Mary and Susan Reker murder 1974 | The Published Pen (2022)

Mary and Susan Reker murder 1974 | The Published Pen (2)

Mary and Susan Reker murder 1974 | The Published Pen (3)

Sisters, Mary and Susan Reker, left their St. Cloud home at 11:30 a.m. on September 2, 1974 (Labor Day) to walk to a local store. They were last seen at the store at 1:30 p.m. and never returned home. Their bodies were found 26 days later, on September 28th, 1974, two teenagers discovered the decomposing body of 12 year old Susanne in the tall grasses on the edge of a rock quarry at the outskirts of town. She had been stabbed 12 or 13 times. Her sister, 15 year old Mary, was found thrown over the side of the quarry, 40 feet below the surface of the water. She had been stabbed 5 or 6 times, and her clothes had been thrown into the quarry after her. Police have reason to believe the killer or killers may be from the local area.

Mother of Murdered Girls Confronts Suspected Killer on His Death Bed
FOX 9 KMSP
January 5, 2018 by staff

ST. CLOUD, Minn. – A mother from St. Cloud whose two daughters were mysteriously murdered in 1974 now believes she knows who killed them.

The two girls, 15-year-old Mary Reker and her 12-year-old sister Susie, disappeared while out shopping for school supplies on Labor Day in 1974, their bodies discovered riddled with stab wounds in a quarry outside St. Cloud.

Despite the efforts of law enforcement and intense media coverage over several decades, no one’s ever been charged with the murders of the sisters.

“I felt my only hope was that there would be a death bed confession,” said the girls’ mother, Rita Reker. “That’s honestly how I felt. That’s where it was all going to end. I just hoped that I would live long enough to see that.”

Then several months ago, her phone rang. It was a tip about a 58-year old man admitted to St. Cloud hospital. He was in room 549 south, dying from liver failure after years of heavy drinking. The name was a familiar one to the Reker family and law enforcement.

“I wanted to confront him,” she said. “I knew I had to do that.”

Over the years, Herb Notch was questioned, and even polygraphed on two occasions, about the deaths.

SIMILAR CASE TO REKERS

Cops zeroed in on Notch two years after the murders when he was arrested for a crime with striking similarities to the Reker case. He was 17.

“It makes him somebody that we really are interested in,” said Lt. Victor Weiss from the Stearns County Sheriff’s Department. “He’s been on our radar since at least 1976.”

Notch and another boy kidnapped 14-year old Sue Dukowitz while she was working at a St. Cloud convenience store, took her out to a gravel pit outside of town and sexually assaulted her.

Then, to the surprise of his accomplice, Notch pulled out a knife and stabbed Dukowitz. They left her for dead, but she survived.

“He had no remorse at all,” Notch’s accomplice said. “None. Like hitting a bug on your windshield.”

He agreed to an audio-only interview with The Fox 9 Investigators as long as his voice was disguised, saying he’ll never forget the last time he spoke with Notch.

It was in the 1980’s, while they were both still in prison for the Dukowitz attack.

“The guy was hissing like a snake and talking about he wants to kill everybody,” he said.

MAN WHO FOUND REKER BODIES TALKS TO THE FOX 9 INVESTIGATORS

Another man shared a similar “hissing” encounter with Notch. It happened years earlier, right after the Reker murders.

In 1974, Russ Platz attended an alternative high school with Notch. They also worked together bagging groceries at the Zayre discount store–the same store where the Reker girls went shopping the day they disappeared.

26 days after they went missing, it was Platz and another friend who discovered their bodies while rock climbing at the quarry. He described the crime scenes as “pretty gruesome”.

Platz said that even early on he had suspicions Notch might have been involved.

He remembers Notch always playing with a knife. He’d sit in his car in the Zayre’s parking lot on his days off and just stare at people. One day he said his gut told him to ask Notch about the Reker girls.

“I said, ‘Herb did you know about this or have anything to do with that?’” Platz said. “I don’t remember which way I worded it, but he went, ‘hissssssss’ and that was the only response I got out of him.”

Platz said he contacted law enforcement about his bizarre encounter with Notch, with police confirming that they remembered the account as well.

In 2016, the Fox 9 Investigators tried to interview Notch for a story about the Reker case. When reached, all Notch said was “don’t bother me any f***ing more.” and hung up.

“Your program last fall just opened up a whole area,” Reker said. “We found out a lot of new things we hadn’t known before.”

The Fox 9 Investigators sifted through old police and court records and found similarities between the Reker and Dukowitz cases not made public before. Notch was also accused of attacks on two other women in the 80’s and 90’s.

There was a psychiatric evaluation in the files which described him as having “a fearlessly savage quality about him. He was also described as “a very dangerous person …In the right situation a homicidal individual.”

After the story aired something strange happened.

A woman who knew Notch through one of his relatives said he started to call her, asking for bathing suit pictures. He said he wanted them to go away on a trip together.

