Just over 28 years ago, a double murder rocked the small town of Lakemoor in McHenry County. It was the first murder in what was then a sleepy, rural village.
A reputed mob assassin known on the streets as “Lurch” most likely did the crime, the McHenry County Sheriff’s office now says.
The only problem: they had the information 27 years ago.
On June 2, 1981, Ronald Scharff, 37, the owner of the PM Pub, and Patricia Freeman, 30, a waitress on her first night working at the bar, were murdered.
According to a just-completed -- and new -- investigation, authorities believe Larry Neumann, an outfit hit man, was the likely killer.
The murder investigation was re-opened last year based on what Holly Hager told them. She had been the babysitter to Scharff’s young boys. Her father had been Ron Scharff's best friend.
Hager said her father, in a chance conversation, said he believed Larry Neumann was the killer.
"So I started Googling the name Larry Neumann," Hager said. "I came across some stuff online that was really interesting.
What she came across was the biography of Frank Cullotta, a former mob hit man turned government informant, which included information about the McHenry County murders.
In the 1970's when Tony "the Ant" Spilotro was the Chicago outfit's man in Las Vegas, Frank Cullotta and Larry Neumann were part of his Hole-in-the-Wall burglary crew. Cullotta was no stranger to murder, having taken part in two mob hits.
When asked what you do after killing someone, Cullotta, in a 2007 interview said, "You just forget about it. You read about it the next day but you don’t talk about it."
But that is exactly what Cullotta said Neumann did.
According to Cullotta, Neumann's ex-wife called one night saying she had been tossed out of the PM Pub. Enraged, Neumann drove from Las Vegas to McHenry County seeking revenge, Cullotta said.
When he returned to Las Vegas, Cullotta said, Neumann spoke openly about the murders.
"He said the guy was sitting down," Cullotta recalled. "I shot the guy in the head. He said the girl looked at me. I immediately turn to her, shot her in the head."
Cullotta said when he became a government witnesses he told his story to a McHenry County investigator. Holly Hager said her father told authorities back then his suspicions, too.
Paul Scharff, who was 10 when his father was murdered, said there was sufficient information in 1982 to bring charges.
But the lead McHenry County investigator discounted Cullotta’s story and no charges were brought.
"From our perspective, you have to think either dereliction, arrogance or being on the take. We just don't know," Scharff said.
The just concluded investigation now says: "Frank Cullotta provided information that was credible and accurate. Mr. Cullotta provided specific details of the homicides which he could not have known without being present or told by the killer."
Larry Neumann died in prison in 2007, at the age of 79, for the murder of a jeweler. Therefore, no charges will be brought in this case.
Scharff gives high marks to the just concluded investigation by McHenry County, but said, "I think the investigation should have taken care of this back in '82, '83 and nothing happened, and that was a great expense to myself, my family and to all the other victims that were involved."