: I had a friend of mine who got us in touch with an attorney, and the attorney said to let it go because it wasn’t worth the trouble.

BT: So, in signing that release, that was just to cover everything up . . . that he had gone to the hospital . . . .

MARV: Or whatever, we don’t really know. That it was not the case . . . that the police officer did not rough him up in any way. That’s what they were sayin’.

BT. Boy, that’s infuriating.

MARV: And Mike didn’t want to talk to them about it one way or another. He told us right there that the police did this, but you know, that was it. It was really a phony deal.

BT: Yeah, well, it sounds like it.

MARV: I don’t know if it was a state police officer. I can’t recall, offhand. Anyhow, they got in touch with us later on, and they said that if we were to sign that release they would not take him and press him on the so-called assault of a police officer. And we certainly didn’t need any of that kind of business.

BT: It doesn’t even sound like it would have been Mike’s nature to do that sort of thing.

MARV: No. Mike was a pacifist . . . that I will tell you. His hands would only come up in defense of himself. You know, defensive mode only.

BT: Right.

MARV: So, when someone tells me that he was attacking a police officer . . . .

BT: It’s ludicrous.

MARV: Yeah. I don’t believe it. There is no way you’re gonna make me believe it.

In relation to Michael’s case and the lack of investigation into his disappearance, the Mansfields stated the following:

RENEE: Smrekar may stay there in prison for the rest of his life, but what about anybody that was involved with him? They’re just as guilty as he is.

MARV: They’re probably all sitting on their hands, and that’s it, you know, and not doing anything. Uh, it’s almost like the old story about the squeaky wheel getting the grease. If you keep on makin’ noise, keep on rattling doors, cages and such, usually something gets taken care of.

BT: Well, I’m the squeaky wheel, that’s for sure.

MARV: I know, it’s thirty years now passed, but hey . . . it’s still a thing that’s there. Give us some satisfaction and knowledge that says this is what it is, or that it was, you know. But the way it’s going, it’s just like, well, they go so far, and then they just sit down and that’s it . . . and let it go. That’s the way it sounds to me.

RENEE: I wonder if people really care about the parents and how we feel and what we’ve been going through? And, actually, Bonnie, you’re the only one that’s kind of kept this thing up.

BT: Well, I . . . .

RENEE: Mike’s case is probably sitting in a box somewhere and forgotten. We just want some closure, so we can put it behind us. I’m gonna hang on to this till the day I die. That’s what’s gonna happen.

Sadly, Renee Mansfield passed away on October 31, 2014. She was a wonderful woman. Marv also passed away recently, on New Year’s Day 2022, very close to the time of Michael’s disappearance/murder. I was extremely fond of them, and we talked on the phone many times over the years. I was always hoping to meet them face-to-face. It’s heartbreaking that they never lived to see Michael’s case solved or for him to receive the justice he still deserves. The injustice of it all is maddening and tragic. I feel his case remains unsolved because authorities have failed to conduction intensive investigation.

Marv and Renee recalled going to Lincoln College and meeting Russell Smrekar and his girlfriend, Patti Gunther. She was also a Lincoln College student back at that time, and she and Russ were in Michael’s dorm room while Marv and Renee were visiting. After their visit ended, and they were leaving the dormitory, Marv recalled seeing Patti Gunther get into a car that he described as “a red beater,” meaning an older car. Renee added that the day Mike disappeared, a few people in their neighborhood had described seeing an unfamiliar “red car” drive into their cul-de-sac. The Mansfield home sat at the end of the cul-de-sac, so everyone on their street tended to notice unfamiliar cars in their area.

I also had a conversation with Michael’s youngest brother in 2017. The afternoon of New Year’s Eve 1975, he was outside in front of the Mansfield home playing with some neighbor kids. He recalled watching Mike leave that day (for the last time) and walk down the street and get into either a “red or brown beater car.” He watched the car drive off, but he couldn’t see who else was in the car.

