Atwater, Crandall murders are still on cops' minds

Atwater, Crandall murders are still on cops' minds

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The Milan police department continues to investigate two relatively recent murders, perpetrators of which have managed to elude officers to date.

Nicholas "Boogy" Atwater

One open case from 2006 may get wrapped up within the next few months.

Detective Chris George said officers will be taking information to Rock Island County State's Attorney Jeff Terronez and "will be speaking with the state's attorney's office regarding charges," in the murder of Nicholas "Boogy" Atwater.

"We're trying to get everything together," he said.

Mr. Atwater was 34 on Jan. 8, 2006, when he was found shot to death and lying on the ground between two cars in the parking lot of the Village Woods apartment complex at 280 W. 20th Ave., Milan.

His mother, Betty Atwater, said that he had gone with his family to a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant and dropped her off at home sometime between 9 and 9:30 p.m. She said he then went to the apartment complex, possibly to visit friends or a girlfriend.

While not revealing specifics, Detective George said that police have been following some new leads.

"Recently, there was some information we feel has been extremely beneficial to the case," he said.

Detective George, who was only a patrol officer at the time, said he was the first to arrive at the scene of Mr. Atwater's death.

"It was dark," he said. "Summertime. It wasn't raining."

Ms. Atwater said in January 2009 that immediately following her son's murder, she would stop in to talk with Milan police every other day. She kept up that pace for seven or eight months, she said.

But Ms. Atwater's visits have slowed, Detective George said.

"It has been a while since I've spoken with her," he said. "She usually comes in a couple times a year."

Whenever Ms. Atwater shows up, Detective George said she has information.

"There are people that go directly to her with information," he said, adding that while most people want to see murders solved, many don't feel comfortable talking directly with police.

Detective George said Crime Stoppers has been very helpful for gathering tips about Mr. Atwater's murder.

"Many people want the person responsible brought to justice," he said. "That's why Crime Stoppers is such a great tool -- you remain anonymous."

Harriet Crandall

Finding clues to unravel the murder of Harriet Crandall has not been easy, Milan police Detective Chris George says.

The body of the 96-year-old Ms. Crandall was found on Aug. 30, 2008 in her home at 325 W. 4th Ave. after a fire left the residence -- which she had lived in for 73 years -- nothing but a burned-out shell. It was later revealed she had been strangled before the fire broke out.

"Fire itself can eliminate or make it harder to find evidence," Detective George said.

More than 18 months later, no arrests have been made in connection with Ms. Crandall's death, though Detective George said officers have recently been working on the case. He said that he believes that police have evidence and leads that they are following, but they are missing a piece of evidence to tie everything together. He would not say what that evidence is.

"Every crime, in my opinion, is solvable," Detective George said. "With that one piece, I'm sure there are going to be other avenues. I feel confident that we will find the person or persons responsible."

Ms. Crandall's family is fairly certain money was the reason Ms. Crandall was killed. They said she had about $5,000 in the house when she died, money which was missing after the fire.

"She grew up in the Depression," James Crandall, one of Ms. Crandall's sons, said on the first anniversary of her death. "She didn't entirely trust banks. She had to have that money where she could touch it."

Detective George said Ms. Crandall's family doesn't check in with police very often, though when they get a new bit of information, they will call.

"As soon as they hear any information, they've been great," he said, adding that he has spoken to the family within the last six months.

Detective George said unlike in the case of Nicholas Atwater, police are not within a couple months of trying to file charges in Ms. Crandall's murder. But he was quick to add that police are still regularly working on the case.

"We as law enforcement want to solve every crime," he said. "We want to make sure every victim of a crime gets vindication. Unfortunately, not every crime can be solved."

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