To The
Lee County
Newspaper Articles

Mrs. Della Stackhouse
Kidnapping

Mrs. Della Stackhouse, 40, wife of Dr. Sterling P.Stackhouse, 808 North Galena avenue is recovering today from nervous shock and bruises after being held captive for approximately six hours last night by a robber-kidnapper who bound and gagged her at the Stachouse home at approximately 3:30 p.m. yesterday then forced her to walk five miles overland before giving up on the Ed Mensch farm in Palmyra Township and allowing Mrs. Stackhouse to telephone her husband. Her captor was Frank L. Sickles, 27, Wyoming (Stark County) Illinois, a dishonorable discharged soldier who posed as a Rockford Morning Star reporter to get into the house, and also bound and gagged Mrs. Stackhouse's daughters Linda 9, and Diana 7, and left them locked in a closet at the house. Mrs. Stackhouse was unharmed.

Sickles was arrested at the Mensch farm at approximately 8:40 p.m. by police Chief Harry Fischer and officer Frank Tyne, first to reach the scene after Mrs. Stackhouse call came through to her waiting husband. He offered no resistance. he had thrown away the cartridges from the revolver before going to the farm house. Mrs. Stackhouse was returned to her home at approximately 9:30 p.m. where she was said to be resting and recovering. Sickles was taken to the police station shortly after 9 p.m. then later to the courthouse where he told a story of how he planned to rob Dr. Stackhoue of $500 or $1000 under the questioning of State's Attorney Morey C. Pires. Charles were expected to be filed today against the gaunt, six foot prisoner.

He bought a 50 foot length of sash rope, used to tie his victims, at the Montgomery Ward store here early this afternoon. Unused pieces of the rope were found in the Stackhouse residence, were identified at the store around 6 p.m. He bought the rope from Mrs. Virginia Colclasure 27, 1916 Third street, a clerk in the store after first seeking to make the purchase from another clerk, Miss Sylvia Sommerville, 872 First street. His capture was the climax of a wild night filled with the lights of dozens of armed search parties which combed Dixon, the golf courses, Lowell Park, and scattered throughout the countryside. Aiding local police and Sheriff Gilbert Finch in the search were the State Highway Police who set up blockades on all highways in Northern Illinois immediately after being notified of the kidnapping. Members of Co. A. the local National Guard Unit, and scores of citizens who banded together in small groups to scour the fields, ditches and roads.

Mrs. Stackhouse's dissapearance was discovered by her son, Sterling Jr., a high school freshman who found his sisters in the closet when he returned from school and immediately notified Dr. Stackhouse. The Dr. then notified local officials and rushed home, arriving there at 4: 05 p.m. The FBI also was notified and indicated they would aid in the case.

A former Dixon resident, Sickles registered at the Nachusa House early Thursday morning as Fred L. Scott. He came here, he told Pires last night, because he used to live here and knew more places here than anywhere else.

Sickles said he picked Dr. Stackhouse's name from the list of physicians and surgeons in the telephone directory and that he walked out North Galena Avenue to the edge of town yesterday morning in order to look over the residence. " I wanted to see how big the place was and how big the family was", he explained.

He telephoned Dr. Stackhouse at his office early yesterday afternoon to see if he would be in his office all afternoon giving the name Scott and indicating he would call at the office. He said that he also called the Stackhouse residence about 3:15 after several unsuccessful attempts from O'Malley's service station, 118 North Galena avenue and Bolander's service station, 223 North Galena avenue and learned that Dr. Stackhouse generally arrived home late in the afternoon. Then he said he walked to the house, and posing as a reporter for a Rockford newspaper told Mrs.Stackhouse he wished to get material for a story on her husband. He said she appeared surprised and somewhat doubtful, but let him into the house. After a few questions he asked her for a picture of Dr. Stackhouse and pulled a revolver from the brown bag he was carrying while she searched for a picture. He said he originally planned to hold the family captive and force the doctor to write a check, have his secretary go to the bank and cash it and return with the cash.

He then forced her to lie on the floor near the foot of the stairs, gagging her with tape and rope. He said he took her out of the front room because he feared he might be seen through a big bay window. He took Mrs. Stackhouse upstairs to a bedroom then, but her two daughters, along with David Raymond, 6, son of Mr. and Mrs. Donald Raymond, 415 North Jefferson avenue, came home.