He also rambled, she said, about the Fox 9 story–never denying involvement in the Reker murders but insisting he passed a polygraph test.

She was so traumatized by his calls that she reached out to law enforcement. The Sheriff’s Department confirmed her account of Notch’s overtures.

“I would tell you the lie detector test was more inconclusive than anything,” Weiss said.

So far, there’s no physical evidence linking Notch to the Reker murders.

WIRED UP MOTHER CONFRONTS NOTCH

Reker decided to visit Notch in person after learning he had been admitted to the hospital, wearing a hidden microphone to record their conversation.

Deputies and her son waited nearby as she went into Notch’s room by herself.

“I walked in and I told him I was the mother of Mary and Suzanne and that I had waited 42 years for this,” she said. “I needed some answers.”

She said it took a few moments for Notch to realize who was confronting him.

“He just pointed right at me and said ‘I give you my word I didn’t do it,’” she recalled. “He was totally in denial. I found him to be very angry, a very hard and very bitter person. There was no sense of remorse at all.”

She continued to try and make conversation with him, hoping he might offer some clues about the murders.

“Another thing that he said to me that I thought was really strange: ‘Why can’t you just put it behind you?’” Reker said. ‘I told him, ‘Because they were my children, and as long as I was alive I was going to be searching for their killer.”

And then he said something which might be interpreted as a hint of a confession.

“I’m going to hell.”

She responded by telling Notch she’s been praying for him over the past four decades.

“I said, ‘You’ve got a few days left. You can make your peace with God before you die,’” Reker said. “He just said, ‘I’m going to hell and I don’t do church.’ After that he got really angry with me and he said, ‘You’re starting to piss me off.’”

CONVINCED NOTCH IS THE KILLER

The confrontation between the 82-year old mother and the suspected killer of her two girls lasted all of 21 minutes.

“I came out of there just numb,” she said. “For me, my search is over. I have no doubt that he was the person who killed them.”

Notch died a week later, but the Reker case remains open as investigators try to find more evidence to connect him to the crime.

“It’s not all done–it’s getting closer, but if there isn’t any more after this that would be okay,” said Marty Reker, the brother of the murdered girls.

MOVING ON, NOT GIVING UP

Rita and her husband Fred, who has passed away, made the most of their lives after the deaths of Mary and Susie. They raised four other children, were active in their church and founded a support group for parents of murdered children.

Rita says a strong faith is the rudder that’s guided her through a decades long storm of emotions.

But at last, after looking into Notch’s eyes, she’s found her peace.

“I guess I had to see who my children faced in the last moments of their life,” she said. “There was nothing left of him to be fearful of.” More on Notch

From WJON
Sheriff’s Office still looking for tips on unsolved Reker case
September 1, 2016, by Dan DeBaun

ST. CLOUD – Friday will mark the 42nd anniversary of Mary and Susanne Reker going missing from St. Cloud.

It was Labor Day: September 2nd, 1974, when Mary and Susanne left home a little after 11:00 a.m. to go shopping at the nearby Zayre Discount Store. They never returned and were missing for nearly a month. Both were later found on September 28th murdered in Quarry Park, they were stabbed multiple times.

Authorities are still searching for who’s responsible for their murders.

Stearns County Chief Deputy Bruce Bechtold says the recent media coverage has led to more interest and tips from the public. He urges anyone with information to continue calling the Sheriff’s Office.

“I think the media coverage brought in more interest and we got more calls. It’s always good to hear from people if they have thoughts of things they’re thinking about. We’ve always said: somebody knows something and we need to hear what it is.”

Bechtold wouldn’t comment on specific suspects or persons of interest in the case, but does say they’re looking into several people.

“We have a few that we’re interested in and the ones that we are interested in are alive.”

Bechtold also can’t comment on any recent progress in the case, but says it’s been good to see increased awareness and tips from the public. A new investigator was assigned to look at the case earlier this year and authorities continue to voice the need for a crucial witness to come forward.

“If they saw anything or heard people talking about being affiliated. Sometimes if you heard something and you didn’t come forward, it might be what we’re looking for,” Bechtold says.

If you know something about this case, you should contact the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office at 320-251-4240 or the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Cold Case Homicide Unit at 1-888-234-3692

There’s still a reward of up to $50,000 being offered for information on the murders.

From WJON
WJON Cold cases: 1974 Reker Murders still a mystery
August 1, 2016, by Dan DeBaun

ST. CLOUD – It’s been nearly 42 years since Susanne and Mary Reker went missing in St. Cloud. They were found nearly a month later murdered in Quarry Park, both were stabbed multiple times.

Authorities still haven’t determined who murdered the girls, but signs indicate they’re getting closer with the suspects they’re looking into. They could be a few witness accounts away from a breakthrough in the case.

Someone just needs to step forward with the last crucial bits of information they need.

