Robert Lower, Joseph Didier's murderer
comes up before parole board
Every few years, Robert Lower, convicted murderer of Joseph Didier, 14,  comes up for consideration of parole. Trust me, we do not want this man ever released from prison. He is a danger to the public, no matter what his age. And we understand that we may never have communities totally safe from pedophiles and sexual deviants, in this case, we can make a difference. Every single time Lower comes up for consideration, we must sign petitions, attend meetings, and let our voice be heard. - He must NEVER be free to repeat what he did in 1975.
The following is the story of Joseph Didier, as shared with me from the Didier family scrap book. Much of the information is from excerpts from the Rockford Register Star as it followed the search for Joseph Didier, one of their own newspaper boys, who was kidnapped, tortured and murdered by Robert Lower in 1975.
Joseph Lawrence Didier
Born December 16, 1959 - Died March 4, 1975
Buried at Calvary Cemetery, Rockford, Illinois
Beloved son of George and Rosemary Didier of Rockford, Illinois
To All Parents ...by Edgar A. Guest
"I'll lend for a little while a child of mine", He said,
"For you to love the while he lives, and mourn for when he's dead.
It may be six or seven years, or twenty-two or three,
But will you till I call him back, take care of him for Me?
He'll bring his charms to gladden you, and should his stay be brief,
You'll have his lovely memories, as solace for your grief.
I cannot promise he will stay; since all from earth return,
But there are lessons taught down there, I want this child to learn.
I've looked the wide world over in my search for teachers true
And from the throngs that crowd life's lanes, I have selected you.
Now will you give him all your love, nor think the labor vain,
Nor hate me when I come to call to take him back again."
I fancied that I heard them say, "Dear Lord, Thy will be done!
For all the joy Thy child shall bring, the risk of grief we'll run.
We'll shelter him with tenderness, we'll love him while we may,
And for the happiness we've known, forever grateful stay;
But should the angels call him, much sooner than we've planned,
We'll brave the bitter grief that comes, and try to understand."
The Didier's graciously handed over there most treasured possession — a 2 ft by 3 ft scrapbook of Joey's life. As I settled down to read through what I thought was going to be an account of just his final days, I was privileged to have placed before my eyes Joey's birth announcement, cards received at his birth, birthday cards, school report cards, writings Joey himself had done, family notes to each other, and much more. I was given the opportunity to picture this little boy before he became a victim to a crazed killer. Before he became another statistic in America's Hall of Shame.
Reading the personal notes Joey wrote to family members was so touching, that I had to put it aside for a time, to regain composure. And as I set out to try once again to tackle the story of Joey Didier, I was once again assaulted by feeling of intense emotion, which can only be described as an ache deep in my heart.
Page by page, I read the account of a little boy's love for his family, and his love and commitment to God, the emotion grew stronger. A peek into his life. A bug on the wall.
Then I turned the page, I was hit with the headlines of the Rockford Register-Republic "Police Search for missing newsboy, 15". And the life of the fun-loving boy was in question. There was an empty, sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. Like reading a novel or watching a movie — but this was real. This happened. It wasn't made up for TV ratings, it wasn't the plot of a mystery novel.
The pain, the anguish, the desperation, were real. The fear was real.
The Rockford Register Star and Morning Star headlines and a brief summary follow.
Police search for missing newsboy, 15
Joey was abducted on the morning of Tuesday March 4, 1975, after delivering only three of the papers on his Morning Star paper route. The police went door to door in search of any information concerning the disappearance of Joey. His brother, Danny, help finish the paper routes deliveries. His father, Rockford Alderman George Didier and wife Susan lived on Huffman Blvd, on the west side of Rockford. A paper bag was found in a yard on Fulton Avenue. Joey was a student at Roosevelt Middle School. He was 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighed 125 pounds. He had brown hair, blue eyes, and was wearing a maroon parka. About 76 law officers were involved in the search headed by Detective Captain Richard Anderson. Airplanes were called in to assist in the search. There was very little to go on. The fourth customer on Joey's route said she heard a scuffle outside her home about 6:15 am and the sounds of a car speeding away.
Search intensified for alderman's son — Newspaper offers reward of $1000
The Morning Star and Register Republic offer $1000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons involved in Joey's disappearance. "We are deeply concerned because this young man is one of ours." The police asked everyone living in the area to search their own houses and property, including in and around bushes and in their trunks. Over 200 volunteers are expected to turn out as the police head up the search starting at the stateline and working southward. Captain Anderson mentions the previous two abductions in 1973 and 1974 where the newspaper boys were taken, assaulted, spray painted and then released.
No leads; just lots of frustration — Didier search fruitless; police hunt cars, clues
Morning Star headlines. Command post is set up at Gregory-Anderson Construction Company office, located at 2525 Huffman Blvd, across the street from the Didier home. Neighbors kept the searchers supplied with food. A city map was filled in as searches were completed.
