Police investigating 1975 cold case at Will County home

Image 1 of 2

LEFT TO RIGHT: Michael Mansfield and his alleged killer, Russel Smrekar

FOX 32 NEWS - A 40-year-old cold case out of Rolling Meadows has brought authorities to Joliet where they are searching for remains or evidence connected to the disappearance of Michael Mansfield. He disappeared from his home in 1975.

Five years ago, a convicted murderer who used to be Mansfield’s college roommate made a death bed confession to the murder.

On Wednesday, investigators in white protective gear could be seen coming and going from a home on Barber Lane in Joliet. Behind the home, authorities set up three tents where digging has been underway for hours.

There are reports police are also looking in a crawl space in the home in hopes of solving the Mansfield case.

“A little shocked, you know, you don't think something like that would happen in your neighborhood, but it was many years ago, assuming when it happened, but still to find something out like this now, it's a little scary,” said neighbor Annette Heck.

Mansfield’s roommate, Russell Smrekar, who was from the Joliet area, was long suspected in the case. Mansfield had been scheduled to testify against Smrekar in a theft case days after his disappearance.

In 2011, from his prison cell at the downstate Menard Correctional Center, where Smrekar was serving a 300 year sentence for a 1976 double murder, Smrekar made that confession before dying of a terminal illness.

Why it took five years for the search in Joliet to begin is unclear.

The home once belonged to a relative of Smrekar, but neighbors say no one has lived here for perhaps two years.