It was in 2006 that I provided the Rolling Meadows Police Department with the information about the home at 1113 Barber Lane in Joliet. The information is also contained in chapters of my trilogy, “BURIED TRUTH”. Russell Smrekar’s cousin, Cheryl Pasdertz and her husband James, owned this home at the time of Mike Mansfield’s disappearance from his Rolling Meadows home on New Year’s Eve 1975. Jim and Cheryl Pasdertz were the ones who provided Russell with an alibi for the night of the Fry double homicide (Oct. 9, ’76). They claimed Russ was at their Barber Ln. home with them watching “Bonnie & Clyde” on TV, and he couldn’t have been in Lincoln to have killed Jay and Robin Fry, both 24. They lied, of course. Smrekar was stopped speeding, traveling 96 MPH northbound, around Odell, IL at 3:05 a.m. on Oct. 10, ’76, which was shortly after Jay and pregnant Robin were shotgunned to death in their home at approximately 1:30 A.M.
I first contacted the RMPD in 2006 and spoke to Detective Doucet about some interesting facts regarding the Barber Lane house. I had gathered the information from one of several interviews I conducted with Smrekar’s former girlfriend. I also wrote a 6-page letter to Doucet containing the same information about the home. I could never understand why they didn’t follow though on the information – it was quite suspicious – when their department was so close to the location of the Pasdertz home.
Years later, in late October 2011, Smrekar reportedly made a “deathbed confession” to killing Michael Mansfield and Ruth Martin before expiring from a “terminal illness” at Menard Penitentiary in southern Illinois. Authorities said he confessed to burying his second victim, Lincoln real estate agent Ruth Martin, under the new construction of I-55 around Lincoln. Martin also disappeared 6 days before she was to testify against Russell in a Lincoln grocery store shoplifting case. I was befuddled by Smrekar’s alleged confession because he had written to me in 2007 that the murders of Mansfield and Martin would “remain unto eternity unsolved.” Russell was not at all religious or spiritual, and he had claimed to have sold his soul to the Devil back in the days of his killing spree. Russell had put me on his visitors list, and I was very disappointed that I never got the opportunity to speak with him (as chilling as it might have been). I just found it hard to believe he confessed after what he avowed to me in his letter. Of course, even if he did confess, he was a sociopath and pathological liar who had very little credibility. We all know he was involved in these 4 murders, but there are surely other people who must have assisted him who know more than they’re telling.
I phoned the RMPD again on July 29, 2016 and gave them further critical information in addition to reiterating my concerns about 1113 Barber Lane. I spoke to Detective Barrille, who was not aware of the newer information I gave him, and he also didn’t know that Renee Mansfield, Michael’s mother, had passed away in October 2014. I pleaded with him in an 1 hour and 20 minute phone conversation to please check out the Pasdertz home. He made no promises.
I was notified on Wednesday, through Facebook, that an investigation was underway at a Joliet home for Mansfield. I knew immediately it had to be Barber Lane. I’d never seen the Pasdertz property, so it was quite intriguing to me to be able to actually see it through the media photos and footage. It gave me a creepy feeling to learn that the home is apparently still in the Smrekar/Pasdertz family, but it’s been vacant for 2 YEARS. I was struck, even startled, by how some of the property’s features seem to match clues that Smrekar had given as to the location of Ruth Martin’s remains. Serial killers often use the same location as a dumpsite for their victim’s, a place where they can keep an eye on their secrets. I had thought before that because the home was very familiar to Russ, and it belonged to his relatives who’d provided him with an alibi for a double homicide (after the time that both Michael and Ruth disappeared), he could have buried Michael in the crawlspace there; this was also what Smrekar’s former girlfriend had suggested to me. John Wayne Gacy was actively doing that at the same time just a short distance away in Norwood Park, IL. Gacy hid 26 victims in the crawlspace of his ranch house between 1972-’78. It looked like either a little stream or drainage ditch by the Barber Lane home (I couldn’t see it real well), and Russell said you could hear running water near the location of where he buried Ruth Martin “bunk high”. There are other clues that might match there as well, but I’ll leave it at that.
There’s no word at this time if Michael’s remains have been found at the Barber Lane property or not, but I pray to God the search is fruitful. They should consider contacting NecroSearch International and Dr. Diane France, a Forensic Anthropologist specializing in the search for human remains. If no findings are produced, at least the property will have been checked off the list of possibilities through Process of Elimination. More follow-up investigation should take place without delay because there are too many facts, important evidence, and information supporting that Smrekar did not act alone in the murders of Mansfield and Martin. I’m pleased they’ve finally looked into this, I just wish they’d done it sooner.
Bonnie J. Thompson (Copyright 2017).
Featured photo shows a portion of Russell Smrekar’s 2007 4-page letter to Bonnie J. Thompson.
LINK TO NEWS ARTICLE:http://patch.com/illinois/joliet/body-1975-murder-hidden-joliet-house