Exhumation Completed

By: Laura Gibbs
By: Laura Gibbs

Back in 1948 a double murder cold case left 18-year-old Mary Jane Reed and 28-year-old Stanley Skridla dead. For years just how these two summertime homicides took place has been a mystery.

What is going on behind this curtain could be the answer to all the rumors circulating around about who killed Mary Jane Reed and how it was done. Mary Jane Reed's brother Warren and former Oregon Mayor Mike Arians were granted permission to have her body exhumed.

Mike Arians filed the petition to have her body exhumed. Arians stated, "It's an avenue we took that if we wouldn't of taken we'd feel very uneasy and felt like we didn't do our job."

The exhumation started at 8 a.m. Warren, his daughters, and law enforcement officials from Ogle County and the Illinois State Police are the only eyes who got to witness the entire exhumation process. Just after 9 a.m. the cement vault with a wooden casket inside was pulled out.

Mary Jane Reed’s brother, Warren Reed came out to states, “Everything looks fine. Whoever sealed the vault did a great job. There was no water inside it was absolutely dry."

It wasn't until about 10:30 a.m. that the concrete vault was cracked open. Crews initially tried to saw off the concrete top but instead had to chisel away. Ogle County Sheriff Mel Messer says, “We didn't know what to expect or what they did 50 years ago with vaults. There were a half a dozen speculations on how it was sealed based on the vault company back then."

But interested parties were still nervous about the condition of the body. But once the casket was opened jaws dropped. Mary Jane has been somewhat preserved over 56 years. On-lookers were able to make out parts of her clothing and her body was not completely decomposed.

Arians says, "We did learn her head was severed. That is what one fellow who assisted with her autopsy said. But once the head was severed would it be in the coffin? Now we know it was so that theory was put to rest."

With Mary Jane's body being so well preserved, DNA tests could provide the answer that the Reed family has been looking for since 1948. Mary Jane's body was taken to Rochelle Hospital for pathologists and anthropologists to examine. Articles were sent to forensic and DNA crime labs. It’s expected to take about three months to analyze. Once all the evidence was collected many gathered for a burial service. Mary Jane was placed in a new casket and a chaplain was on hand to perform this special funeral for a second time.


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