Bodies found in Winnebago County not connected
ROCKFORD — Eight bodies have been found in Winnebago County and nearby communities in a span of roughly eight weeks, but authorities say the deaths have no connection.
The discovered remains, already more than the Winnebago County coroner’s office would handle in a typical year, have investigators hustling to identify the bodies and determine causes of death.
So far, authorities have determined one person died of an overdose, another by suicide and a third death led to homicide charges. The cause of death has yet to be released or determined in five other cases, but foul play is not suspected.
The unusually high body count fueled speculation on social media of an active serial killer, and posts on Reddit drew hundreds of comments and one on Tik Tok garnered nearly 400,000 likes and 8,500 comments.
But Winnebago County Coroner Bill Hintz shut down that speculation this week, saying there is no connection between the five bodies found between March 2 to April 17 in Winnebago County.
“We do not have a serial killer. None of these cases have any relationship whatsoever,” Hintz said. “There is nothing that I have seen that gives me reason to believe that we should be concerned.”
Five bodies found is unusually high for a two-month period.
“We might average four a year,” Hintz said. “So, maybe the rest of the year we won’t have any more. I don’t know.”
Rick Ciganek, chief deputy of the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department, said without identifying specific cases, “Some of these are suicides.”
He also said, “It’s not like there is someone out there making suicides look like the work of serial killer. … It’s just not realistic.”
Some social media commenters say their speculation stems from a lack of information released by police, particularly a prompt disclosure of the cause of death in each of the cases.
The length of time to determine the cause of death can very depending largely on the state of the body. In three Winnebago County cases, only skeletal remains were found.
Also, toxicology testing, which is performed outside of the coroner’s office to determine what drugs were in a body, can take six weeks or longer to be returned.
And if the cause of death is determined to be a suicide or drug overdose, it’s not out of the ordinary for officials to respect the wishes of the family and not to publicly disclose the cause of death.
The five bodies found from March 2 to April 17 in Winnebago County are:
• The March 2 discovery of Michelle Arnold-Boesigner, 33, of Harvard, in a storage unit at U-Haul Self-storage in Roscoe.
• The March 9 discovery of human bones near the U.S. 20 bypass and 11th Street in Rockford.
• The March 23 discovery of skeletal remains, later identified as Wesley Shaver, 33, of Mendota, found in the 3600 block of Auburn Street in Rockford.
• The March 31 discovery of human bones near Newburg and Mill roads near Cherry Valley.
• The April 17 discovery of a body in the 2700 block of Laude Drive in southeast Rockford.
The cause of death in all of the cases — except for that of Shaver, who was found to have died by drug overdose — have not been released or determined.
The most recent body discovery outside of Winnebago County occurred last week.
Patrick Michael Reum, 28, of Rockford was pulled from the Rock River in Dixon. He had been missing since December.
“There was no sign of foul play or anything of that nature,” Lee County Coroner Jesse Partington said Friday.
A 77-day search for Brandon Cuddy also ended in Lee County. On March 16, the coroner’s office announced the 27-year-old Byron man’s body had been pulled from the Rock River in Sterling. The cause of death has not been determined.
The body of Keith Heidenreich was found March 10 in the Mississippi River in rural Savanna in Carroll County, and murder charges were handed down in the case a month later.
Levi T. J. Meyer, 35, of Freeport, and Danielle K. Heidenreich, 39, of Savanna, were arrested in April. Meyer was charged with first-degree murder and Heidenreich was charged with concealment of a homicidal death. Both are being held in the Jo Daviess County Jail.