An Attentive Maintenance Man Helped Solve An Illinois Cold Case

Authorities in East Gillespie, Illinois did their best to solve a violent 2003 murder, but the case grew cold until they reinterviewed a man who had been at work near the crime scene.

Angela Lee, pictured here smiling, was found murdered on July 30, 2003.

Authorities in East Gillespie, Illinois did their best to solve a violent 2003 murder, but the case grew cold until they reinterviewed a man who had been at work near the crime scene.

Photo by: Warner Bros. Discovery, Inc. (Screenshot from ID's "Murder in the Heartland")

Warner Bros. Discovery, Inc. (Screenshot from ID's "Murder in the Heartland")

Angela Lee and her four-year-old son were outside mowing the lawn in the early evening hours of July 30, 2003. Her boyfriend and son’s father, Jason, was set to work overtime at his job to install a satellite dish for a customer. Angela was looking forward to college classes starting soon. She was finally able to work on her education after having her son when she was 17.

When Jason finally made it home around 9 p.m., he stepped into a horrific scene. Angela was lying on the dining room floor in a pool of blood. She had extensive head and neck injuries. Their son was watching TV in one of the home’s bedrooms. He was unharmed, but he would later tell investigators that he saw a man enter the home and attack his mother.

Jason called 911, and police got right to work processing the scene and canvassing the neighborhood for witnesses. One witness told police that he saw Angela mowing the grass about 5 p.m.

Outside the home, officers found the grips from a pistol and a plastic glove in a nearby ditch. Investigators who searched the area near the home found a balloon string in a nearby parking lot that matched some string in Angela’s garage. They believed the killer ran through the parking lot as he fled the scene.

Police were immediately suspicious of Jason — his alibi of working overtime seemed convenient since he had never worked a late shift prior to the day of the murder. Still, investigators were able to speak with his coworkers and confirm his story. Jason had an idea about who the killer could be, though — he pointed to Brad, an ex-boyfriend of Angela’s. While Angela and Jason had known one another since her freshman year of high school, their relationship was sometimes rocky. When she and Jason were on a break, she often returned to Brad. Conflict between the two men and Angela was common, and many of Angela’s friends believed that Brad could be the man behind the murder.

According to police, Brad had been tangentially involved in several alleged crimes but never to the degree that charges could be brought. They were also suspicious of him, but Brad had an alibi — he said he was at a party, a polygraph deemed him truthful, and several partygoers confirmed he was with them at the time of the murder.

The community was fearful as they waited to hear whether or not police had found the young mom’s killer. The rumor mill churned with theories and tales of how Angela owed people money or about how she’d recently lost her job after discovering some unethical business practices at the car lot where she worked.

As the investigation continued, police realized that a man’s DNA was all over the house and furniture at Angela and Jason’s home, but what suddenly looked like an open-and-shut case turned out to be anything but.

Find out who police ultimately exonerated on the season 5 premiere of Murder in the Heartland on ID on Nov. 16 at 9/8c. More episodes are available now on discovery+.

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