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‘Missing and Murdered’ Episode 6: Examining Henry County cold cases

Two women in Henry County, Illinois were murdered decades apart and their killers are still unknown to this day.
Jone Knapton and Mary Ann Becker

MISSING AND MURDERED IN THE MIDWEST: A podcast looking into crimes that made the headlines, starting in the Quad  City area, and expanding throughout the Midwest. Podcast host and News 8 Executive Producer Toria Wilson, has dedicated her time into researching and looking back at stories News 8 has reported on, the murder cases that shocked us and the missing persons cases that left us with unanswered questions.

EPISODE 6: Two women in Henry County, Illinois were murdered decades apart. Their killers have yet to see justice. On this week’s episode we break down not just one cold case, but two. One is somewhat solved, the other, less so. 

In 2003, Jone Knapton, 46, was planning on staying home July 4 weekend to work on a project for her job as a computer programmer at KONE.

Employees outside of the United States became concerned about Jone’s welfare when around midnight on July 5 part of her project remained unfinished and she was logged off.

The next day, her co-workers filed a missing persons report. Jone’s laptop, purse and cell phone were all missing.

On July 10, a passerby on the Illinois Route 82 bridge spotted the torso of a person in the Green River near Geneseo, Illinois. Police would later say a torso and ‘other body parts’ were found. The head, hands and feet have never been recovered.

Two days later an autopsy indicated the remains were those of a white female, but it wasn’t until a month later in mid-August that police would positively identify the body as Jone.

At the time of her murder Jone was in the midst of a messy divorce with her husband Larry Knapton. Police did name him as a suspect of interest, but there is no concrete evidence linking him to the crime.

In 2014, there was a renewed effort to try to find Jone’s killer, but nothing has been found.

READ MORE: State gives new attention to two Henry County cold cases

It was around this time when Illinois State Police announced an effort to try to find the killer in another Henry County cold case, 16-year-old Mary Ann Becker who was killed in 1974 in Atkinson, Illinois.

At the time, it was the oldest cold case in Illinois history.

Mary Ann  was at home alone for the first time in weeks on Sept. 9, 1974. Her parents were working their 2nd shift jobs at the local truck stop and coal mine.

When her mother arrived home around 11 p.m., Mary Ann had been dead for hours. The teen was found in the family’s living room with a cord around her neck; another was tied around her arm and attached to the leg of a piano.

With no witnesses and no leads, the case would sit cold for more than 40 years until in 2017, police would name Mary Ann’s possible killer: Robert Clark.

Back in 1974, Clark was 24-years-old and knew the Becker family since Mary Ann’s father helped Clark get a job at the coal plant.

After the murder, police interviewed Clark but he insisted at the time that he was at work. Clark’s brother would later tell police that information was incorrect.

Clark was living in Indiana when he died at the age of 64 in 2015.

While police and Mary Ann’s family believe Clark is the suspect behind this crime, he is still presumed innocent as he never will have the opportunity to face a judge or jury.

Note: There is no evidence that these cases are connected.