ROCKTON — It’s been 12 years since 65-year-old Constance Hounsell was found murdered in her Rockton home. The case remains unsolved, but a top Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office detective says a renewed effort is underway to examine cold cases in county.
Winnebago County Deputy Chief of Investigations Pete Dal Pra said two detectives are working the Hounsell case, one in conjunction with federal law enforcement partners and another detective with state partners to continue to follow leads in the case.
Hounsell was found stabbed to death in the basement of her home in the 6400 block of Alice Lane in Rockton on Dec. 27, 2008. The home is located in a rural part of Rockton and there were no signs of forced entry to the residence.
“Being there when the case occurred, I think we talked to the person that did this. We talked to a lot of people back then,” Dal Pra said. “Now at this point in the case, either we are going to have someone come forward or it will come down to science.”
Advances in forensics, even in recent years, could ultimately break the case.
“There’s no question in my mind that it will be solved, it’s just a matter of when,” Dal Pra said. “I can tell you that there have been reports written in the last year on the Hounsell case that no one would have been able to write 10 years ago.”
The Hounsell case was one of three unsolved homicides Dal Pra said were priorities for detectives in 2020. While no breaks came in the Hounsell case, an arrest was made in the 1987 murder of Tammy Tracey in Rockford.
Mississippi resident Jesse Smith, 64, was arrested in Georgia on Nov. 19, 2020 and was extradited to Winnebago County to face charges. Tracey disappeared on May 27, 1987 from Searls Park in Rockford. Her body was found in the woods at the Sugar River Forest Preserve in Durand where she had been stabbed and shot.
Smith was arrested after being identified as a suspect in the case, with former Winnebago County State’s Attorney Marilyn Hite Ross noting that Smith knew Tracey prior to her death.
Dal Pra stressed that although the Hounsell case remains unsolved, the case is by no means a cold case.
“These cases aren’t put in a box and are forgotten about,” Dal Pra said. “There’s no question in my mind that it will be solved, it’s just a matter of time.”
Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office at 815-319-6400.