Missing Didier boy quiet, enjoys jokes one of Joseph's friends comments on his friend, Joey's sense of humor and inclination to play practical jokes.
Friends keep vigil in home of Didier's. A constant influx of friends and family continue to keep the Didier home active.
Didier search fruitless; police hunt cars, clues. Police search empty area buildings. The last person to see Joseph was Karen Posey, a waitress at Pappy's Little Pantry, a restaurant at 2200 N Main St, Rockford. Joseph stopped in the restaurant between 5:15 and 5:30 am for a glass of milk before starting his early morning delivery of newspapers. The search fanned out to include the county. Frustration mounts among officers as search turns up no new clues.
Search intensified for alderman's son / Joey's handiwork a quiet reminder / 2nd reward fund started for Didier / The police will now treat Joey's disappearance as a kidnaping. Joey's family discovered he was missing through the complaints of persons on Joey's route that had not received their morning paper. They had heard his alarm go off in the morning and Joey left the house to deliver his early morning papers. After the complaints started coming in about not receiving the paper, Mrs. Didier and Joey's younger brother Danny decided to check his route they were unable to locate him. They called the school and discovered he wasn't there. They checked with the police and the emergency room at Rockford Memorial Hospital. With every telephone ring and doorbell they hope for the best and nothing — no news.
[MS] Police nationwide alerted on Didier / No theory too obscure for police / Unfounded rumors slow search A nationwide bulletin is issued by Rockford police. The police follow any and all leads that flood the switchboard at the Rockford Newspapers and the police station. A request was made for people not to tie up the phone lines with rumors and speculation. The Rockford Newspapers give increased security for remaining carriers. All theories are considered by authorities.
March 6 [RR] —
[Rockford Journal] — Uncover No Clues in Didier Mystery Rockford police are looking for identity of driver of a Rambler station wagon, ca. 1963, brown in color with baggage rack. Area sex offenders have been interviewed. Air searches continue. Contact with Indianapolis police revealed a similar case there four years previous.
[RR] — Didier search moves into forest areas / Belvidere paper adds to reward fund / Witchcraft and Astrology enter search for boy / Fear missing Rockford boy victim of ‘ritual' attacker / Didier didn't think his son is runaway / Extortion attempt will be prosecuted / Didier search is expanding into several area counties / Didier award fund near $3500 /
Reward fund climbs as donations come in from citizens. About 400 people combed the area in search of Joey Didier. Area foot searches included area forest preserves, parks and local farm lands. The FBI has still not entered the case since solid proof of a kidnaping has not surfaced. The nationally known psychic, Irene Hughes called to say she had the impression Joey had been taken to Wisconsin. Area psychic, Phyllis Campbell was going over Joey's astrological chart to gather impressions. Louis Jackson of Chicago will be prosecuted for trying to extort money from the Didier's in exchange for information on Joseph's disappearance. Jackson was not implicated in the disappearance of Joey.
The following headlines appeared in other papers:
Chicago Tribune — Fear missing youth victim of ‘ritual'
Chicago Tribune — A muffled shriek then he was gone
Chicago Tribune — Footprints, muffled cry clues in search for Rockford boy
Chicago Daily News — Frantic plea for Rockford boy
It is suspected that Joey was the victim of the same person who previously attacked two Morning Star newsboys on their predawn routes in 1973 and in 1974. In February of ‘73, a 12 year-old youth was slapped around, stripped, and sprayed with red paint by a man in his thirties who wore a ski mask. In the second case, in April 1974, a 14 year-old youth was covered with a hood, placed in a trunk, and taken to a cemetery by a man in a ski mask who stripped him and then sprayed him with green paint. The first boy's back bore a painted numeral "1" and the second boy's back bore a numeral "2". Joseph sack was found at 8:22a.m.
March 7 — [MS] Heavy snow, sleet snarl area traffic / Snow slows police search for Didier boy / 500 to join search today for missing Rockford boy / Didier case tips flood phone / Didier search leads into field of occult / Cherry Valley area is searched / Fraud charged in Chicagoan Didier scheme / Guard units may join Didier search / Newsman, too, feels pangs of compassion 300 people joined the search today as they searched more area parks. Truck drivers assisted in passing out flyers on the routes. More airplanes joined in the search. More than 5 inches of snow, mixed with rain and sleet hampered efforts of the searchers. More than 100 men from the Rockford and Dixon National Guard joined in the search efforts on Saturday March 8. Snowmobilers joined in the search and concentrated on the area by Rockford Speedway and West Lane. Searches are held along the river banks [Rock and Sugar], gravel pits, gulleys and cabins. Cherry Valley area was searched and along the Kishwaukee River.
