INVESTIGATORS: From heartache to hope - KMSP-TV

INVESTIGATORS: From heartache to hope

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ST. CLOUD, Minn. (KMSP) -

It has been 40 years since two sisters were found murdered in St. Cloud, but one Minnesota family was able to turn their incredible heartache into a message of hope for other families.

On September 2, 1974 Mary and Sue Reker left their home to go school shopping. Their bodies were found almost a month later, but their killer has never been caught.

EXCLUSIVE: Anniversary Song for Mary and Sue

The girl's mother, Rita Reker, talks about her daughters 40 years later in their home's dining room. There she has laid out on the table several pictures, newspaper clippings and a blouse she had bought Sue for school.

Rita then holds it up. "I'm not a big person myself, but you can see how little she was," Reker said. "Somebody looked this little girl in the face and killed her."

Sue was just 12 years old and Mary was 15.

The girls left their home around lunch time on that day. "We didn't begin to panic until about suppertime," Reker reflected.

At first, police treated the case as though the girls were a pair of runaways. The Rekers, however, insisted that wasn't something their girls would do. In fact, the family feared something horrible happened, and decided to embark on their own search alone.

"A friend of ours wanted to organize a large search party and we were told not do it so as not to upset the whole town," Reker recalled.

The two sisters were missing for an agonizing 26 days before two boys who were out hiking in a quarry southwest of town discovered their bodies. Mary was found in water below a cliff, and she had been stabbed 6 times. Sue was found nearby in some brush, and also suffered multiple puncture wounds.

Sadly, the question the Rekers were asking then is still being asked today: Who would kill two innocent young girls? Numerous detectives have come and gone from the Stearns County Sheriff's Department since then. They've analyzed and reanalyzed the evidence, but no arrest came.

"It is incredibly frustrating not to be able to close this case," Stearns County Sheriff John Sanner admitted. "I can't even find the words to describe that."

One chilling entry can be found in the diary Mary Reker kept. It read, "Should I die, I ask that my stuffed animals go to my sister. If I am murdered, find my killer and see that justice is done. I have a few reasons to fear for my life and what I ask is important."

Handwriting experts and a psychologist took a look at that entry, and Rita Reker told the Fox 9 Investigators that every person who has seen it feels it was a premonition. In fact, Reker herself obsessed over that note for years. As time slipped by, Rita says her faith kept her from being destroyed by bitterness and anger over the girls' deaths.

"I don't think we would have survived without it, " Reker admitted.

Instead, Reker and her late husband, Fred -- who died two years ago, decided to turn their pain into something positive. So, they started a local chapter of Parents of Murdered Children and invited families into their home for dinner. They also would sit alongside them in courtrooms during trials -- and they did it all while raising four other children.

"How did they manage?" Leah Wunderlich asked as she considered her parents' perseverance. "How did they do that and still take care of us? How did they still take care of each other?"

The answer, according to Wunderlich, is simple: "It always goes back to their faith."

Faith and music became the anchor for Rita Reker's Anniversary Song, which she wrote and recorded after 30 years passed.

"I just sat down at the piano one day and wrote it," Reker recalled.

Reker sent recordings to a number of radio stations hoping that someone would hear it and come forward with information to solve the murders. No stations ever played it, but Reker is a firm believer in divine intervention. She is certain that the justice Mary wrote about in her journal will one day come -- if not in this world, then in the next.

Anyone with information relating to the murders of Mary and Sue Reker is urged to call Tri-County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-255-1301.


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