“Somebody knows something that they’re either hiding on purpose or are just afraid to say what they knew at the time,” Stearns County Chief Deputy Bruce Bechtold says.

“There are people out there who have never come forward that know what happened, know who did it and are not telling what they know. People who have never come forward before,” Rita Reker, the mother of the two girls, says.

It was Labor Day: September 2nd, 1974, when Mary (15-years-old) and Susanne (12-years-old) left home around 11:00 a.m. to go shopping at the nearby Zayre Discount Store (now currently home to Save-a-Lot Grocery and Liquor). Rita recalls it being a beautiful summer day after a big family reunion the day before.

“I didn’t want them to go very badly but they needed some school supplies. They were going to be back quickly.”

They were last seen at the store at 1:30 p.m. When they didn’t come home for dinner, their parents contacted police. It started a search for the girls that lasted 26 days.

“I remember fixing supper that evening and we generally ate around 5 o’clock and when they weren’t there we knew something was wrong.”

The search quickly became nationwide in scope. Old WJON files say bulletins and photographs of the girls were sent to all major cities in five upper midwest states and to every state crime bureau. Mary was wearing green wire rim glasses, a green army fatigue shirt with “Reker” on the front pockets and blue jeans. Susanne was wearing gold wire rimmed glasses, a white cotton short jacket and blue corduroy jeans.

On September 28th, two teenagers who were walking on the edge of a rock quarry on the western outskirts of town, found Susanne in the tall grass nearby at about 2:00 p.m. She was stabbed 13 times.

Mary was found unclothed 40 feet below the surface of the water. She had been stabbed six times and her clothes had been thrown into the quarry after her. Her body was recovered by divers at about 6:00 p.m.

The murders shook the community. To this day: Rita still can’t comprehend why such a horrible thing happened to her daughters.

“Mary had planned to become a teacher when she got older and Susanne planned to become a doctor and she was a violinist. They had hopes and dreams for themselves and somebody just chose to kill them.”

What Are Authorities Looking For?

After talking with the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office, Rita and looking through old WJON files, here’s the common threads we’ve found for who may be responsible:

Both the Sheriff’s Office and Rita believe the suspect is a man who’s likely from the St. Cloud area.
Rita thinks the man had an accomplice. The Sheriff’s Office can’t confirm this, but Bechtold says they aren’t ruling out the possibility.
Profilers in the case believe the person was young at the time of the murder.
Bechtold confirmed that some of the suspect(s) they are looking at are still alive.
Bechtold says it’s possible they haven’t heard from a key witness because they felt what they saw “wasn’t important”. The Sheriff’s Department urges anyone who saw something to contact them.
Perhaps the most mysterious part of the case is a page from Mary’s diary that investigators found. It seems to show that she had reason to fear for her life. It reads:

“Should I die, I ask that my stuffed animals be given to [my sister] and if I am murdered, see that justice wins over. I have a few reasons to fear for my life. What I ask is important.”

Bechtold confirms the diary entry is still a big piece in their investigation.

“It’s pretty significant to look at that, you certainly can’t rule that out because what 15-year-old girl writes that?”

Authorities seem content with the physical evidence they have for the investigation. The missing pieces are witness accounts from a crucial time: after the girls were at the Zayre store.

“We’d like to know what happened from the time they left the store until they were murdered: if [someone] saw certain people together…and I can’t say who those certain people would be, but we have witnesses who saw the girls at the store, we have witnesses who saw them in different places.” Bechtold says.

Authorities still have the girls clothing and there’s the possibility they could bring the items back for further DNA testing if scientific advancements in the field are made. DNA testing on the clothes in 2006 revealed no clues.

Another interesting development with the case happened in 2005, when it was presented to the Vidocq Society: a members only crime solving club of detectives, FBI agents, psychologists and scientists who hear cold cases in Philadelphia. After hearing this case: they confirmed to the Sheriff’s Office that they were on the right track.

“Their opinion at the time that we presented it to them is that the person or persons we are looking at, look like they would be viable suspects,” Bechtold says.

Rita says this helped confirm in her mind who was responsible. She isn’t able to comment on names.

“That was a breakthrough for us.”

A new investigator was also assigned to the case recently. Bechtold says John Niemi has been with the department for about 10 years. He met with Rita in Mid-July to keep her informed on what they were doing to try and solve the case. The Sheriff’s Office hopes he will give them a fresh perspective.

In 2013, Fred Reker, the girls father, died at the age of 84. Rita is now 80-years-old but still hasn’t given up on finding closure.

“We had four other children and they had to grow up with the mystery of this: that was hard for them. Our family bares the scars of this yet and I guess before I die I’d like to see it solved.”

If you know something (especially if you saw the girls after they went to the Zayre store), you should contact the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office at 320-251-4240 or the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Cold Case Homicide Unit at 1-888-234-3692

There’s still a reward of up to $50,000 being offered for information on the murders.

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