Normally jovial customers at Stagger Inn Again were in shock Monday evening after hearing about the murders of Lois and Michael Ladd, who frequented the Edwardsville bar and restaurant and had just stopped in Saturday night for corned beef and cabbage.
Lois Ladd, 68, a well-known chiropractor, was decked out in green to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, friends said.
“She just got back from Thailand,” said Judy Obermeier, 53, of Edwardsville, “She’s traveled all over the world. She was a highly intelligent woman. She was a kind woman. She just had such a positive energy.”
Obermeier is a tiler with Architectural Ceramics who often worked on construction projects with Michael Ladd, 79, a general contractor. She met Lois Ladd as a chiropractic patient in the early 1990s. The couple had no children.
“We’re all in shock,” said Jerry Stoeber, 68, owner of Architectural Ceramics, who had known Lois Ladd since college in the 1970s and also worked with Michael Ladd. “I can’t believe it happened. It’s a nightmare.”
Edwardsville police found the couple’s bodies about 10:30 a.m. Monday in their home in the 800 block of North Kansas, according to officials at a news conference Monday afternoon. One of Lois Ladd’s employees had called to ask for someone to check on them.
“We’re working feverishly right now to get as many leads as we can,” said Jeff Connor, chief deputy commander on the Illinois side for the Major Case Squad of Greater St. Louis, which was called in to investigate.
Connor said about 30 agents were on the crime scene Monday afternoon. He declined to provide information regarding possible motive or other details of the double-homicide investigation.
Connor said the Ladds’ family had been notified of the murders. He encouraged local residents with information on the crime, or on the couple’s whereabouts in recent days, to call 618-307-1611. An anonymous tip line also is available at 618-692-7552.
“We are desperately asking any help (from) the public that can help us with this crime,” Connor said. “One of the main things we need right now is the last people to see them alive.”
Stories, hugs and tears
Obermeier and other friends gathered spontaneously at Stagger Inn Again on Monday evening after news of the murders spread around town. They shared stories, hugged, cried and expressed disbelief that something so horrific could happen to such good people.
Lois Ladd often stopped in the bar and restaurant on Thursdays after work to watch Stoeber and other friends play shuffleboard. She always dressed up for holidays, said former bartender Janet Calvert, 44, of Glen Carbon.
“(The Ladds) were wonderful people,” she said. “They were the most chill, laid-back people.”
Calvert was one of several bartenders who got chiropractic adjustments in Lois Ladd’s office after developing sore backs from standing on their feet.
“I would need an adjustment, and I didn’t have insurance, and she would charge me $20, or she wouldn’t charge anything at all,” Calvert said. “She’d say, ‘I know how hard you work.’”
Stoeber recalled taking art classes with Lois Ladd in the 1970s at Leclaire’s N.O. Nelson complex, which was then headquarters for the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville art department. Later, Lois Ladd switched her major to theater and designed sets for stage plays, he said.
In the 1980s, Stoeber began getting chiropractic and acupuncture treatments from Lois Ladd after developing back problems from laying tile.
“I tell you, I would be in a wheelchair if not for Lois,” he said. “She kept me upright. ... Everyone is shocked and saddened (by her murder). She’s helped all of us. She has been the go-to person if you have pain.”
Lois Ladd’s practice, called The Last Resort in Whole Body Health, included chiropractic services, pain management, acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine.
In recent years, Stoeber began working regularly on construction projects with Michael Ladd, who operated under the company name Michael Ladd Construction.
“I’ve got three jobs with him right now,” Stoeber said. “He was a good guy. He cared about his customers.”
Quiet, wooded neighborhood
By early evening Monday, a steady stream of Edwardsville police and Major Case Squad vehicles were still driving back and forth on a one-lane, dirt and gravel road that ends where the Ladds’ steep driveway begins. Their home is on a hill surrounded by woods.
The neighborhood has an isolated, rural feel, even though it’s just north of downtown Edwardsville. The dead-end road is officially North Kansas, but the Ladds had erected a sign at the end of their driveway reading “Lois Lane.”
Jany Hartley, who lives three doors down, said police questioned her husband, Terry, who told them that the couple didn’t see or hear anything out of the ordinary Sunday or Monday.
“I thought, ‘I was home (Sunday). It’s kind of a quiet street. Who would do that?’” Jany Hartley said.
The Hartleys already had moved into their house when Michael Ladd bought the hilltop property in the mid-1980s, Jany Hartley said. In recent years, Michael Ladd’s sister and brother have lived in a small gray house at the bottom of the hill.
Houses on the road are spaced out, so contact between neighbors is sporadic, Jany Hartley said. She would see Michael Ladd’s red pickup truck whiz by several times a day. If she was working in her yard, he would stop and chat about the road’s condition or downed tree branches.
Jany Hartley said she was stuck by the fact that officials called the Ladds “elderly” at the news conference, which she watched on television.
“They were far from elderly,” she said. “I was a year behind Lois in school, and she didn’t have an elderly mind. ... (Michael Ladd) worked every day. He didn’t let any grass grow under his feet.”
The Ladds often threw parties in the spring and invited family, friends and neighbors.
“I can’t believe it yet,” Jany Hartley said of the murders. “It just doesn’t seem real. It’s sad. I hope they catch (the murderer).”
Beyond her chiropractic practice, Lois Ladd was active in the community. She was a member of the Quercus Grove Rural Club, which owned the old Quercus Grove School between Hamel and Edwardsville before it burned in 2007, and at one time served on the personnel committee for the Madison County Child Advocacy Center.