Rockford Police refuse to give up hope in 9-year cold case

Local News

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Nearly a decade ago, a Rockford mother and her sons were found dead in the remains of a house fire.

30-year-old Natasha Cleary and her two sons, 12-year-old Marquwon Owens and 2-year-old Katarion Friar were found dead in their burned home on April 17th, 2011.

From the very beginning, investigators suspected the fire on Canterbury Lane was no ordinary house fire.

“Because the bodies, all three of them, were so badly burned, we were not able to see any obvious signs of trauma to them. So the autopsies going to be important to determine exactly what they died of. “Were they dead before the fire? Did the fire cause their death?” Winnebago County Coroner Sue Fiduccia said back in April 2011.

Those questions were soon answered. Autopsy results revealed all three were shot to death before the fire . Investigators believe the fire was intentionally set to cover up a triple murder.

The day of the fire, Natasha’s ex-husband and father of her 2-year old Katonka Friar, was arrested on an outstanding warrant.

“Late that next day, Monday night almost midnight, a black male subject attempted to use her debit card in an ATM at the Northwest bank in the 3100 block of N. Rockton, which is just a few blocks away from where the murder happened,” Assistant Deputy Cheif Kurt Whisenand said

Police knew the person caught on bank surveillance couldn’t be Katonka Friar. He was in custody when the debit card was used.

“I think it would be safe to say at this point in the investigation that there would have to be more than one person involved in the case,” Deputy Whisenand continued.

And still, nearly nine years later, there have been no arrests; Something that’s haunted the victim’s loved ones and frustrated investigators.

“Whenever you have children involved and murdered in the way in which they were murdered and then the fire on top of that. You really don’t see a lot of that in your career and when you do, it really hits home,” Lt. David Cone said.

Police are confident the information they need to close this case is out there. Maybe it’s fear, or perhaps loyalty. For whatever reason, people who know who’s responsible for the deaths of Natasha Cleary and her sons haven’t been willing to come forward.

“I’m hopeful that we get that lead that puts us over the edge. And I can assure that if we do, we’ll work our hardest to present that case to the state’s attorney office for charging approval,” Lt. Cone continued.

“We know there’s people out there in the community who have information that could solve this. They could see this story today and make a phone call and they could solve the case.” Deputy Whisenand said.

Every year since their deaths, the family has held a memorial service on April 17th.

This year, Natasha’s mom says she’s not planning anything because she just doesn’t have it in there. One of Natasha’s siblings said the same. But Rockford Police have not given up hope and are more committed than ever to close this case.

If you have any information, you can contact police anonymously.

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