The Mansfields couldn’t recall the RMPD ever searching for their son at all. Why didn’t the RMPD search for Michael? The RMPD also never investigated the Pasdertz property (Smrekar’s cousin) at 1113 Barber Lane UNTIL 2017. They also failed to investigate the Pasdertz property for 11 YEARS after I encouraged them to do so in 2006. I informed them that Smrekar’s girlfriend, Missy, had suggested that Michael was most likely taken to the Pasdertz property the day of his disappearance. If Michael was taken to that property that day, and he never left there, then those involved in his murder had 41 YEARS to dispose of and cover up evidence.

When asked why they were investigating the Pasdertz property in January of 2017, the RMPD claimed that Smrekar had told them something in his 2011 “deathbed confession” that prompted their (VERY DELAYED) search. That claim is contrary to their original 2011 claim that Smrekar didn’t say anything about what he’d done to Mansfield or with his body. It’s interesting that several months prior to the Rolling Meadows PD’s search at Barber Lane, I had called (once again) and urged them to investigate the Pasdertz house and surrounding land. Then, in November of 2016, I joined Twitter and began posting about Mansfield’s disappearance and need for further investigation. In January 2017, started getting messages and calls from friends and the press around January 25th informing me that the Pasdertz property was surrounded with crime scene tape, and they were digging for the remains of Michael Mansfield. It was my call to the RMPD, and especially my tweets, that prompted that search . . . not something the RMPD claimed Smrekar had told them 6 years earlier before he died.

A few news reporters covering the dig at Barber Lane told me word was circulating that investigators had found “some kind of evidence,” but they were remaining tight-lipped. I have no way to verify if this is true. All I know is that it seems police were not being completely truthful with the public. In an article it was stated that the RMPD claimed they didn’t find Mansfield’s remains at the end of their lengthy (9-day) search, but they had developed “new leads.” I’d been providing them with good, new leads for years, but they ignored them (and they have continued to ignore them). It looked like black bags were hauled away from the Pasdertz property during the dig, which may have included contents from inside the home, crawlspace, detached garage, and the backyard.

AN IMPORTANT REMINDER: It’s the duty and obligation of the FBI to pursue all disappearances/murders of missing persons (Mansfield and Martin) who are victims of a serial killer (Russell Smrekar). This, of course, should include all persons of interest who are probable accomplices to Smrekar. They have not thoroughly done so, and they HAVE NOT investigated specific leads or persons of interest that I’ve directly brought to their attention. If anyone helped Smrekar in the commission of murder more than once, then that person is a serial accomplice and/or also a serial killer.

The Doe Network provides this information in their description of Mansfield: “Distinguishing Characteristics: Brown, shoulder length hair, he had a mustache extending to the ends of his mouth; Blue eyes; scar on the bridge of his nose” (http://www.doenetwork.org/cases/1777dmil.html). Marv and Renee Mansfield confirmed that Michael sustained that injury and resulting scar on the bridge of his nose from the police brutality incident that happened prior to his disappearance. Why did authorities not conduct thorough and broad-scale searches for Michael over the years, and especially a search of the Pasdertz property? Cheryl and Jim Pasdertz lied for Russell in an attempt to help him get away with the Fry murders, which happened AFTER Michael had disappeared. Had the Pasdertzs also aided and abetted Russ in Mansfield’s murder?

By the time of the January 2017 dig for Mansfield at Barber Ln., Jim Pasdertz had died. Cheryl still owned the property, but she wasn’t living there. Word is she inherited and moved into Martha Smrekar’s home (where Russ had lived on Vernon Ave. in Joliet). The Barber Lane house was vacant and not being rented out during the Mansfield dig. It had apparently been vacant for several years prior. Why didn’t Cheryl Pasdertz rent it out? Why would she just let it sit there vacant?

Bonnie J. Thompson, Investigative Writer/Author. Content in the post is under copyright, 2013, 2015, 2017. All rights reserved.

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