It has been one year since a woman and her young children were found dead inside a West Rockford home. Investigators confirmed that the mother of three was stabbed to death, before her Garfield Drive house was intentionally set on fire.
“Anything concerning kids is very sad,” said neighbor Jessica Smalley. “I have kids and I hope that would never happen.”
What is now an empty lot was a very different scene just a year ago. A pregnant Keandra Austin was found dead, along with her three small children in a burned out house back in September 2016.
The Coroner eventually determined that Austin died of stab wounds before the fire, and the children from smoke inhalation. Police say they haven’t made an arrest in the case. Smalley says it’s unfortunate to hear that justice hasn’t been served for a family that was clearly so loved.
“It’s really sad to hear that… no arrests [have] been made. I remember that they had a fence around it, and everybody came and put teddy bears, and the streets were lined up full of cars for the vigil that they held.”
Fire officials say, while it is mostly a crime investigation now, their own investigation concluded arson was the cause of the fire. Smalley says the weed-covered lot is a constant reminder of the tragedy that took place.
“I remember what happened. Some people drive by and they don’t know what happened, it’s just an empty lot, who knows. But to me, knowing that a mom and her children were killed there, that’s very sad and it breaks my heart,” Smalley says.
Police say they are continuing to work on the homicide case, but they’re asking for the public’s help as well. What might not seem like a very important piece of information could be the missing puzzle piece in solving the case. Smalley says she hopes the case doesn’t go completely cold.
“Just hope that they continue to keep these unsolved cases going so that eventually the family can get closure on that,” she says.
Anyone with information on the case is asked to call Rockford Police or Crime Stoppers.