Sunday March 9, Friends help ease Didier family's ordeal Friends and family are showing massive support for the Didier family. They are stopping in and dropping off food. The family remarked "It helps to keep us busy. It's better than just sitting here when all we can do is wait."Crank calls were coming in. 12 planes were in the air. Reward is now up to $4500.
Reward up to $4500. ‘Big Push' search for Didier fails. 1,000 persons search on Saturday. Every square mile of the county has been covered. 170 snowmobilers 125 National Guardsman. The last area to be searched was the 102 parks in the county.
Didier boy missing one week today No new leads. Boone county has begun to search their areas. No foot search has begun in Rock county but patrols are watching for anything that can be linked to the Didier case. Check and recheck.
Didier searchers sticking to facts with all the theories and dreams coming in the police have decided to stick to the concrete facts.
Didier reward at $5000 Chicagoan seized in scheme tied to missing Rockford boy man arrested and charged with attempted theft by deception.
Wait continues in Didier case Ogle County Sheriff's Deputies have organized a search in the stone quarries, county cemeteries, abandoned buildings, and buildings under construction.
At a time of crisis most aid, a few hurt. Pain is inflicted by cruel persons who exploit situations to dreams, mystics, crank calls.
Ogle deputies conduct foot search for Didier boy Stephenson, Boone, and Ogle counties March 10
March 16, 1975
Didier boy found dead in isolated cabin / Shock, anger, remorse greet the news of young boy's fate The body of Joseph Didier 15 year old son of a Rockford alderman, who had been missing for 11 days, was found Saturday afternoon by two Boy Scout leaders in a cabin about ten miles north of Stockton.
The Didier boy had disappeared about 6:30am on the morning of March 4 while delivering papers. His nude body was found about 2pm by Steve Olsen, 17, Monroe, Wisconsin high school student and Bill Kline, 22, a high school teacher at Northside School in Monroe. Both are scout counselors of Troop 101. During the intensive search for the boy, police had speculated whether the disappearance was related to earlier attacks on Rockford newspaper carriers in which spray paint was used on both days.
Officials said there was evidence the Didier boy's hands were tied together at some point. The body was found laying on its back. Peterson would not divulge the cause of death pending an autopsy to performed by Jo Daviess County Coroner Allen Steinke.
Police are expected to release additional information this afternoon.
Olson said Saturday night he and Kline had gone to Canyon Camp, which is owned by the Blackhawk Area Boy Scout Council, to check out the area for the upcoming summer season.
Also camping in the area were 18 scouts and six fathers from the Monroe troop 101.
Olsen said he served as a summer staff counselor last year and decided to inspect the cabin he had lived in.
"There were no tracks in the snow leading to the cabin and we had remarked about walking on virgin snow when we approached the cabin," Olsen said after he and Kline had returned to Monroe.
The last major snowstorm in the Jo Daviess County area was on Thursday March 6 — two days after the Didier boy disappeared.
The small cabin, which has bunks for two counselors, is located on a hillside in a wooded area about 500 yards from a large cabin used by the Monroe group.
The two scout leaders saw the body lying on the floor as soon as they entered the cabin.
"Everything looked as we left it last summer," Olsen said. "There was no evidence of a struggle — no blood, and furniture was not disarranged. We then contacted the park ranger," Olsen said. No clothing was visible in the cabin.
Jerry Fritz, the park ranger who lives at the end of a deadened road at the end of the camp then notified Jo Daviess county sheriff deputies.
Rockford police were notified by Jo Daviess Counties authorities about 3:30 pm. Police here in turn notified Alderman Didier. Police officers, including identification experts and a detective contingent led by Sgt. William Francis, then left for the camp.
Most of the police officers were still at the scene late Saturday night.
Alderman Didier, accompanied by Rockford police Chaplain Father William Wentlink, also traveled to the camp, where the body was positively identified.
Authorities immediately sealed off the area.
In addition to the Rockford investigation team and Jo Daviess County sheriff officials, state crime lab personnel from Rock Island and a pathologist were called to the scene.
The ground is covered with snow in the hilly, wooded area hampering the investigation. Authorities conducted an extensive search of surrounding cabins and the area., but gave no indication whether they uncovered any clues.
There were reports that a rafter from the cabin was being removed by crime lab officials, but police refused to confirm that report or to explain the reasons for removing the rafter.
The body of the young carrier was taken to Steinke Funeral Home in Galena.
The discovery of the Didier boy's body followed an intensive 11-day search which had begun after his newspaper bag was found near the curb in the 1900 block of Fulton Avenue.
Area scouts use camp where Didier was found Thousands of Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin Boy Scouts have used Canyon Camp near here where the body of Joseph Didier was found Saturday afternoon. The camp, owned by the Blackhawk Area Boy Scout Council, is located about 2 ˝ miles west of Stockton off U.S 20.
