PAXTON — If the Ford County Historical Society or the Paxton Foundation ever wanted to put on display some of the evidence collected from the scene of one of Paxton’s most infamous crimes, there would be no shortage of display-worthy items.
From bullets, shell casings and guns to the clothing removed from the perpetrators and victims of the bloody gunbattle of April 7, 1979, on Interstate 57 south of Paxton, the Illinois State Police have kept in storage all 181 pieces of evidence from the tragic incident for the past 40 years.
While neither the nonprofit historical society nor Paxton Foundation has formally discussed obtaining any of that evidence for display purposes, a member of both groups, Judy Jepsen-Popel, said it would be an intriguing idea to set up an I-57 shootout display someday at either the historical society’s Water Tower Museum or historic former sheriff’s residence and jail in Paxton.
If that were ever to happen, some things would need to happen first. Among them, 83-year-old Monroe Lampkin, who is serving a life sentence at Stateville Correctional Center in suburban Crest Hill in connection with the shootout, would need to die.
That is because, per state police policies, forensic evidence from a homicide case must be retained “until the completion of the sentence.”
In any case, with the 40-year anniversary of the shootout having just recently passed, it is worth a look at what evidence from the crime continues to be retained by state police. Through a Freedom of Information Act request, the Ford County Record obtained an inventory from state police of every piece of evidence from the case being kept in the statewide evidence vault, including:
— Inked finger and palm prints, blood samples, bullets and clothing removed from the bodies of state trooper Michael McCarter; his brother-in-law, Donald Vice, who was riding with McCarter; and Paxton police officer William Caisse. All three died in the shootout, while Paxton police officer Larry Hale was wounded but survived.
— Bullet fragments removed from Hale’s leg and chest.
— Inked finger and palm prints, blood samples, bullets and clothing removed from Monroe Lampkin and the bodies of his brothers David and Cleveland Lampkin, who were killed. The Lampkin brothers were headed from Michigan to Mississippi for their grandmother’s funeral when they were pulled over for speeding and then fired upon the officers, fearing police would find the weapons they had in their two vehicles. A fourth Lampkin brother, Clyde, surrendered to police and was never implicated.
— Numerous guns, cartridges, clips and shell casings recovered at the scene on southbound I-57 at milepost 259. Among the firearms is Hale’s .357 Magnum revolver, a Remington 12-gauge pump-action shotgun with one shell in its chamber as recovered from the ground at the scene, a Remington Wingmaster 12-gauge pump-action shotgun containing four live shells as removed from the ground southwest of the Lampkin brothers’ 1977 GMC Sierra pickup truck, a .223-caliber Ruger semi-automatic rifle containing a 30-round magazine as removed from the ground south of David Lampkin’s body (one live shell was jammed in its chamber, and 12 live shells were in the magazine), a .357 Magnum revolver with six live cartridges in its cylinder found in the Lampkins’ Thunderbird, a 9-mm pistol found in Caisse’s squad car, and a Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum belonging to Caisse.
— A live shell removed from the driver’s seat of the Lampkin brothers’ 1977 Ford Thunderbird.
— Numerous spent shell casings, including those removed from the front passenger’s seat of Hale’s squad car, on the ground near David Lampkin’s body, on the ground near the Lampkins’ pickup truck, on the ground west of the southbound lanes of the interstate, and on the ground on the west shoulder of the interstate south of the overpass.
— A police hat (blue with black rim) found on the ground west of McCarter’s car.
— A silver wristwatch and a small brown button found in the water northwest of McCarter’s car, west of a bridge pillar.
— A black metal flashlight removed from the ground west of Hale’s car.
— A black leather-like shoe with a possible blood stain on its sole, as found on the ground northwest of Hale’s car.
— Hale’s bullet-proof vest.
— Handcuffs with keys and a box containing 50 cartridges, as found in a leather suitcase in the Thunderbird’s trunk.
— An envelope found in a pocket of a tan sportcoat that was in the back seat of the Thunderbird. Other assorted papers were removed from the car’s trunk, while a bottle of prescription pills and a key ring with 22 keys were found in its glove compartment.
— A black leather holster strap found on the ground near David Lampkin’s body.
— A silver pen knife, folded shut, found on the ground west of the interstate.
— A hat with a stain in its lining that was found in the grass west of the interstate and south of the overpass. Also found in that area were six spent shell casings, numerous live cartridges and five partially empty bottles of Michelob beer.
— Blood-stain evidence collected from the overpass above I-57. Also found on the overpass was a silver button, several spent casings and a live cartridge.
— Two brown buttons found near the overpass at the scene.
— A note found in the grass north of the overpass that said “Kerry Lampkin” with a drawing of a “smiling sun.”
— Blood-stain evidence scraped from a wooden bridge above a creek east of I-57, about a mile south of the scene.
— A piece of green material which was reportedly found along the Illinois Central Railroad tracks about six-tenths of a mile south of Paxton.
— A piece of green fabric found 12 days after the shootout about a half-mile south of Paxton in grass along the west side of U.S. 45.
— Spent shell casings removed from a room on the upper level of a house west of the crime scene.
— A key, “yellow gold-like ring with three diamond-appearing stones” and possible wallet remnants found at a Paxton farm.