A Rockford author is speaking later this week about unsolved crimes in Winnebago County’s history.
Kathi Kresol has written two books on the history of Rockford and Winnebago County. She’s also the founder of Haunted Rockford, and she writes a newspaper column about some of the area’s unsolved crimes called “Voices From the Grave.”
“I particularly like to speak about the unsolved because it helps keep those names in the news, and it helps keep those in the thoughts of people who maybe don't even realize that they might have a connection to the crime and might know something that can help the police,” Kresol said.
She’s been researching the history of Rockford for well over a decade. She started to learn about these stories about crimes in Rockford as she was doing haunted historical tours in the city. She says her interest in these stories was sparked partly by her learning about the history of her Rockford home.
“I researched the history of our house and there was a murder suicide in my house,” Kresol said. “I became kind of obsessed with her because she was the same exact age as I was when I found out about the story, and she had small children.”
Eventually, she was asked to write true crime stories for a book called Secret Rockford, and that led to the start of her newspaper column.
“That was over five years ago, and it just keeps leading into more and more,” Kresol said. “Now I’m doing presentations, along with my tours and my other events.”
Some of the stories she tells go back almost a century and a half. She sometimes tells the story of Marshall Pritchard, an area tax collector in the 1870s. According to Kresol, his murder caused significant trouble for his family, particularly his nine-year-old son, who could be found most days sitting in the cemetery because it was the only place he could connect with his father.
“Sometimes these crimes have repercussions,” Kresol said. “Maybe they never meant to hurt Marshall, but in the end, they destroyed his family.”
She says it’s important to remember the people of the area’s history.
“It's a way to get history into the hands of people that maybe hated history in high school, but they'll come out and they'll listen to stories about actual people,” Kresol said.
She says learning about these stories has made her love Rockford even more than she already had.
“In the middle of all this darkness that I dwell into to pull out these stories, every single one of them has had stories of how compassionate Rockford folks are to the people who are going through the most horrible time of their life,” Kresol said. “We come together as a community and help these people.”
Kresol says that despite any conceptions people may have about recent upticks in violence in Rockford, the city has always had a bit of a violent element. However, she says the city has had a resurgence in recent years.
“Instead of making excuses for our violence, or whatever, it has been really neat to see people step up and say, ‘You know, I'm going to help those less fortunate than I am, I'm going to make this town safer,’” Kresol said. “It is all starting to work together and to make our community a better place for everybody.”
The presentation is happening this Wednesday at the Vintage Wings and Wheels Museum in Poplar Grove. Admission costs five dollars at the door. That price includes a tour of the museum.