The camp is located in Thompson Township in a canyon on 271 acres of land. It is used by scouts for weekend camping trips throughout the year.
The camp was donated to the U.S. Grant Council by a Freeport family back in the late 1930's or 1940's. Stukenberg
Two main cabins and about six smaller counselor cabins are located on the camp grounds. The largest cabin, called Headquarters Cabin, has room for about 20 boys. About one-half mile away is the Jamboree Cabin, which houses about 16 scouts. The smaller counselor cabins have room for two scout counselors.
Although the public has access to the camp, a chain connected to two pillars is stretched across the winding 3/4 mile road when the camp ranger is not there, according to boy scout officials. However, the cabins are easily accessible by foot.
Murder desecrates the peace of Canyon Camp / Woodbine, area residents are asking ‘Why here?' / Two Didier reward funds now at $6500 mark /
March 17 - Monday [MS]
Didier boy killed by strangulation / Parishioners pray; give me justice / Family stays home; greets close friends / Mass said for Didiers / Simple latch, without lock, held death-cabin's door shut
Autopsy reports [Dr. Francis Tucker of Freeport] indicate that Joseph Didier was strangled. He has marks on his neck. Joseph's body was found frozen, unclothed with a abrasion on his forehead and marks on his neck. Suspect that abductor knew the area of cabin. Heavy snow in the cabin area that followed two days after Joey's abduction, blanketed the area and covered possible evidence. The search will now include delivery persons who have business in the area of Stockton.
March 17 - Monday [RR]
‘Strong' slayer sought in boy's strangulation / Didier funeral Mass set at St. Bernadette's / Reward in Didier case about $6300 / Boy Scouts' signs of life lead to setting for death
Pretty dangerous and very dangerous, marks on Didier's neck caused by rope or belt, marks were about the neck, trunk and wrists of Joey's body.
March 17 - [MS] Similarity in 1957 slaying - 7 year old girl from Sycamore in 1957 found in isolated JoDaviess County /
March 18 - Tuesday [MS]
Didier clothing found near scout cabin / 1000 attend Didier wake /
Clothing belonging to Joseph Didier and a length of rope as well as two sets of footprints were found by authorities following a search of the camp. Boots, sox, undergarments, and a blue nylon snowmobile suit. His jacket, pants, and shirt are missing. The prints were in an underlayer of snow.
Slayer arrest may be near / Autopsy report on Didier boy is due today / Mounted deputies to search for clues in Didier murder / ...As a dangerous sicky may be picking #4 / Mounted deputies to search for clues in Didier murder [RR] March 18, 1975
Marlo Specht, Jo Daviess county sheriff. Aerial photographs were taken of the area of the cabin. Cabin is approximately 80 miles away from Rockford.
Laid to rest Tuesday, March 18 in Calvary Cemetery
March 16, 1975 Sunday Register Star
Didier boy dead in isolated cabin / Shock anger, remorse greet the news of young boy's fate / Trucker arrested in Didier slaying / I'm glad it's over Alderman Didier sighs / Suspense marked Lower arrest /
The Didier family requested to be alone for the evening. Robert H. Lower, 36 was arrested. 2904 Conkling Dr., He was arrested as he left the Atwood Vacuum Machine Company, where he was employed. [Joey's body found at 2pm] Lower traveled daily between the Atwood plants in Rockford and Stockton. He drove a semi-trailer owned by Almond Leasing Company. Lower had previous arrests in Freeport, Illinois and Reno, Nevada with sex-related crimes. Although Lower stayed in the Rockford jail on the night of the arrest he was prosecuted in Jo Daviess county. State's Attorneys from both Winnebago and Jo Daviess counties would participate in the prosecution.
Lower was loner, frequently gone - neighbors / Thousands joined hunt for Joey's killer / Employees near Lower home believe he was a customer\
Special edition:::: Register Star Extra
2 Other carriers tied to Lower / Alderman endures still another ordeal / "I saw his picture, I almost died" / Waitress Mrs. Shirley Havens C & S Truck Stop, remembers serving Lower as customer. Robert Henry Lower is believed to have assaulted the two other newsboys on 3 Feb 73, 12 Apr 74. Assistant State's Attorney Daniel Doyle will work with Victor Springelmeier, JoDaviess State's Attorney on the Lower case.
