‘We want to bring justice for Jone’: Family, police still seeking answers in East Moline woman’s 2003 murder

‘We want to bring justice for Jone’: Family, police still seeking answers in East Moline woman’s 2003 homicide.
Published: Jul. 8, 2021 at 11:21 PM CDT
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(KWQC) - For Jone Knapton and her family, the Fourth of July weekend was a big deal.

“Fourth of July was our favorite holiday as a family, so that’s kind of a special weekend for all of us,” her older sister, Cheryl Ashcraft, said.

However, in 2003, Knapton, 46, was unable to make the festivities.

“I asked her if we could come home for the weekend,” Knapton’s daughter, Nicole Rasmussen, said. “I wanted to bring my boyfriend Brett home and show him all of the festivals that we have along the Mississippi River.”

According to her daughter, Knapton said she was busy working at her East Moline home that weekend on a project for Kone where she worked as a computer analyst and said maybe another time to come would be better.

But the project was never finished.

“Her job had actually put out a missing person’s report because they were concerned that she had failed to meet her end of the deal on the project,” Rasmussen said. “My mom was a workaholic, she never not finished her projects. I mean, if she had to stay up all hours of the night, she would make sure that she got it done.”

Knapton was reported missing on July 6, 2003. Four days later, some of her remains were found in the Green River in Henry County, Illinois.

Eighteen years later, no one has been charged with Knapton’s death.

TV6 Investigates sat down recently with Knapton’s family and police to talk about the case.

Despite the passage of time, they still hold out hope that Knapton’s murder will be solved.

“It’s another year, and every year is hard,” Ashcraft said. “You know, every year, we just hope that at some point, we’re going to get a resolution and an arrest. We’re just waiting for that right piece of evidence.”

The investigation

On July 10, 2003, a motorist crossing the Illinois 82 bridge spotted human remains in the Green River north of Geneseo.

“We initially found her torso in the Green River, and the subsequent search, we recovered her legs, but there are several parts that we have not recovered to this date,” said Capt. Chris Endress with the Illinois State Police.

The following month, police said DNA confirmed the remains were Knapton’s. An autopsy was unable to determine how she died.

Police believe she died sometime between July 4 and 5, 2003.

“When they called with the DNA it was, it’s the most sickening feeling you can experience,” Ashcraft said. “It made it like this is really, this isn’t just she’s missing. It’s she’s murdered. Very, very difficult call to receive.”

Rasmussen said the news made her sick to her stomach.

“You just don’t believe that it’s true,” she said. “You don’t think that something that horrifying could actually really happen.”

Endress, who has been involved in the case since the beginning, said there were no obvious signs of forced entry or signs of a burglary or robbery at Knapton’s home.

“So, all the evidence at the scene indicates that it was a planned targeted event, not a random act of violence.”

Endress said Knapton was in a low-risk category for being the victim of a violent crime.

“She lived in a nice neighborhood, she had an upper-middle-class job with close friends,” he said. “She was not into illegal drugs or prostitution or any of those things that would put you in a high-risk category.”

According to Endress, Knapton was going through a difficult divorce, which meant her estranged husband, Larry Knapton, became a person of interest.

“In any homicide, the person’s spouse is going to be a person of interest,” he said. “Certainly, in this case, Larry Knapton remains our primary person of interest in this case.”

Court documents obtained by TV6 Investigates show Jone, and Larry Knapton married on April 10, 1982, in Las Vegas.

On April 18, 2003, she filed for divorce and claimed in the petition that he had been “guilty of a course of conduct which under the last of the State of Illinois constitutes extreme and repeated mental cruelty.”

“I think it was coming for a long, long time,” Ashcraft said. “I think she was ready to leave him a lot longer than before she actually made her move to do so.”

The petition listed Larry Knapton as living in the Chicago area at the time it was filed.

“On July 8, when we went to meet him in Lake County to let him know that his wife was missing, he spoke with us on that day,” Endress said. “And after that conversation, he’s never fully participated since. And I’ll also add that he’s never inquired with us on the status of the investigation, either.”

Court records show Rasmussen, in August 2003, filed an order of protection against her father.

The order was granted, court records show. An online court docket shows the filing was initially sealed because of an “ongoing criminal investigation into [the] death of Jone Knapton.”

According to court records, the protection order was extended multiple times, the last time in November 2005.

In 2006, a life insurance company filed a federal lawsuit against Rasmussen and Larry Knapton, who was listed as Jone Knapton’s beneficiary on the life insurance policy offered through his employer.

According to the suit, the insurance company asked to be excluded from deciding who should receive the insurance benefit.

The company claimed in the suit that Larry Knapton was a suspect in Jone Knapton’s’ death and, at that time, was unable to discharge its admitted liability.

Court records show the insurance company was dismissed from the lawsuit and Larry Knapton and Rasmussen came to a settlement where Larry Knapton was awarded most of the insurance benefit.

Eighteen years later, Endress said police still want to speak with Larry Knapton.

“I’m not here to say that Larry’s responsible for this,” he said. “I’m saying that he’s a person of interest, and we want to bring justice for Jone, and his participation in the investigation would be a huge benefit to us, but he hasn’t fully participated yet.

Neither Larry Knapton nor anyone else has been criminally charged in Jone Knapton’s death.

When recached by TV6 Investigates for comment, Larry Knapton hung up twice. He also did not respond to a text message.

A call to his attorney also was not returned.

Seeking justice for Jone

Hoping to spark new leads, Endress gave TV6 Investigates some new information that has not been shared with the public before.

Endress said Larry Knapton used the name “Brad Carlson” or “Brad Carleton” online as an alias when he met his second wife, whom he recently divorced, according to court records.

“We hope that just bringing this story to light again as we approach the anniversary, someone will call in someone will give us that information that we need,” he said.

Jone Knapton’s family said they’re frustrated her case hasn’t been revolved but still hold out hope for justice.

“While I do hope that they do find the answer that they’re looking for, I’ve had to accept the fact that this is my life , and this has happened to me,” Rasmussen said.

“She’s a wonderful person,” Ashcraft said. “She was cheated. She was cheated in watching Nicole grow up, get married. Nicole was cheated. My mom, my sister, my brother, our children. You know, we’ve been cheated out of having a life with her.”

Endress said anyone with information can call Crime Stoppers at 309-762-9500.

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