Nancy Ritchie’s family still seeks justice

45 years after her 1975 murder

by Bob Bong

LANSING, Ill. (April 25, 2020) – Relatives of Nancy Ritchie are still mourning her murder in Lansing in 1975 and are keeping hopes alive that they will finally find justice 45 years later.

Nancy was 30 when she was found about 8:40 a.m. Sept. 6, 1975, in her apartment at 18324 Myrtle Court by her 10-year-old daughter. She had been stabbed in the chest and was lying on a couch in the living room. The knife was still protruding from her chest when she was discovered.

Her daughter had been awakened that morning by Bill Bartley, owner of the Magic Mirror Beauty Salon in Munster, Indiana, where Nancy was employed. He called because Nancy had not reported to work.

The case

Lansing police under the command of Capt. Robert Turbin spent several weeks investigating the murder and interviewed a number of people who knew Nancy.

A September 9, 1975, article in the Lansing Sun Journal reports, “An inquest by the Cook County Coroner’s office into the murder Saturday of a Lansing woman will be in four to six weeks, a spokesman for the office said, adding that no further details would be available until after the probe. …Lansing police reported ‘nothing new’ in the investigation Monday.” (Photo: Barb Dust)
In a September 11, 1975, article in the Lansing Sun Journal, Lansing Police Chief Dean Stanley reported, “We have no prime suspects yet.” (Photo: Barb Dust)
“One week later, Lansing Police investigators are still working around the clock, pursuing several leads into the murder of Nancy Ritchie, but nothing new has developed, police report,” begins a small story on the front page of the September 16, 1975, Lansing Sun Journal. (Photo: Barb Dust)

On Dec. 7, 1975, police arrested the upstairs neighbor, William Kazak, 27, for the murder. Kazak was then indicted for the murder by a grand jury on Jan. 9, 1976.

Police records indicate there was an intimate relationship between them, but it appeared Nancy had been distancing herself from Kazak in the time prior to her death. The two had been dating, but she had recently broken off the relationship, according to Sally Toogood, one of Nancy’s sisters.

Kazak was eventually released on bond and four years later went on trial, Toogood said. He was acquitted of the murder after a brief bench trial in the Cook County Circuit Court. Kazak still lives in Lansing and operates a design studio in the village.

Toogood said prosecutors blew the case.

“Somebody dropped the ball. They only called one witness, my brother, who identified the body,” she said.

Toogood said the family didn’t push to reopen the case because their mother didn’t want to keep reliving the incident.

“We respected her wishes,” Toogood said.

Seeking closure

Their mom died four years ago and now Toogood and other relatives are trying to reopen the investigation to finally get justice for Nancy’s murder and possibly find new leads to her killer.

“We are seeking closure for her daughter,” she said. “She still struggles with closure all these years later.”

Toogood said Nancy’s son, who was 8 at the time of her murder, fared better. “He joined the Marines and hasn’t struggled as much.”

Case closed

Toogood said there is evidence that must be re-examined.

“There was a rape kit,” said Toogood. “It found hair from her killer that she had in her hands. We’d like it tested for DNA.”

Lansing Police Chief Dennis Murrin said Nancy’s family has been in contact with the department about reopening the case.

“It was 45 years ago,” he said. “There’s no one here (at the police department) who was around when the murder took place.”

Murrin also explained why there would have been no further investigation into the murder after Kazak was arrested even though he was acquitted.

“The detectives thought they had their man,” he said. “The case went to trial. He was acquitted. Case closed.”

As for testing the rape kit for DNA after all these years?

Illinois State Trooper Mindy Carroll held out little hope for that happening.

“The evidence is returned to the submitting agency after analysis is completed,” she said in an email from Springfield. “You would have to inquire with the law enforcement agency to determine if the evidence is still available. The family would have to contact a private lab concerning any retesting for civil purposes. The Illinois State Police lab system only performs analysis for criminal cases. Unless this case was reopened and submitted by (Lansing police), ISP would not do any additional testing.”

Murrin said he had no idea where the rape kit would be after 45 years.

Kazak is protected against future criminal proceedings for the murder under the double jeopardy clause that prevents a person from being prosecuted twice for the same crime once they have been acquitted.

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