Lower's job strong tie to slaying / Lower often snowmobiled near camp / Sexually Dangerous record key in Lower apprehension / Lower sentenced as ‘sexually dangerous' in ‘66 / Although a Rockford psychiatrist had said that Lower could commit a crime resulting in the death of a child, probably a boy, he was kept in custody but four months after Stephenson Circuit Judge Wesley Eberle had ordered him committed as a sexually dangerous person on September 28, 1965. The court record in the case was uncovered by Pat Cunningham, investigative reporter for Bill Taylor's Channel 13 news team. Stephenson county State's Attorney Dexter Knowlton sought Lower's commitment June 11, 1965, is a petition which said the man was — suffering from a mental disorder — has criminal propensities toward the commission of sex offenses involving sexual relationships with children. Two Rockford psychiatrists, Dr. J.G. Graybill and Dr. H. J. Drell, completed their examinations of Lower on June 17. Graybill said that Lower was "afraid of women" because they could make him a parent and concluded that he "could very well be dangerous since his controls are tenuous and he has little insight into the nature of his problem." In his report, Dr. Drell explored Lower's assault on a 13-year old boy which led to a dishonorable discharge from the service. In this incident the youngster was threatened with a knife, forced into deviate sexual acts, then tied hand and foot, placed in a sleeping bag and dragged around by an automobile. The doctor concluded, in reference to this act — that additional deviant acts can be anticipated to occur again. Lower's release on December 7, 1966, came after a Mernard State prison psychiatrist, Dr. Groves B. Smith, warned that under no circumstances should he come into unsupervised contact with children under the age of 16. In May of 1967, Lower was found in the company of the Freeport youngster involved in his commitment. The State's Attorney, asked revocation of his release, but Judge Eberle, refused, but ruled that he should stay out of Freeport. The same judge granted Lower a "full release" on June 12, 1972. Lower violated the "stay out of Freeport" order at least five days a week, as he drove through Stephenson county while en route between Rockford and Freeport. Fellow truckers said he generally had a young boy as his passenger. This week a Jo Daviess county coroner's jury decreed that the Didier boy met death by strangulation.
In 1966, Lower, who was charged in the Didier case Friday night, was committed to the state prison at Mernard as a sexually dangerous person after he had been charged with molesting an 11- year-old boy in Freeport. He was given a full discharge in 1972. Later in 1966, Lower was given a conditional discharge, but was forbidden to associate with his previous victim and told to stay out of Freeport by Circuit Judge Dextor A. Knowlton, after Lower had given the boy a ride downtown. "He approached the boy and gave him a ride downtown." Knowlton said today. "I had him brought into court and prohibited him from associating with the boy, and prohibited him from coming to Freeport."
A person charged as a sexually dangerous person may receive a full discharge if they petition the court as having recovered, Knowlton said.
In response to such a petition, Knowlton said, the judge has three options.
"He may commit him back to the psychiatric division of the department, which is an absolute denial of the petition. He may be released from custody, subject to the supervision of the court.
When, in fact, they are thought to be recovered from the mental disorder, they may be permitted to be at liberty under the supervision of the Department of Public Safety.
Lower was under the supervision of Thomas Downs, Dixon, state probation officer.
The third alternative, Knowlton explained this way, "If at liberty, they can petition the court for absolute discharge, after hearing evidence, psychiatric tests are taken, and other relevant tests given."
Asked why a person charged with being a sexually dangerous person could be given a complete discharge, Knowlton said, "People do recover."
At the time of his conditional release from prison, Lower was living in Shannon, Illinois.
Lower was also arrested on a child molesting charge in Nevada while he served in the Air Force in the late 1950's, authorities said.
Lower often snowmobiled near camp Lower often talked of snowmobiling in the Apple River Canyon area. He had joined the "Top O' the State" snowmobile club of Rockford.
March 23 1975
Tavern in Apple River visited by Lower the night of the abduction / Lower tied to 2 other cases; moved from jail / Friend thinks he had a close call with Lower / My mom won't be worried anymore /
Big George Tyson of The Friendly Tap in Apple River, said Lower would stop in often. He has seen Lower for 3 or 4 years.
Dana Timm, 14 [in 1975] said he was friend of Lower [would be about 38 now] his father's name is John.
Other newsboys: Scott Lewis [12 in 1973] 1st victim painted.
Bruce Hagen [14 in 1974] sexually assaulted, tied to a sign in Calvary Cemetery and painted.
Didier death cause ruled strangulation / Coffee Shop customers ‘glad' arrest was made / Donut shop relieved about arrest / Be alert to judicial excesses /
Coroner Allen Steinke read the pathology report of Dr. Francis Tucker, Freeport, listing the cause of death as acute anoxia [loss of respiration due to strangulation.] Tucker's report listed several factors contributed to the death, including a bruise on the forehead, congested lungs and spleen, abrasions on the knuckles of one hand and rope or strap marks about the neck, shoulders and wrist. Joey's cause of death was declared in writing "by homicidal means due to strangulation by person or persons unknown."
