ST. CLOUD (WCCO) — The girls walked to a nearby store to buy school supplies and never came home. This Labor Day will mark 42 years since that morning that has haunted a St. Cloud family ever since.
The bodies of Susanne and Mary Reker were discovered almost a month after they went missing in 1974.
Their killer has never been caught and a diary entry could be the biggest clue that’s getting another look, even now.
It had been a full weekend for the Reker’s with a large family reunion and the last minute rush the start of a new school year brings.
Mary was 15 and Susanne was 12. They left that Labor Day to buy some school supplies at a nearby store.
“They left about 11:15 from what I recall that morning. They said they would be back early,” their mom, Rita Reker, said.
Mary had just started at an all-girls school the week before about 45 minutes away. She was expecting to meet friends for a ride back that afternoon.
“When it got to be 6:30, 7 p.m. my husband went to the police department to report that they were missing,” Rita said.
For 26 days, the agonizing wait went on.
“We just knew whatever had happened it was going to change our entire lives. We knew that,” Rita said.
It was on Sept. 28, 1974, that two teenagers discovered Susanne’s body at the bottom of a rock quarry west of Waite Park. Mary’s body was found in the water.
Both girls had been stabbed multiple times.
“I knew something wasn’t right, but she wasn’t saying what it was,” Rita said.
Rita is 80 now and still searching for answers.
The biggest mystery surrounding Mary’s behavior beforehand and a note she wrote discovered after the girl’s disappearance.
“‘If I am murdered find my killer. See that justice wins over. I have a few reasons to fear for my life and what I ask is important,'” Rita said. “It’s troubling why she wrote that. Why she had that thought.”
Chief Deputy Bruce Bechtold considers the case a top priority in Stearns County. It’s the same department that would handle Jacob Wetterling’s kidnapping case 15 years later.
A new investigator took over the Reker case this summer. Profilers have maintained a young man at the time from the area is likely behind it and he may have had had an accomplice.
While Bechtold said he would not discuss any names, there is a sense they could be close.
“The people we have looked at or are currently looking at are all alive,” Bechtold said.
“I’m convinced there are people around him that would know and it’s time to tell,” Rita said.
Rita and Fred went on to raise four kids determined not to let the killer take their lives, too.
Fred died three years ago, but with so many cold cases back in the spotlight, Rita believes there will be closure in her lifetime.
“I’m wondering is this the year it’s going to be solved? I still keep hoping,” Rita said.
If you have any information on the Reker case, call the Stearns County Sheriff’s office at 320-251-4240. There is a $50,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case.