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Murderess’ fate unknown

An effort to quell a century of doubt as to whether the body of serial killer Belle Gunness is actually the corpse buried in Forest Home Cemetery will likely have to wait a bit longer.

Andrea Simmons, a recent graduate of the University of Indianapolis, is leading a forensic hunt to determine whether the Midwestern murderess staged her own death and fled to California 100 years ago on April 28, 1908. A gravesite in Forest Park has long been regarded as Gunness’ final resting place, but persistent speculation suggests the woman may have escaped to California.

Simmons and a team of anthropologists from the university exhumed the unmarked grave here in Forest Park in November. They are attempting to have DNA from the skeleton compared with DNA taken from an envelope Gunness is believed to have licked. Those efforts have been unsuccessful.

The next step, said Simmons, is to send everything to a lab at the University of North Texas and exhume Gunness’ sister from a grave in California.

Earth Day spent outdoors

Middle school students in Forest Park recognized Earth Day, April 22, by participating in a host of outdoor activities intended to raise public awareness and beautify the area. Chalk murals, flower plantings and trash collection preceded an afternoon picnic.

The activities were tied into the students’ classroom science and writing lessons and provided fodder for a letter sent to the governor’s office in Springfield. The purpose of the letter was to inform the governor that the students have gained a better understanding of what it means to be a responsible citizen.

No deal yet for parking expansion

Negotiations between the municipality and the owner of a multi-family home at 415 Circle Ave. have not yet produced a deal that would allow the village to acquire the lot for the purpose of providing more public parking. According to Village Administrator Mike Sturino, the sides have not been able to agree on the purchase price.

Village officials have identified the parcel as one of several that could be used to expand existing lots along Madison Street. In particular, this site is more attractive because it sits further north within its respective neighborhood and would be less intrusive as a parking lot, officials said.

Owner Jerry Vainisi has expressed a willingness to sell, but said in a recent e-mail that there is “no rush by either party to make anything happen.” Vainisi is also the owner of Forest Park National Bank.