In memory of Joseph Didier / Rockford can rest easier / Tragedy of Joey Didier / The frightful ordeal ends / The dainty touch with criminals is sickening / Tragedy of Joey Didier
Chicagoan pleads innocent in Didier deception case / Grand jury to get Didier extortion case / Jackson indicted in Didier call / Defense hits lack of warrant in Lower arrest / Lower ill, dangerous - defense / Conference today over Lower trial / One defense lawyer quits Lower case / Lower in secure hideaway as court work begins in slaying / pre-trial motion for Lower August 25 / Deputies chase spectator
William Kelly, JoDaviess public defender represented Lower. Lower moved to an undisclosed place for security reasons. Defense lawyers try to fight with "failure to obtain a warrant" and "probable cause." The three counts of murder that Lower faces are simple murder, murder involving a kidnaping and murder involving indecent liberties with a child. Lower's lawyers are attempting to use Schizophrenia as a defense with Dr. John G. Graybill as a witness. Going for innocent by virtue of insanity plea. They are going with a bench trial not a jury trial so a change of venue isn't needed. Lower's lawyers said they didn't feel a jury could fully understand the concept of insanity whereas a judge would. The trial will be held in Galena. The idea of using the insanity plea was dropped when the prosecution brought in three expert witnesses stating that Lower was competent to stand trial. Spengelmeier had recently returned from a Californian seminar on prosecuting cases where the insanity plea is used. Defense attorneys fought to have evidence suppressed in the trial. More than 50 objections were presented. The prosecuting attorneys said they would prove probable cause if it take six weeks.
Psychiatrist enters Lower's defense efforts / Lower links told to judge / Lawyers fight use of Lower statement / Two more witnesses cite "cause" for Lower's arrest / Didier case hearing set for Monday / Lower statement ruling in 2 weeks / Lower could waive right to jury trial / Hearing is set in Lower case
The incident in Sparks, Nevada in 1958 [dragging an abducted and assaulted boy put in sleeping bag behind his auto] was revisited by Detective Frank Licari.
Defense Attorney Ralph Ruebner, said that the police did not have probable cause to arrest Lower. 1] the police did not obtain a warrant 2] Lower was not informed of the charge until after he gave police incriminating evidence against himself 3] he was not presented to a judge to have his rights explained within a reasonable time. William Kelly said that a prudent man would not have issued a warrant for the arrest of Lower because there was not enough evidence against him.
Lower admitted to the detectives that he had gotten up Friday, March 4 at 5am. He went out looking for a newspaper boy. He spotted Joseph Didier. He parked his car and waited across the street between two houses. He walked up behind the Didier boy and yelled, "Hey, stop". Lower said the boy turned around and stopped. He then walked the youth to his car. He told the boy to get in and Joey did. He drove the boy to the Boy Scout camp near Stockton and drove up to the front entrance. He was about to get out of the car when he was confronted by the caretaker at the camp who was escorting his two children to the place they would be picked up by their school bus. Lower backed up and went to the rear entrance of the camp and walked to the cabin where the boy was killed.
Before he [Detective Roland Donnelli] began questioning Lower, he looked through Lower's wallet. He found the name and address of a newspaper boy who had previously been sexually molested. Although this was a different newspaper boy, Lower did admit to picking up and molesting the youth.
Lower tied to 2 other cases; moved from jail / Friend thinks he has close call with Lower / Tavern in Apple River by Lower night of abduction / My mom won't be worried anymore
[out of order]
Robert Lower bound over to grand jury / Lower's court visit draws only handful of spectators / Public defenders fighting to kill Lower statement / Joey's brother watches, listens / Lower trial fitness decision due today in Galena hearing / Right to jury trial waived by Lower / Judge rejects Lower motion to bar evidence [April 7, 1975]
May 27 [RR] Tuesday
Star carrier key to arrest in Lower case / Policeman describes Didier slaying probe / Francis says overwhelming evidence pointed to Lower / Court asked to rule Lower fir for trial / Lower case draws few spectators /Defendant seldom smiles
Rockford Detective. Jess Otwell stated that Lower had been given his rights, signed a waiver and agreed to talk to detectives. Otwell said Lower was arrested based upon the identification of a Morning Star carrier who picked his photo out of a group as the man who had followed him on the morning another newspaper boy was abducted and spray painted. The detective asked Lower if he knew what they wanted to talk to them about, he nodded and then gave his statement. Defense attorneys objected and wanted his statement along with some other evidence thrown out. The judge overruled. Lower had led police to the Boy Scout camp, to the exact cabin where Joey was killed to another cabin where he stashed the stool used in Joey's hanging, and where Joey's clothing was found.
Detective Sergeant William Francis was in charge of the Rockford investigation.
Hearing plea is dropped Lower trial to open in July / Lower links told to judge [8-25] / Lower murder trial slated to start today [9-25] / Lower may waive right to jury trial / Head bowed, Lower hears his confession /Lower sexually dangerous risk in ‘66: witness [9-27]
Trial will begin today - September 25 in Galena. Lower was arrested March 21, 1975. Graybill and Carl Haman were psychiatrists who examined Lower to determine if he was fit to stand trial. Also consulted was Dr. Richard Lee of Dubuque, Iowa.
