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Charleston, Illinois

Airtight Bridge

The legacy of an unsolved, gruesome murder rests beneath the spans of this historic bridge. 

By all obvious appearances it is a quiet, metal bridge over the modest Embarras River. Listed on the National Register of Historical places it is just the sort of peaceful, bucolic spot one might imagine in rural Coles County, Illinois. But this bridge has a dark secret.

Known as the “Airtight” bridge because of an “unnatural stillness” encountered while crossing it, the most disturbance this bridge saw was when it was used by local teens as a drinking spot.

But on October 19, 1980 a gruesome discovery was made. Missing head, hands, and feet, a woman’s body was found floating near the bridge. Using scuba divers to look for clues and appendages, little was found and the woman’s identity was impossible to determine.

Laid to rest in the Charleston Mound Cemetery under the name “Jane Doe”, strangers who remembered the case occasionally traveled to her grave and left flowers or other tokens of their sympathy.

There was eventually a break in the case. In 1992 the identity of the victim was determined using DNA analysis. Diana Marie Riordan-Small disappeared from her Illinois home over a 100 miles away and had never been heard from again. Determined as the Jane Doe the headstone was replaced.  

Update 2017: According to a press release from the Coles County Sheriff’s Office, Thomas A. Small, 70, the husband of the victim, was arrested in connection with her murder on March 2, 2017. It is believed that Mr. Small confessed to the murder after being questioned again more recently.

Research thanks to Micheal at True Illinois Haunts

Know Before You Go

Eight miles north of Charleston, IL.