The battered nude body of a young woman was found by two teenage boys in Illinois Beach State Park, 45 miles north of Chicago. She lay in a ditch along the Chicago and North Western railroad tracks about 40 feet from the park's south entrance.
December 21, 1968, Zion Illinois
Her head was battered, and her clothes had been pulled down around the ankles. Her personal belongings and her clothing were strewn around her. Freshly cut branches were used to hide the body. The girl was estimated to be in her early twenties. She had a yellow balloon tied to her left wrist.
She was found near the entrance to the Drew Sand Pits off the old Beach Road by two teenage boys who worked in the kitchen of the park lodge, and who had gone out there to find a pond to ice skate on.
The discovery of the girl's body was compared to the murder of three women in the Starved Rock Park in March, 1960. Chester "Rocky" Weger, a dishwasher at the lodge in that park was convicted of the crime.
She was identified as Anna Mondragon a 23-year-old, third grade teacher. She failed to show up for her bridal shower. Still missing was her fiancee, Gene Newbury, 23, also a school teacher in the Zion school system. His father reported that he failed to return to their home on Thursday after teaching his sixth-grade class. The couple had been engaged for two years.
Lake County Coroner Orville Clavey said that the girl had been tortured before she was killed, and the body had been there less than a day when it was found. The assailant apparently stuffed grass in her mouth to muffle her screams, which caused her death. Clavey described the murder as "one of the worst I've seen. It was the work of a sadist."
Tire tracks were found leading from a nearby road to the body.
Police continued to look for Gene Newbury or his red Volkswagen. Gene's father said he was the last one to possibly have seen the couple when they left his mobile home on Thursday, December 19 on their way to an optometrist appointment, and then afterwards to go Christmas shopping.
A few days later Eugene "Gene" Newbury was arrested in Madison, Wisconsin. He called the sheriff's office of Dane County and said, "I'd like to talk to you about a murder."
A clerk at the motel said he had blood on his hands and clothing when he signed the motel register.
On December 24, funeral rites were held at St. Anne's Church for Anna Louisa Mondragon in Santa Fe, New Mexico where she had lived with her mother until she moved to Zion. She had been a homecoming queen and varsity cheerleader, and a member of Phi Kappa Gamma sorority at Highlands University in Las Vegas.
Newbury fought extradition back to Illinois, and in the meantime police looked at him as a possible suspect in the strangling death of two other women. It was at the end of February that he was sent back to Illinois to face murder charges.
Not surprisingly he was ordered to undergo a psychiatric examination.
In April, a jury returned a verdict that Eugene Newbury was mentally competent to stand trial after hearing testimony from three psychiatrists. He pled innocent to the charge of murder.
Five optometrists gave their opinion that the prescription of a pair of horn-rimmed glasses found at Illinois Beach State Park matched the one used by the accused.
Police testified that they searched Anna Mondragon's apartment the day her body was found, and it was quite orderly, however they found a 5 x 7 photograph of Newbury which was torn in half.
Prosecutors described where Anna Mondragon was savagely beaten and stabbed, but ultimately asphyxiated from the dirt and grass stuffed into her mouth.
A psychiatrist testified that Newbury told him his fiancee wanted to call off the wedding two days before he killed her. She was upset because he insisted they see the movie, The Boston Strangler twice in one week.
Another psychiatrist said Newbury was definitely a schizophrenic paranoid type at the time of the murder.
In August, after deliberating five hours, a jury recommended that Eugene Newbury be put to death for the murder of Anna Mondragon. The judge set the execution in the electric chair on December 10, 1969.
During the trial Newbury claimed that two men accosted him and Anna outside her apartment and told the couple to drive to Illinois Beach State Park. Then he was struck in the back of the head, his shirt was taken off and his hands were tied behind his back. When he came to, Anna was dead and the two men made threats against him and his family. They they drove to Madison and registered him in a motel. He stayed there for 48 hours before calling police.
However to another doctor, the accused told a different story. He said in the days before the murder, he had fantasies and urges to kill someone, including Anna. He was fascinated with the movie, The Boston Strangler, which he saw a few days before Anna's murder. When he wanted to see the movie a second time, she refused and just drove him to the theater. They quarreled later and she removed her engagement ring. According to the doctor he said this was one of several arguments they had. Newbury said that while he wanted to marry Anna, but he was uncertain whether he wanted to spend his life with her.
On the night of the murder he suddenly squeezed Anna's neck too hard as they were playfully wrestling on the floor in her apartment, and he "had an urge to kill someone." She wanted to call the wedding off but he did not, though he still had his doubts about a lifetime commitment.
On the way to speak to Newbury's parents about postponing the wedding he drove into the park, and she agreed to talk, but warned him, "Don't touch me." After he tried to grab her she ran from the car and he caught her and began to strangle her. For an hour he hit her, stabbed her with a nail file and mutilated the body. "He had the feeling someone else had killed her and several times turned around believing someone else was there."
He tried to give her artificial respiration. He left the park and drove around. He told the doctor that for the next 48 hours he went through a frightening ordeal, because he saw the dead girl's face on the television screen and heard voices coming from the TV.
The doctor testified that Newbury admitted that as early as May he had thought of killing Anna.
There was testimony that blood on Newberry's shirt, coat and pants was of the same type as Mondragon's
In December 1972, the Illinois Supreme Court upheld the conviction of Eugene Lee Newbury, but overturned the death sentence. He was re-sentenced to 50 to 150 years in prison.
He was up for parole in November, 1998.
It's unknown if he was granted parole. He died in 2013.
Stranger Than Fiction Stories by M.P. Pellicer