In a confession, Lower told police he was "bothered" and couldn't sleep about 2am on the morning of March 4, the day the young carrier disappeared. He said he left his home about 5am to look for a boy "to have sex with". He spotted young Didier, stopped the boy and then led him over to his car, which was parked in the 1900 block of Fulton Avenue. He said there was little conversation between he and the boy [although Joey did ask where they were going] as he drove the back roads to Canyon camp. The statement included details of how Lower took Joey to the cabin, bound him, forced him to commit several sex acts. Lower admitted tying the youth to a rafter and then pulling the stool from beneath the victim's feet as he left the cabin even though the boy pleaded to go home. Lower said he returned to the cabin a few minutes later, cut down the body, removed the clothing, which he dumped in a nearby outdoor toilet along with the ropes. Then he left the Scout camp and returned to Rockford. 11 days later Lower returned to dispose of the body so it wouldn't be found but was unable to do so because it was frozen. He was in the cabin only hours before the body was found.
Lower returned to victim — police / Lower may use insanity defense / Lower confession to Didier murder read it in open court / Lower hearing set for June 17 / Lower trial set for September 25 / Evidence heard by Didier family
Psychiatrist enters Lowers defense efforts / ‘Good men who don't give up' solved murder / Boy's hanging death detailed / Lower returned to murder site - police / Judge weighing Lower decision / Lower hearing near end / Judge weighs Lower insanity plea / Testimony ends: Judge weighing Lower decision / Defense for Lower rests case / Lower trial continues in Galena / [Sept 30]
Lower was arrested March 21, 1975. Additional information [according to Lower]: Joey asked what Lower was going to do with him. Lower said he was going to hang him. Joey pleaded with Lower. Lower said Joey could identify him. Joey said he had a bad memory. Lower continued with preparations to hang Joey. Just before he left the room Joey said "Please don't hang me."
Lower guilty; verdict relieves Didier family / Judge rules Lower guilty of murder / Lower's sentence 100-150 years / Criminals facing an end to coddling experience / Lower, convicted Didiers family expresses relief / [October 2, 1975 - Thursday]
Assistant State's Attorney Winnebago County, Daniel D. Doyle, asked for a stiff sentence. "While rehabilitation is one of the factors mentioned in the code to be considered by the court, I suggest that it has very little place in the court's determination of the sentencing in this case.," Doyle said.
"We are talking about a man who has already been committed to the Department of Correction as a dangerous person, and from all the evidence, he is still a dangerous person and will continue to be one." he added.
Doyle continued, "I believe the only real consideration the court has at this stage is the protection of society, I have no hesitation in recommending that this defendant never be released into free society again. I believe the only way the court can communicate that to the Department of Correction is by imposing a substantial sentence, and I think that 150 years is not excessive."
State's Attorney Victor Sprengelmeier, prosecuting, said, "Whatever term is imposed by this court, the actual confinement of the defendant is within the authority of the department of corrections, under present state law." "The only real function we can satisfy is to let those persons who will have control of this defendant know the gravity of the offense for which he was convicted. All they will have to look at is the length of the term imposed by this court."
Sprengelmeier added that when Lower applied for parole which could be in nine years, the authorities will determine his eligibility by checking the length of sentence imposed by the court.
From my experience, evidence that was presented, indicates a most grave, heinous crime," Sprengelmeier said, "Considering the nature of the crime for which the defendant was convicted and his background and history and considering the evidence before the court showing Lower was a dangerous person and remains so, I feel a sentence of a minimum of 150 -200 years is justified."
Judge James B. Vincent, JoDaviess County judge. Galena court. Found Lower guilty on October 1 after a 3 day trial.
If the conviction is not reversed upon appeal, Lower could be eligible for parole in 19 years or in 11 years with good behavior in prison.
Police sift clues in Didier killing [Tribune]/ Loner held in murder of newsboy [CHIDN] / Mernard had no therapy during Lower term / Defense for Lower rests case / Didiers express gratitude
[Editor's note: George L. Didier Jr., who lost his 15 year-old son recently in a brutal crime, asked the Register Star to relay this message of appreciation to all those who helped ease the pain of Joey's loss.] Words seem inadequate to express the true depth of the gratitude of the Didier family to those who treated us so kindly and so thoughtfully during our recent travail.
We cannot begin to name them all. There were those who consoled us during the frightful days following Joey's disappearance. There were those who came to our home with food, and those who labored selflessly to keep our shattered homestead operating.
There are those who called, and those who wrote to us, and above all, those who prayed along with my wife, Suzie, my surviving children and others of our family, for Joey's safe return, and later, for the repose of his valiant soul.
