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Family’s Killing One Year Ago Today Makes Town Cautious

November 18, 1988

INA, Ill. (AP) _ The unsolved slayings of a young family a year ago today have left townspeople leery not only of strangers but of each other.

″It’s unbelievable that it could be somebody walking the streets and you might know him,″ said Joan Sneed, owner of the Ina Cafe in this town of 450.

On Nov. 18, 1987, a sheriff’s deputy found the badly beaten bodies of Ruby Elaine Dardeen, 30; her son, Peter Sean, 3, and the girl she gave birth to during the attack with a baseball bat in their mobile home.

The baby, later named Casey Elaine by her grandparents, was born alive and killed with blows to the head, authorities said. Mrs. Dardeen had been 7 1/2 months’ pregnant.

The body of Russell Keith Dardeen, the 29-year-old husband and father, was found by hunters the next day. He had been shot three times in the head, police said.

Townspeople this week said residents no longer are as trusting as they were before the slayings. Previously, doors went unlocked at night.

Despite 822 interviews that have led investigators all over the country, a $10,000 reward from the Dardeen family and a stream of leads, the case remains unsolved.

″Any closer to a suspect or an arrest? No,″ said Jefferson County sheriff’s Capt. Mike Anthis, who heads the investigation. ″We don’t see that around the corner.

″It’s one of those situations it could be tomorrow, next week, next month - you don’t know. It may be another year from now. It’s kind of like working a 5,000-piece jigsaw puzzle.″

Police have no motive, said Anthis, who acknowledged that the longer the case goes unsolved, the more difficult solution becomes.

Rick Hobler, the attorney for the Dardeen estate, said relatives were frustrated about the lack of a break in the case but remain hopeful.

″The families are religious families and they both believe that their prayers will be answered,″ Hobler said. ″They’re convinced that something that’s right will happen.″ Both families chose to speak through Hobler.

The slayings are no longer the primary topic of conversation at the four- table Ina Cafe, said Mrs. Sneed, but ″it’s always in the back of everybody’s mind. Who did it? And why?″

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