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As a young priest in Woodstock, Illinois, one of the first couples the Reverend Michael Binsfield married were Ray Ritter and Ruth Ann Raycraft in 1969. Over the following 19 years, Reverend Binsfield became friends with the Ritters and baptized their three children.
In the summer of 1988, Reverend Binsfield left Woodstock when he accepted a position with the Elgin parish. With the two towns only 25 miles apart, he planned to return to Woodstock often. The Reverend didn’t expect to be called back so soon, however, and for such an awful occasion.
In August of 1988, at the same church where he had married the Ritters in 1969, Reverend Binsfield returned to conduct the couples’ funeral. Many of the people who attended the Ritters’ wedding 19 years prior were packed into the church on a muggy August afternoon to say goodbye to the beloved couple.
Ray and Ruth Ann Ritter were the victims of the first double murder in Woodstock’s history. The primary target of their killer, though, was their daughter, Colleen. The Ritters’ eldest child could not attend her parents’ funeral, as she was still in the hospital recovering from her wounds.
As the Ritters were laid to rest, a manhunt was in progress to find their killer. His name, ironically, was Church.
Ray and Ruth Ann Ritter were born and raised in Woodstock, Illinois, 60 miles northwest of Chicago. They were high school sweethearts and had three children, 17-year-old Colleen, 14-year-old Stephen, and 11-year-old Matthew.
Nineteen-year-old Rick Church attended the same high school as Colleen, and the two had been friends growing up. Rick was popular, a good athlete, and had never been in trouble. Colleen was attracted to the seemingly All-American boy, and the relationship blossomed during the 1987-88 school year when Rick was a senior and Colleen a sophomore. However, the romance cooled for Colleen when Church left for college that summer.
From college, Church called Colleen nearly every evening, even if he had nothing to say. Becoming increasingly annoyed, Colleen confided in her parents. Although they had been supportive of the relationship at first, they now encouraged her to end it.
In June of 1988, Church returned home from college an angry young man. He had not earned enough credits to qualify as a sophomore for the upcoming year. Also, his parents had informed him they were going to divorce. But the worst news was yet to come, and it pushed him over the edge.
Colleen told Church she was ending their relationship. Church’s devastation was apparent, but he kept the extent of his anger hidden.
Though Colleen no longer wanted a romantic relationship with Church, she still considered him a friend and regretted hurting his feelings. Church, on the other hand, was determined to hurt Colleen’s feelings and much more.
On August 20, two months after breaking up with Church, Colleen had a friend stay overnight, as was her youngest brother, Matthew. The middle sibling, Steven, was staying with one of his friends.
At 11:30 p.m., Church called Colleen, begging for one last date with her. Colleen declined, saying she was spending the night with one of her girlfriends and that she had begun a relationship with a classmate. Church, angry and depressed, slammed the phone on her.
Around 5:15 a.m. on the morning of August 21, while everyone in the Ritter house was sleeping, Church, armed with a knife, broke into the Ritter home.
The All-American boy was about to become a cold-blooded killer.
Upon gaining entry into the home, Church went to Ray and Ruth Ann’s ground-floor bedroom and began stabbing them as they slept. Upstairs, 11-year-old Matthew heard his parents’ screams and went into the hallway. There, he encountered Church, who stabbed him twice.
Colleen awoke, heard Matthew screaming, and attempted to call 911. At that point, Church broke into her bedroom and grabbed his primary prey. Colleen broke free and ran from the room, but Church caught her and began repeatedly stabbing her. Colleen eventually again broke away and ran out of the house screaming. Church chased after her and caught her in the street, where he stabbed her several more times. Two neighbors heard the commotion. When they came to Colleen’s aid, Church fled.
The injured Matthew had managed to call 911, and police and ambulance crews arrived quickly. Because a neighbor mistakenly believed Church had run back into the Ritter home, police concentrated their search there while medics attended to Colleen. Officers found the bloodied Matthew in shock, huddled with his friend, who was unharmed. Colleen’s friend was also unscathed.
However, in the downstairs bedroom, police found the bloodied and lifeless bodies of Ray and Ruth Ann. Each had been stabbed multiple times.
Church, however, was nowhere to be found.
Instead of running back into the Ritter home, however, Church had run the 12 blocks to his own house and hastily packed his things. At approximately 5:45 a.m., while his mother was sleeping, he threw his belongings into her truck and fled.
Church was spotted the next day at a motel in the Wisconsin Dells. Two days later, he was seen back in Illinois, near Woodstock.
One month later, Church’s mother’s truck was found abandoned 2,000 miles away in Los Angeles. An area search turned up no trace of him.
Matthew sustained minor wounds and was released from the hospital the following day. Colleen was in critical condition, having been stabbed 22 times, mostly in the back of her head.
Colleen’s wounds prevented her from attending her parents’ funeral. As she lay in intensive care, her parents were laid to rest.
Doctors feared Colleen would be permanently blinded and suffer irreversible brain damage. Fortunately, and perhaps miraculously, something good came from the awful incident in Woodstock, Illinois. Colleen was released from the hospital after two months, having made a full recovery.
Rick Church successfully covered his tracks for three years before his luck ran out when he was captured in Salt Lake City, Utah, on November 13, 1991.
Living under the name Danny Carson, Church worked at a fast-food restaurant where he served an off-duty police officer who recognized his picture from a fugitive bulletin. He was arrested the following day.
At the time of Church’s capture, Colleen was engaged. Her dreams of shopping for dresses with her mom and having her dad walk her down the aisle would not happen. Church’s capture, however, was a good wedding present.
Colleen tied the knot in May of 1992, seven months after Church’s capture. Though the pain of losing her parents in such a brutal manner would always be with her, Colleen was relieved of a tremendous burden knowing her attacker could not return to harm her and that he would pay for his crimes with a life behind bars.
In July 1992, Richard Church pleaded guilty to the murders of Ray and Ruth Ann Ritter to avoid the death penalty. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Now 50-years-old, Church remains imprisoned in Dixon, Illinois. He still has a relatively youthful look. Perhaps a fellow inmate will make him his “church lady.”
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Ian Granstra is a writer and a native Iowan now living in Arkansas.Growing up, he enjoyed watching real-life crime shows and further researching the stories featured. He wrote about many of them on his personal Facebook page, and several people suggested he should start a group featuring his writings. Ian founded the Facebook group “Murders, Missing People and More Mysteries” in August of 2018 he writes about many cold cases. The group also features many current criminal cases in the news. When Ian isn’t writing, he enjoys exercising, traveling and collecting sports cards. He’s also a big animal lover (his Facebook nickname is “beagle lover.”)
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