The response of the Rockford community was more than anyone, under any circumstances, could have expected.
Industries and businesses, in response to our requests, searched their premises, some of them suspended operations for a time to do it. More than a thousand participated in a day of widespread searching, on the ground and from the air.
The continued kindness and application to duty of those many police officers and other officials who were with us will not and cannot ever be forgotten. Their efforts, certainly, were far and above the call of duty.
My colleagues in business and in my municipal government activities were superb, and helped immeasurably. I thank them.
Very many of those who helped and supported us in our trying ordeal were not previously known to us personally. Their names may escape us now, but their deeds will remain as if engraved on our grateful hearts. — George L. Didier, Jr.
4 page confession was submitted by the prosecution and accepted into evidence.
No therapy at Mernards until 1971
No parole in Didier slaying
Board: Killer Lower ineligible until 2002
By Spencer And Fred Tannenbaum
[Friday, Jan 29, 1999]
Springfield— The petitions were stacked on the conference room table. There were 51,700 in all.
Faced with a paper mountain of protests and the facts surrounding the 1975 murder of Rockford's Joey Didier, the Illinois Prisoner Review Board took less than 15 minutes Thursday to unanimously deny parole to Robert Lower.
Then in a second unanimous vote, the board decided that Lower wouldn't be eligible for parole again until January 2002.
The decision marked the 12th time Lower has been turned down for parole. Each of those decisions unanimous.
"I'd just like to say that this is the best message we can send for relief of the victim's family," review board member Donald W. Yost said.
Meanwhile, at the Didiers' floral shop in downtown Rockford, Joey's father, George Didier, ad Joey's sister, Diane Aldophson, said they were elated by the decision.
"I'm going to relax a little more," said George Didier, a former Rockford alderman. "It's come to a great conclusion. We won't have to worry about him for a while."
Joey Didier, 15 disappeared March 4, 1975, while delivering newspapers for the Rockford Morning Star. He was found strangled 11 days later in a Boy Scout camp near Woodbine in JoDaviess County.
Lower was convicted and sentenced to 100-150 years in prison.
For months, people around the community have been signing petitions urging the parole board to keep Lower in prison.
About half of the more than 50,000 signatures collected came from cards placed in the Rockford Register Star.
Thursday morning, the eight men and two women who make up the board couldn't help but notice the petitions as they opened their meeting to consider pleas for parole.
They show no sympathy for Lower while examining prison records and listening as hearing officer William Harris recited the background of Lower's case.
Harris described Lower as a sexually dangerous person whose "prey was evidently mostly paper boys. Teenage boys, very young boys, 15 and down."
After describing the crime Harris pointed again to the three paper-filled boxes that contained petitions protesting Lower's release. Board chairman Jim Williams called the large number of signatures "pretty unusual".
"We're going to have to rent more space to put those in," Williams said.
When it came time to discuss Lower's arguments for parole, Harris told board members Lower refused to speak on his own behalf during a hearing Jan 19, 1999 at Big Muddy River Correctional Center near southern Ina.
Upset that a Rockford Register Star reporter had come to cover, Lower walked out about 4 minutes after the hearing began.
Quoting from past parole hearings, Harris said Lower hopes to move to Georgia, where he would live with his brother.
A "three-year set," as board members call it, is the maximum length of time a prisoner's next chance for parole can be delayed. Lower will be 63 years old then.
State Rep. Doug Scott, D- Rockford,, said he hoped Lower never gets the opportunity. Scott helped gather signatures for the Didier's.
"That crime really shook the Rockford community," Scott said. "To this day people still remember it."
Additional information from the Didier family:
The family of Joey Didier respectfully implore the Illinois prison review board to again deny parole for Robert Lower, who is incarcerated for the brutal murder of our beloved son, brother, and uncle.
Because of Lower's life as a sexual predator, he snuffed our a bright light. Joey would have celebrated his 39th birthday this past December 16. We envision Joey enjoying that day with his own wife and children, after a busy day at the family business — the florist shop where he loved to help out his dad. He never had a chance ...Robert Lower ended Joey's life on March 4, 1975.
Had Robert Lower experienced the wrath of a criminal justice system which would have properly locked him away from society after an incredible record as a pedophile, Joey Didier would still be alive today.
Our focus today is that the rehabilitation track record for sexual predators like Lower is beyond abysmal. The risk of allowing him to re-enter any community is much too great. Any other decision than denial of Robert Lower's parole would be unconscionable. Please heed the response of 50,000 petition signers.
Respectfully submitted — the Didier family.
Additional note: George Didier died in 2001. He now resides with Joey. His family have vowed to continue the fight against the release of Robert Lower hopefully so no one else will suffer at the hands of this evil man.
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