Sickles said he called down, telling the girls to come upstairs, but when the Raymond child appeared with them, he told them that Mrs. Stackhouse wanted him to leave immediately, and the child left. Then he told the two girls he would tie them up as part of a game they were playing and after tying them, and gagging them, put them in a closet in the bedroom. Sickles said he first got the idea of taking Mrs. Stackhouse away with him, when the phone rang, scaring him. He said he grabbed his clothes, took her down stairs, leaving the girls in the closet.

After she got her coat and pocketbook he took her out the front entrance, walked down through the yard to the ravine which runs in front of the house and followed it under the bridge through a tunnel under North Galena avenue and on out into open country. He said he stopped once to chase the Stackhouse dog which started to follow them.

He said he stopped once outside of town to remove the tape from her wrists and wrapped them in hankerchiefs to stop the bleeding caused when he accidently cut her while trying to remove the tape at the house. They walked on, he told Pires until some time after dark when they reached the Charles Russell farm in Palmyra Township where he forced her to crawl up into the hay mow of a barn with him. He said that the ladder they used fell down after they made the accent. Shortly afterward they heard a car drive away from the farm. There had been lights in the house when they entered the barn. It later developed that the family was at church services.

After they were in the barn awhile, Sickles said he decided to let Mrs. Stackhouse get in touch with her husband and shortly after that gave her his gun. He said that after ascertaining he really meant to let her go she put the gun down. He then picked it up, unloaded it and scattered the cartridges around the bar, he said. He then got out of the mow, suffering a probably cracked rib in a fall and went to the house, but could find no telephone there, after kicking the door in and finding the house deserted. Then he said, he returned to the barn and allowed Mrs. Stackhouse to come down from the hay mow and they walked to the neighboring Ed Mensch farm, where John Mensch, about 30, alone, allowed her to phone her husband.

Sickles denied beating Mrs. Stackhouse at any time, but her face was reported bruised when she was returned to her home. Sickles said he selected his victim from a list of physicians and surgeons because "doctors" if they are any good at all have pretty good homes and money in the bank. "I intended to get money from somebody who had it", he said. Earlier in the evening he told a Telegraph report at the police station that he had the idea for some time. He admitted under questioning by Pires that he sought two or three times to have intimate relations with her, but said that she resisted him and he did not harm her in any way. Sickles said that he quit his job with Aldridge gas burner plant in Wyoming Dec. 12 and left there that day without telling his wife, Thelma 22. He went to Kewanee, Peoria, Pekin, Chicago, Bloomington and then back to Chicago before coming here Thursday morning.

Dishelved and with his clothing spotted with cockle burs he appeared confused and somewhat dazed and tired as he awaited questioning shortly after his arrest. State Police Officer Jesse McIntire this moring found the knife which Sickles brandished at the Stackhouse residence on the ground floor of the barn on the Russell farm. He also found a box of cartridges which Sickles left behind in the hay mow. He said the hay mow, from which Sickles apparently fell in getting down, was 25 feet above the ground. The door to the house which the prisoner said he kicked in, McIntire reported was split down the middle of the paneling.

When the telephone call from Mrs. Stackhouse to her home, where the phone had been kept open for only incoming calls in preparation of a possible call from a kidnapper for a ransom, the group of men on watch were electrified. Chief Harry Fisher was in the house and took the phone to identify the source of the call, got the name of John Mensch and said he knew where the farm was and would be right out there. With officer Frank Tyne, Dr. J.L Tavenner and a reporter from the Evening Telegraph the party drove rapidly to the Mensch farm, north of Dixon and a mile west of route 26, found lights and rushed the door with drawn revolvers.

They met with no resistance from the kidnapper, who stood waiting for them, his empty gun on the table. Mrs. Stackhouse, dishelved, bleeding and showing signs of a nightmare five mile fight through cornfields, ravines, brambles burrs and mud, and tearful over her deliverance was sitting in a chair in the farm kitchen, her truly remarkable, courageous experience at an end. After a brief first aid from Dr. Tavenner she was taken in Sheriff Finch's car to her home.

State Attorney Pires announced that no formal charge will be filed before Monday but added that he has asked the Sheriff's office to hold Sickles for kidnapping. Dixon Telegraph 21 December 1946

Back Home


Illinois - "Our Way"