HERRIN - The nude body of Regina Oliver Costellia, 19, of Herrin was found dangling by the arm off Market Street Bridge in Marion on Sunday, June 3, 1979. More than 29 years later, her killer has not been brought to justice and although her case has gone cold, the investigation continues.

"We are trying to track down a family member for comparison testing," said Master Sgt. Stan Diggs of Illinois State Police District 13 in Du Quoin. "That case is still open. We are in the process of doing some DNA techniques that weren't available back when she was found."

Diggs said there are leads in the case that have kept law enforcement reopening the old file, but he declined to elaborate on those details.

Preliminary investigations in 1979, noting the marks around her throat, ruled Costellia's official cause of death strangulation.

The bridge where her body was found stands over Crab Orchard Creek. Gravel and dirt on her skin suggested that Costellia's assailant attempted to roll her body off the bridge and into water below. Her arm became caught on a steel support girder during the fall. Had her arm not gotten caught, her disrobed body would have fallen nearly 10 feet into the creek.

The Southern Illinoisan reported in 1979 that Costellia attended a party in Carterville with her 2-year-old son, the night of her death.

Partygoers told police, at that time, that Costellia left the party on a number of instances and stayed gone, with her son, for several 30-minute time spans.

As the night grew darker, Costellia, who had no vehicle, and her son allegedly found a ride back to her parents' house. She then left her son at that residence, which was near the apartment where the two lived alone.

Then-Williamson County Sheriff Jerald Kobler told reporters that her parents never saw who she left with or the type of vehicle that she left in.

Eyewitnesses placed Costellia at the Carterville residence shortly after but could not tell investigators if she was with anyone.

She reportedly left around 10:30 p.m. with four other people, headed to Berra's Tavern in Herrin, a bar she allegedly frequented.

Reports in 1979 said patrons of the tavern claimed Costellia often came into the bar with her young son; they described her as smiling and talking with everyone.

A description given by witnesses to law enforcement after the murder, included the possibility that Costellia was wearing a blue T-shirt promoting the tavern when she left the Carterville party.

Then-Williamson County Coroner James Wilson said she was strangled between midnight and 12:20 a.m.

Costellia's purse and pair of blue jeans were found down the road from the bridge. The rest of her clothing, including the blue T-shirt, was never found.

Detectives were in contact with the woman's estranged husband, Terry L. Costellia, after her death. Interviews with law enforcement in 1979 suggested the relationship between the couple was chaotic.

They were married in June of 1976. Regina's sister, Mary McKane, said in a 1979 interview that they separated in July 1978. Regina had completed her sophomore year of high school before getting married and later having a child. She never returned to school.

High school classmates of the woman described her as reserved with Pentecostal-style clothing. They said her dress and personality changed after her marriage to Terry, who was several years older than Regina.

Diggs said he is unable to comment on the details of any new findings because the case is ongoing. He is also unable to comment as to whether police now believe the victim might have known her assailant or if any information lends to the fact that the person might still live locally.

Details

Recently, the Illinois State Police opened up a number of cold cases throughout Southern Illinois. Regina Costellia, 19, of Herrin is one of many that are now subject to advanced testing that was not available at the time of the crime. Ongoing cold-case investigations include:

William H. Peters, 27, of Carbondale: Peter's body was found washed up on a sandbar of the Mississippi River on Jan. 23, 1972. The body was bound with rope and showed evidence of several gunshot wounds, including a gunshot wound to the head.

Keith L. Brown, 34, of Buckner: Brown's skeletal remains were located in a hay field near Crab Orchard Lake on June 29, 1993. Preliminary investigations led police to believe he had been shot several times.

Derek Moss, 22, of Mount Vernon: Moss was found dead in his residence on June 27, 1995. He died as the result of apparent gunshot wounds.

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