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Revisiting the 1974 cold-case murder of Dr. Donald Ripley

  • Dr. Donald Ripley

    Dr. Donald Ripley

 
updated: 12/6/2017 2:24 PM

On the morning of Dec. 4, 1974, the body of Dr. Donald Ripley was found in his chiropractic office at 1825 W. Main St. He was lying face down in a hallway leading from his office to a reception room.

It was later determined that Ripley had been shot seven times with a .45. Slugs were found in a wall of the office. Investigators immediately began a door-to-door check of the homes in the residential area around Ripley's office, but no one heard any shots or saw anything unusual that morning, according to reports. Sheriff Russell Oxford said a resident saw Ripley arrive at his office shortly after 7 a.m. in a camper truck that he drove, and Ripley was known to have taken one of his sons to school at 8:05 a.m.

Ripley's wife, Gloria, operated The Break Away, an interior decorating business, in the same building. Ripley's chiropractic office was in the basement, and her decorating business was on the first floor of the converted West Main Street house. The two usually came to work together, but they hadn't that day. It was first feared that she might have been kidnapped, but she was eventually located around noon in Carbondale, taking care of business.

Authorities ruled out robbery because Ripley's wristwatch and diamond ring were lying on his desk, and his wallet containing more than $100 was in a desk drawer.

A suspect, who had been seen hitchhiking on West Main Street, was initially sought. His description corresponded to witness accounts of the person who came out of the door of Ripley's office at 8:30 a.m., the estimated time of death. Composite drawings of the male suspect were issued, and leads were followed to a number of states over the next two years.

An article appearing in the newspaper in September of 1976 stated that a subpoena had been issued to a former Marion policeman and massage parlor operator as a person of interest living in St. Louis. The state's attorney at the time described him as a material witness, but would explain no further. The individual in question didn't respond to the subpoena, and the last information found was that the state's attorney's office was pursuing a contempt citation against him. No further information was found related to this incident, and the case went cold.

Ripley was born in 1936 in Murphysboro to Murray and Ora Ripley and married Gloria Harry in 1958. Ripley was a chiropractor in Marion and graduate of the Missouri Chiropractic College in St. Louis.

He was a member of the Illinois Chiropractic Society and the American Chiropractic Society and past president of the Southern Illinois Chiropractic Society. He also was a member of First Christian Church, the Kiwanis Club and Elks Lodge 800 of Marion. He was survived by his wife; his father of Murphysboro; three sons, Randy, Ronald and Andrew; and two brothers, Dr. William L. Ripley of Marion and Charles Edward Ripley of Murphysboro.

The case of Ripley's murder remains open to this day as a cold case. The investigation into his death was running concurrently with the adulterated drug case at Marion Memorial Hospital and preceded by the murder of Frances Buckner in June of 1974.

Anyone with information related to the Ripley case should contact the Williamson County Sheriff's office cold case squad.

• SAM LATTUCA is president of the Williamson County Historical Society.

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