Many bright, talented young people have passed through the Belleville News-Democrat, wanting to serve a profession that values the truth and clarity.
Some have been forgotten. One has not, mainly because her brief time here ended horribly and left us in a murky place where we could never quite get to what was true.
Audrey Cardenas was a petite, quiet young reporter who was eager to learn. She came from Texas to Belleville in the summer of 1988 as part of our company's minority internship program.
We and her mother thought she'd only been here about 11 days. Now, just shy of 30 years later, we learn it might have been 12 days.
Belleville Police and prosecutors charged drifter Rodney Woidtke with Audrey's murder. Charges stated the killing was on Sunday, June 19, 1988.
But an author investigating the old case sent police records to Audrey's mother, Billie Fowler. She noticed a police report stating that Audrey cashed a check a block from the newspaper office at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, June 20, 1988.
Her daughter was alive for at least a day longer than previously believed.
Audrey was scheduled to work that Monday morning, and appeared to be dressed for work. So what happened in that short time and in that short distance?
A week after she didn't show up for work, her body was found in the dry creek bed at Belleville East High School. She was dressed for a run.
Woidtke's schizophrenia made his confessions a problem, and he was eventually released from prison and his conviction overturned. Investigators remain convinced he was guilty, but Woidtke died in 2014 and many answers went with him.
Dale Anderson is still in prison for murdering a mother and child. He was obsessed with the Cardenas case, but there is nothing solid to connect him to the murder.
Our former reporter, Carolyn Tuft, worked to get at the truth and her reporting led to Woidtke's new trial. She has since died.
Our current staff has examined and reexamined the case, but still the pursuit is elusive.
As much as we wish we knew, we will likely join Audrey without ever really knowing. As much as that nags, the person who most deserves the truth is still in Texas wondering about her daughter.
Our community owes Billie Fowler another look at her daughter's murder.