News - Sauk Valley

Unsolved murder of teacher haunts police, family

Sheriff: ‘I will not put this into a cold case file’

A photo of Amy Todd Fleming rests on the cover of one of the many evidence binders at the Lee County Sheriff's Department. The 20-year-old case has yet to be solved as detectives continue to seek justice.

Amy Todd Fleming loved to bake and spend time with her family.

Sherie Newman, Fleming’s sister, remembers Fleming baking cookies for family and friends at Christmastime, giving her homemade goods away to her grandparents and the elderly.

Newman wishes her sister could have made cookies with her nieces and nephews this past Christmas.

It has been 20 years since Fleming last baked cookies. It’s been 20 years since she last laughed with her father and 20 years since her mother heard her voice.

On Jan. 11, 1996, Fleming, 25, was found strangled at her home off Route 30 in rural Lee County.

The case remains unsolved. Police believe they know some things about the crime – that it wasn’t a random act, and it wasn’t a burglary, even though the killer might have tried to make it look that way. They also believe some people they questioned during their investigation have been untruthful and evasive.

But no one has ever faced charges in connection with Fleming’s murder.

“This is still very much an open case, with new information being found and interviews being conducted,” Lee County Det. Sgt. Shane Miller said. “Leads still come in, and we compare old and new evidence. New fingerprints are being checked against ones found at the scene. It’s still an ongoing process.”

Lee County Sheriff John Simonton said his office continues searching for Fleming’s killer.

“We are still working on the case and we follow every lead that we possibly can,” Simonton said. “I will not put this into a cold case file. It will be continuously worked. We will follow up until there’s nothing else to follow. We will pursue this case and bring the killer to justice.”

The murder

Fleming, a middle school special education teacher at Indian Creek School District 425, failed to show up to work on Jan. 11, 1996. Concerned coworkers visited her house.

Claudia Hicks, who worked in the school’s office, was one of the people who found Fleming’s body.

“Part of my job was to assign substitute teachers to fill positions, and I did not receive a call from her that day,” said Hicks, who is now mayor of Shabbona. “When I called her that morning and she didn’t answer, I knew something wasn’t right. ... I never imagined that she would have been murdered.”

Fleming’s body was found in her home at 9:30 a.m., Simonton said. A family member was the last person known to have contact with Fleming, in a phone call about 8:30 p.m. Jan. 10. Fleming was presumably home alone at the time; her husband, Derek Fleming, was at an out-of-state cattle show.

Law enforcement agencies throughout northern Illinois assisted with the case, including officers from Boone, Lee, DeKalb, Ogle, Stephenson, Whiteside and Winnebago county sheriff’s departments, Illinois State Police and the FBI. More than 500 interviews were conducted. Evidence from Fleming’s case takes up the majority of the Lee County Sheriff’s Department’s major case evidence room.

Still unsolved

According to DeKalb County Sheriff Roger Scott, one aspect that has made the case difficult to solve is that there is no known motive for her murder.

“It might sound cliché, but everybody that knew her loved her,” Scott said. “She was an excellent school teacher and was a person of strong character. She had no bad habits, connections or characteristics. She was a quality individual loved by all.”

Simonton said investigators believe the person who strangled Fleming attempted to make it look like a burglary, taking a Quasar microwave and a Sharp VCR from the house.

Simonton thinks Fleming’s murderer was someone she knew. He also has found individuals interviewed during the case to be untruthful, but he has no evidence to tie them to the crime scene.

Technological advances, including new fingerprint and DNA technology, have assisted the case, but Scott said that what solves cases is good, old-fashioned police work. By now, it’s likely that someone other than the killer has information about Fleming’s murder, he added.

“It’s hard to believe that the killer has not shared information somehow with someone, somewhere over the years,” he said. “That person is obligated to come forward. With enough pieces of the puzzle and with verifiable evidence, the killer can be caught.”

What gives the family and law enforcement agencies hope is that last week, evidence led to an arrest in a decades-old homicide case in Lee County. Brothers Terry and Gordon K. Bobell were arrested in December in the 1983 death of Gary D. Dawson.

“Hearing [about] a cold case like that ... gives me hope, and I’m happy to hear that,” Amy’s mother, Sue Dalen said. “But that’s not our case, that’s not my daughter. They get their justice, but we are still waiting for ours.”

Amy Todd Fleming

Amy Todd Fleming was born July 22, 1970, to Stanley Todd and Sue Dalen, both of Shabbona. She was the oldest of three siblings.

Fleming attended Shabbona schools and participated in 4-H and FFA. She also played basketball and volleyball. In high school, she worked as a waitress at the Country Kitchen in Shabbona.

“She was active and outgoing, the kind of girl that loved everybody and that everybody loved,” her father said. “Growing up, she was daddy’s little girl. She grew up on a farm, and she enjoyed being outside. She loved to garden and use her hands. She even liked to mow the lawn. She married a farmer and loved life. To my knowledge, she didn’t have an enemy in the world.”

Fleming attended Kishwaukee College and graduated from Northern Illinois University in December 1993 with a bachelor’s degree in early education. On July 1, 1994, she married Derek Fleming, a childhood friend with whom she used to compete with when showing cattle.

At the Indian Creek schools, she was involved with preschool screening for the Indian Creek School District, served on the high school’s Ag Advisory Board and coached girls basketball and volleyball.

After Fleming’s death, a $25,000 reward was raised by the community for information leading to the arrest and conviction of her murderer. In 1998, the Amy Todd Fleming Memorial Fund was established by her husband and parents, using money from the reward. The memorial fund benefits special needs children in the Indian Creek School District. Donations to the fund can be made by calling 815-824-2197.


Lee County Chief Deputy David Glessner was a patrol deputy in charge of the security of the crime scene in 1996. Twenty years later, Glessner is still searching for the killer.

“I think about the case every day,” Glessner said. “The family’s been through so much, they deserve closure. They deserve to find out what happened.”

Dalen said she is thankful for all of the help the police have given over the years, but she is anxiously awaiting the day that her daughter’s murderer is caught.

“I’m frustrated not knowing any more now than I did 20 years ago,” she said. “We have more questions than answers. I want justice, not only for us, but for her. It’s hard to live with this every day.”

Stanley Todd said time has lessened some of his pain, but that he will never forget his daughter. His advice to parents: Tell your kids you love them and to hug them. Because you never know what can happen.

“I had a dream once, many years ago,” he said. “I was with Amy on the farm, and she was sitting right there, across from me in our truck. She said to me, ‘Dad, I’m OK.’ That made me sad, but it made me happy. It helped me to know that she’s in a better place.”

Katrina Milton

Katrina J.E. Milton

Award-winning reporter and photographer for Shaw Media publications, including The Daily Chronicle and The MidWeek newspapers in DeKalb County, Illinois, since 2012.