When an Illinois couple and their young children are murdered in an act of profound violence, investigators struggle to find anyone who might’ve wanted to harm the well-liked family. A decades-long investigation explores multiple possibilities, including the involvement of serial killers, in this episode of Last Seen Alive.
The Dardeen Family included Russell Keith Dardeen, Ruby Elaine Dardeen, their son Peter Dardeen and newborn daughter Casey Dardeen (not pictured / no photos available). The Dardeens were known for their prize-winning family Halloween costumes.
Pictured: Peter Dardeen walks in front of his family’s mobile home on the outskirts of Ina, Illinois. Elaine, Peter and Casey were murdered inside the home, while Keith was killed inside his own car (also pictured).
Serial killer Tommy Lynn Sells confessed to murdering the Dardeens, but was known to make false confessions. Whether or not he was truly responsible for their murders is unknown. Sells was a cowardly sexual predator and murderer who often preyed upon unsuspecting women and children. He was executed in Texas in 2014 and is not missed.
A page from the Southern Illinoisan details Sells’ confession. It remains unknown whether the confession was factual, or just one of Sells’ many documented, self-serving lies. Sells changed the details of his confession multiple times.
Keith and Elaine Dardeen were loving parents to their son, Peter, and were looking forward to the birth of their second child at the time of their deaths. Their daughter, Casey, was born during the attack that took Elaine’s life. There is no doubt that Casey would have been cherished by her parents, just like her brother, had the family not been slain.
Sources used to research this episode:
Gruesome Murder of an Illinois Family Remains Unsolved as The Main Suspect is Executed (Bob Cyphers and Sara Bannoura / KMOV4 News)
St. Louis Post-Dispatch from St. Louis, Missouri · Page 6, 11/21/1987 ed. (via newspapers.com)
13-Year Vigil of Fear Eases in Illinois Town (Flynn McRoberts / The Chicago Tribune)
Through the Window: The Terrifying True Story of Cross-Country Killer Tommy Lynn Sells (Diana Fanning / St Martin’s Press)
How Serial Killer Ángel Reséndiz Used Railroads To Target, Murder His 9 Victims (Benjamin H. Smith / Oxygen.com)
‘Railroad Killer’ Executed in Texas (NBC News)
Tommy Lynn Sells (Michael Newton / The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers)
St. Louis Post-Dispatch from St. Louis, Missouri, Feb. 18th, 2001 · Page 15
The Coast to Coast Killer (Lisa Marie Fuqua via medium.com)
Killer Smile (John Macccormack / Dallas Observer)
If you know anything about the murders of Keith, Elaine, Peter and Casey Dardeen, please contact the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office at 618-244-8004.
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