Officials in the small Illinois city of Rockford have shut down TikTok rumors of a serial killer on the loose after eight bodies have been found in just eight weeks, claiming the cases are not related.
Winnebago County Coroner Bill Hintz addressed the rumors after posts made to TikTok and Reddit earned millions of views after claiming Rockford might have a serial killer on the loose, the Rockford Register Star reported.
The rumors also come after Rockford marked its deadliest year on record in 2020 and has been named the 11th most dangerous city in the United States – with a violent crime rate even higher than Chicago, according to reports.
‘We do not have a serial killer. None of these cases have any relationship whatsoever,’ Hintz told the Rockford Register Star.
‘There is nothing that I have seen that gives me reason to believe that we should be concerned.’
Winnebago County Coroner Bill Hintz addressed rumors claiming Rockford might have a serial killer on the loose after TikTok accounts including sensationalist Chris Wo suggested a serial killer was on the loose
A map madeby a TikTok user shows the locations of some of the dead bodies found recently
Hintz told WTVO that ‘100%, this is not a serial killer’ and brushed it off as a ‘mere coincidence.’
However, Hintz did tell the Rockford Register Star that the number is notably high and that the county averages about four bodies found a year – double of that since just March 2.
The cause of death for most of the bodies have either not been determined or not released – fueling the rumors of a serial killer.
Some of the eight bodies found were the result of suicides, said Rick Ciganek, the chief deputy of Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department.
‘It’s not like there is someone out there making suicides look like the work of serial killer … It’s just not realistic,’ Ciganek said.
Sensationalist TikTok user Chris Wo, whose account brands itself as ‘covering the strange things in this world,’ has more than 14 million followers and his video on Rockford has nearly 9,000 comments.
‘It is speculated that there are over 2,000 active serial killers in the United States alone. It appears that one of them is currently active in Rockford, Illinois. In the past two months there have been six (sic) bodies found in Rockford,’ Wo said.
‘The victims are both male and female and their ages range from 18 to 33, and there remains have been found in various places. One was found in a storage container. Another in the woods. And one was even scattered across the highway.’
He added: ‘But for some reason, this hasn’t caught the attention of the national media.’
In a post that went viral on Reddit two weeks ago, user Doe Hare – who lives in Rockford – also noted the high volume of bodies within the last 45 days.
‘Our local police departments have said nothing about the issue and refuse to release information about the discoveries to the public, as the police radio has been encrypted for the last 5 years,’ the Redditor posted.
The Redditor also claimed that ‘up until recently, there was no transparency about a serial rapist who has been terrorizing the city for the last 18 months.’
Last year was the deadliest year on record for Rockford as residents struggled amid the coronavirus pandemic, WIFR reported.
From January to November, police recorded a 49% increase in shots fired calls compared to the same period in 2019. There was a 33% increase in aggravated assaults and the overall violent crimes are up 21%.
‘The shooting and crimes have gone up exponentially,’ Rockford Police Chief Dan O’Shea told the outlet.
O’Shea said that violent crime in the community had been decreasing from 2016 through 2019 until the pandemic hit. He credited the rise in crime to a decrease in community policing.
‘We couldn’t do the ice cream socials and the block parties and the kick games so we lost a lot of contact with people,’ O’Shea said.
According to a 2019 study from the website 24/7 Wall Street, Rockford had 23 homicides in 2018 with a violent crime rate of 1,386.5 per 100,000 people.
‘While the city of Chicago regularly makes national news for its staggering rates of gun violence, the Windy City’s violent crime rate of 1,006 incidents per 100,000 people is considerably lower than the violent crime rate of 1,386 per 100,000 people in Rockford,’ the study reads.
The Eight Bodies of Missing Persons from Rockford, Illinois area
The body of Michelle Arnold-Boesigner, 33, was found in a storage unit at U-Haul Self-storage in Roscoe on March 2 but no cause of death has been released.
Just a week later, human bones were found on March 9 near the U.S. 20 bypass and 11th Street in Rockford. Illinois State Police indicated to WTVO that that body may have been the result of a suicide.
The next day, the body of Keith Heidenreich was found in the Mississippi River in a rural community. Last month, 35-year-old Levi T. J. Meyer was arrested and charged with murder. Danielle K. Heidenreich, 39, was also arrested and charged with charged with concealment of a homicidal death.
On March 16, the body of Brandon Cuddy was found in Lee County after it had been pulled from the Rock River in Sterling but the cause of death has not been determined. Cuddy had been missing for 77 days.
The human bones of Wesley Shaver, 33, were found on March 23 in the 3600 block of Auburn Street in Rockford. He was determined to have died by drug overdose, the Rockford Register Star reported.
Human bones were found on March 31 near Cherry Valley. Further details about the human remains were not immediately known.
On April 17, someone riding an ATV found another body was found in a wooded area near a dirt bike trail in the 2700 block of Laude Drive in southeast Rockford, the Rockford Register Star reported. Further details about the human remains were not immediately known.
On April 30, the body of Patrick Michael Reum, a 28-year-old who had been missing since December, was pulled from the Rock River in Dixon. Lee County Coroner Jesse Partington told the Rockford Register Star that ‘there was no sign of foul play or anything of that nature.’