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Unsolved Mysterious Killings of The Darden Family

The Darden family faced a very annoying end in their little town of Ina, Illinois in 1987. More than a decade later, a serial killer sitting on death row in Texas would contend he perpetrated the crimes, along with more than 70 other carnages. Yet the reality of the Dardens’ final times stays as suspicious today as it was on the dusk of November 18, 1987, when police first found out their brutalized corpses.

Darden Did Not Come For Job

The police toured the trailer because Russell Keith Darden, then 29 years old, hadn’t appeared for his employment as a water treatment plant operator at the nearby Rend Lake Water Conservancy District. Reportedly, Keith—he liked to go by his middle name—was an incredibly responsible employee; when he neither appeared for the job nor called in to document his absence, his administrator placed calls to both of Keith’s parents, who told that they hadn’t glimpsed him. By dusk, the police went to the Darden family house to examine, where they met Don Darden, Keith’s father, who had brought keys to the trailer.

Crime Scene Of Darden House

What they discovered inside was a murder scene so brutal and gruesome that it would trouble everyone affected for years to come. Elaine Darden and her three-year-old son Peter had been crushed to a casualty with a baseball bat that had been a birthday gift to Peter from his father before that year.

To make matters bitterly, Elaine had been expectant with the couples’ second kid, a daughter, and the whipping resulted in her going into labour. The murderer or murderers had expressed no pity, nonetheless, and the newborn kid ( who was born whilst she was being whacked to demise by the way) was whacked to death as well. Elaine was tied with duct tape and strangled, and all three were folded into bed together. The region had even been cleaned up, implying that the murderer or murderers had been in no rush to abandon the crime scene. There was no preliminary indication of Keith.

First Suspect

Keith, Elaine and Peter Dardeen Halloween
Source: Dardeen

The preliminary scepticism that Keith Darden had viciously killed his own family were shortly laid to rest when his corpse was discovered the next day, lying in a close area. He had been shot three times, and his penis was cut off. Police discovered Keith’s car stationed outside the police station in the nearby town of Benton, some 11 miles from the Darden house. Blood on the inner implied that it was the probable site of Keith Darden’s killing.

Such a vicious crime would have been sufficient to alarm a pastoral population, but the reality was that the Darden’s were not the first casualties in the region. Over the past two years, Jefferson County had been home to 15 murders, including one extremely awful case in which a teenager living in Mount Vernon murdered his parents and three siblings.

Scared People

While the spate of killings looked irrelevant, it was sufficient to drive residents into a serious state of concern. During the days and weeks following the finding of the Darden family killings, locals took to frankly holding shotguns and the coroner in nearby Franklin County was referred as telling that residents were so scared to let outsiders into their houses that if he ran out of gas on a country road, he wouldn’t even worry knocking on the door and would rather simply step to the highway and hitch a ride.

Despite a huge inquiry involving 30 investigators devoting full-time work to the case and questioning more than 100 people, the police were not eligible to infer an intention for the murders, let alone discover a probable suspect.

Cold Case

As time passed and the case evolved colder and colder, Joeann Darden, Keith’s mother, proceeded to pressure administrations to strive to unravel the killings of her son and his family. She collected more than 3,000 signatures in a try to get The Oprah Winfrey Show to do a segment on the killings, which were considered too graphic for daytime television. Likewise, America’s Most Wanted also originally passed on the case, though they later did a segment in 1998 that generated no new guides.


It wasn’t until the year 2000 that new light was thrown upon the vicious killing of the Darden family. That year, a serial killer named Tommy Lynn Sells, who had been caught after slashing the throats of two girls near Del Rio, Texas, started admitting to other killings that he contended he had perpetrated over the years while riding the rails and working at travelling carnivals. One of the murders that Sells contended responsibility for was the killing of the Darden family.

According to Sells, he greeted Keith at a truck stop, or perhaps a pool hall, and Keith asked him home to feast, where Keith then propositioned Sells to engage in a threesome with him and Elaine. Or perhaps not. Probably Sells just saw the “For Sale” sign on the Dardens’ trailer and, with it, a chance. Part of the problem with the admission of Tommy Lynn Sells is that he didn’t always stick to his tale, let alone the facts of the case.

In 2000

When Sells first admitted in 2000, Joeann Darden was assured of his guilt. As the years went by, nonetheless, her conviction ebbed, and by the time Sells was executed in 2014, her suspicions were substantial. “Tommy deserved to perish for what he did, but I liked him to stay alive until I know [sic] entirely he didn’t do it,” she said the Associated Press soon after his execution.

Though Sells admitted to more than 70 killings, at the time of his execution, administrations were only certain of his guilt in 22 of his nominal murders. Unfortunately, the vicious killing of the Darden family wasn’t one of them, and to this day the chilling Illinois killing case officially stays unsolved. He was remembered to admit to many killings he had zero to do with to make himself look more notorious than he ever was.

Also Read: Make Up Killer

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