Episode 96

Who Killed Kathleen Lombardo?

June 28, 2021   Tags: , ,
Apple Podcasts
Paul Haynes joins Billy and Paul to discuss the case that originally brought Michelle McNamara into the world of true crime. On August 1, 1984, 24-year-old Kathleen Lombardo left for an evening walk. During that walk a still unknown offender murdered her in the quiet village of Oak Park, Illinois. 

The Murder of Kathleen Lombardo:
24-year-old Kathleen Mary “Kathy” Lombardo lived in the village of Oak Park her entire life. She went out for evening walks everyday. On Wednesday, August 1, 1984 she set out at around 7:30pm. Her walk took her to Euclid Avenue, near the White Hen Pantry and the Oak Park Green Line Station, and then onto Pleasant Street. 

There an unknown assailant grabbed her from her path on Pleasant Street and dragged her into the gangway. He raped her, stabbed her in the heart, and slashed her throat. Some reports indicated that a broken kitchen knife or paring knife had been found nearby.

Five teenage boys were on their way to the White Hen when they discovered Kathy’s body. They called for help.  But by the time help arrived, it was too late. 

Ronald Surmin was the first Oak Park police officer on scene that day. He told the Chicago Tribune  he looked into at least a 100 tips on the case at the time. 

Witnesses who’d observed her remembered, according to the Tribune, seeing an unfamiliar male watching her intently. He appeared to be following her, trying to catch up with her. 

The suspect wore a yellow tank top, dark shorts, knee-length athletic socks, and a blue bandana. He was described as a medium-to-muscular, darkly-complected black male between 25 and 30 years of age, and around 6 feet tall.

Word of Kathy’s murder spread through the neighborhood that night, reaching a household just two blocks away, where 14-year-old Michelle McNamara had been holed up in her writer’s retreat—that is, her attic bedroom.

“What gripped me was the specter of that question mark where the killer’s face should be,” Michelle wrote in I’ll Be Gone in the Dark. Intrigued by the case, Michelle went to the alley way just two days after the murder. She vividly recalled holding pieces of the yellow Walkman Kathy used during her walks.

Other Rapes in the Area:
Oak Park was no stranger to stranger rapes. In 1976, a woman was raped while jogging through the nearby Thatcher Woods Forest Preserve. It was the first of a series which continued to 1978.  Then five more women were sexually assaulted in the same preserve. 

In each case, the offender attacked a jogging victim with a knife or gun. Then he would force her into an underbrush, bind her hands and rape her. Before leaving the scene, he’d order his victims to count to 25 before they moved a muscle.

This attacker was described as a light-skinned black male, 18 to 30 years old, 5'10" to 6 feet tall, with a slender but muscular build. He dressed in jogging clothes and sometimes wore rose-tinted glasses. But the police chief in neighboring River Forest disputed this description as media hype, and claimed this specific rapist dressed in Levis and cutoffs, not jogging clothes.

The next year, a series of similar sexual assaults on joggers took place along Washington Boulevard in Oak Park. It was just blocks away from where Kathy Lombardo was killed five years later. 

Other Unsolved Murders from that Time:
Kathy wasn’t the only unsolved murder from that area or time period. Paul Haynes combed through news archives and created a map of potentially similar cases. 

In 1971 a young mother named Mary Konder was killed in the suburb of Naperville. Her husband had gone to work earlier that morning. Mary and her two-year-old son were home alone.  The killer entered through the rear door of their house.He sexually assaulted her and fatally stabbed her in the chest and stomach. 

There is also Christine Marie DeWitt, 14 years old, whose nude body was found in a Calumet City roadway. She'd been stabbed more than 15 times in the back, head, and arms, and her throat had been slashed.

Currently Kathy Lombardo's brother Chris and the producers of HBO's I'll Be Gone in the Dark are suing to obtain the case file on Kathy's case.  

24-year-old Kathy Lombardo left her apartment in the evening hours of Wednesday, August 1st 1984. She enjoyed going for evening walks. That night she was walking near the White Hen in Oak Park when she was attacked. An offender pulled her into the alley. Then raped, stabbed her in the heart and slashed her throat. 

If you know anything about this case or any of the cases from that time frame, please contact us.


1. Do not name names publicly. Send everything to the police or to this page and we will forward to the police. 
2. Do not post side by side photos.
3. Do not contact any family members. 
4. Do not doxx each other and be civil. We all want the same thing. 

As tips come in, Jensen and Holes will work to verify them. If they look good, we will publish them here to try and get us closer to their names.


This episode was written by Paul Haynes.