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Columns

Tony Scott: Letting Reimann go free is insult to families of Pine Village victims

By 1972, the Pine Village Steak House had been in operation for more than a decade, located at the intersection of Route 34 and Route 47 in Yorkville in what once was a quiet rural area and is now the site of a Walgreens store at one of the busiest intersections in Kendall County.

The Pine Village was the place to go for special occasions and a gathering place in the community, a prime eatery for locals and out-of-towners alike.

Friday, Dec. 29, 1972, however, was a quiet evening at the restaurant in the lull between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Near closing time at around 10 p.m., a stout woman from Somonauk and a lanky man from Sandwich walked into the lounge, and the restaurant and this town changed forever.

Carl Allen Reimann made his mark on the Yorkville community that night, and in the most horrifying way.

Reimann’s accomplice, Betty Piche, snagged $694.71 from the Pine Village’s cash register. They got what they wanted. They could have just left.

Piche stepped out the door, and Reimann, according to various accounts, just started firing.

No warning. No shouts. Nothing to suggest that someone had made a move and tried to take his gun.

Witness statements from the minister who walked into the bar with his three young sons, his daughter and his son’s girlfriend in the middle of the robbery say only that a man – who turned out to be victim Robert Loftus – had run past them and ended up being shot in the back, dying in the restaurant’s dining room. The family had their heads down and were crouched down the entire time, so they didn’t see any of the shooting but heard it.

In addition to Loftus, a decorated World War II veteran, Reimann killed David Gardner, 35, a father and husband who stopped off at the Pine Village after work to get burgers to go for a late dinner with his wife; George Pashade of Aurora, 74, a cook who was retired from the restaurant business and had owned his own restaurant in Chicago at one time; John Wilson, 48, a bartender from North Aurora; and Catherine Rekate, 16, a Yorkville High School junior who was earning some spending money on her Christmas break as a busser and dishwasher. Wilson initially survived and hung on before dying a few days later.

With Reimann’s simple squeeze of a trigger, there would be no more Christmases for any of them. No more weddings, no more graduations, no more fishing trips, no more jokes to share. Children lost fathers, parents lost children, grandkids lost their grandfather.

Donald Rekate, Catherine’s father, was outside of the restaurant in his vehicle waiting to pick up his daughter, whom the family called Cathy, from work. Donald Rekate heard the gunshots and witnessed the pair getting into their 1959 Chevy Bel Air and take off.

His memories of that evening, and the fear of Reimann being released and coming after him, haunted Rekate until the day he died, according to past interviews with law enforcement sources.

Families that were once close were torn apart by divorce, by alcoholism, and other factors. For people who knew the five killed, the crime changed and in some cases destroyed their lives.

Sometimes, the state’s Prisoner Review Board makes a good decision to let someone out on parole who has demonstrated good behavior and is no longer a danger to society. And there are practical reasons to occasionally release violent offenders on parole – the chance of recidivism for older offenders is slim, the cost of health care and other needs as they get older is high, and the overcrowding of prisons is a serious social and economic issue. There were 310 inmates in Illinois prisons over the age of 70 as of the end of 2017, according to Department of Corrections statistics.

Still, Reimann is a unique case as he is a mass murderer, at least according to the classic FBI definition. He was convicted of murdering five people in cold blood and has a history of violent behavior. His release has the potential to do more harm despite his good deeds in prison and his claim of finding religion 30 years ago.

There were other reasons, however, to deny Reimann parole.

Part of the parole process is to come up with a parole plan for the inmate, and Reimann apparently had a well-established plan, which was one of the reasons for his quick release from prison on the same day as his parole hearing, according to Prisoner Review Board officials.

That plan included Reimann, who was charged as a 25-year-old in 1966 with contributing to the sexual delinquency of a minor, living directly across the street from an elementary school in La Grange. One would think that would be a big red flag, but not big enough for the Prisoner Review Board. (The board has since moved Reimann to a location unknown as of Tuesday.)

Reimann also absconded from parole in 1971 after serving time in a Nebraska prison for armed robbery. He agreed to be released on parole to the custody of his mother in Sandwich, and shortly after coming home to Illinois he left for Nebraska again. He ended up serving more time in prison because of that violation.

So he has a history of violating parole as well. One more red flag.

Now, is the Carl Reimann of today different than the Carl Reimann of 40-plus years ago? That’s a risk the state of Illinois seems comfortable taking.

But to take such a risk is a danger to the good people of La Grange and the next town Reimann lives in, and is an insult to the families and memories of David Gardner, Robert Loftus, Catherine Rekate, George Pashade and John Wilson.

• Tony Scott is the news editor for Record Newspapers.

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