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MARION — According to Capt. Mike Dixon, chief of investigations at the Madison County Sheriff’s Office, some deaths are harder to take than others. One of those cases was the death of 8-year-old Sabrina Stauffenberg of Olney on Nov. 23, 2016, the day before Thanksgiving.

Sabrina, the daughter of Nancy Stauffenberg of Olney and Glenn Stauffenberg of Ina, was on the front porch talking to her grandma on a cell phone at around 6:30 p.m. waiting for a church bus. Although, her parents called the police to report her missing within 12 minutes of that time, she was gone.

Dixon said Richland County Sheriff activated the Southern Illinois Child Death Investigation Task Force to help with the case. That added 35 members to the sheriff’s pool of investigators and officers.

“The pressure is unbelievable on law enforcement to solve the case. One of the big pressures is getting answers for a community. If you don’t get that person in custody, the whole community can live in fear for years,” Dixon said.

Police located Sabrina’s burning clothes behind a storage shed two blocks away. Her body was found approximately two hours later with obvious evidence of sexual assault.

Dixon said Holly Fiene commanded the group, and they developed more than 100 leads and identified four persons of interest within 24 hours. All four voluntarily gave statements and DNA, which was analyzed by the ISP Crime Lab.

Eventually DNA from Glenn Ramey was matched to DNA collected from Sabrina’s body. He pleaded guilty in January to predatory criminal sexual assault, to drop a charge of first degree murder, and was sentenced to 60 years in prison in March.

On Thursday, member of the task force who worked the case, as well as technicians from the crime lab, were honored during the Downstate Conference on Child Abuse.

“I would personally like to commend everyone in this case,” Dixon said.

Investigators were honored with certificates and plaques.

The task force covers six districts of Illinois State Police and 34 counties. Agencies that assisted in this case included: Olney Police Department, Richland County Sheriff’s Department, Flora Police Department, Salem Police Department, Centralia Police Department, Effingham County Sheriff’s Department, Effingham County Coroner’s Office, Vandalia Police Department and Illinois State Police.

“I feel terrible for her family, but I am proud to be part of this organization,” Dixon said.

“It was an incredible job by law enforcement and showed tremendous effort,” Union County State’s Attorney Tyler Edmonds, who is a member of the task force board, said. “I’m really proud of the task force.”

Dixon added that a few members of the task force were unable to attend the event in Marion because they were on an active murder investigation.

The task force investigates a lot of murders, but the vast majority of their cases are co-sleeping deaths. Dixon called it a “common thing,” but added that people have to stop sleeping with their infants.

This was the 26th year of the Downstate Conference on Child Abuse. It is organized by the Southern Region Child Advocacy Center directors, and participants come from all over the state.

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Marilyn Halstead is a reporter covering Williamson County.

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