You wonder about the little boys’ last trip, along a narrow, winding road in the middle of nowhere. And you wonder about their final moments, and if this unfamiliar, rural locale allowed the last sights set upon by their bright, young eyes.
You wonder about the little boys’ last trip, along a narrow, winding road in the middle of nowhere.
And you wonder about their final moments, and if this unfamiliar, rural locale allowed the last sights set upon by their bright, young eyes.
Taylor Road stretches 3.7 miles east from Illinois Route 26, that intersection about eight miles south of the Putnam County seat of Hennepin. Alternately pavement, gravel and mud, it strings together a mix of thick woods, upscale homes and crop fields.
Sunday, a passer-by called police about a 1991 Dodge Dynasty resting on Taylor Road about a half-mile from Route 26. Any unfamiliar car would gain notice in this remote area.
Duncan Connolly, 9, and brother, Jack, 7, were found inside the car. Michael Connolly,
40, was found 60 yards away. Police, who are investigating it as a double murder-suicide, have not said how they died or where the boys drew their last breaths.
But police say the family had no connection to Putnam County, the smallest in the state. It’s likely Michael Connolly picked the site out of meandering happenstance. If he had wanted to find a desolate area to slay his sons in private, he could hardly pick a better place.
You trace the route, wondering if the boys still held out hope of seeing their mother as their father motored along Taylor Road.
Perhaps they first turned onto Taylor Road from the east, near a small, unmarked cemetery. Some of the white slabs jut from the earth; others fell long ago. Many of the stone tablets have faded to unreadable, as many mark the final resting places of settlers born in the early part of the 1800s.
Heading west, the boys might have see a pair of farm houses that have not seen a coat of paint in decades. Here, the muddy road jabs through crop fields, white blotches of snow melting amid endless rows of shunted corn stalks. The road turns to gravel as it wends past a dilapidated barn, its gray planks splintered and ravaged by time and neglect.
Everything looks bleak and lifeless, as if long preparing as the setting for the last, terrible chapter in the mysterious Connolly saga.
About three miles west, the road turns to asphalt as it pushes past newer, impressive homes of brick and glass. The dwellings, about eight in all, burst up almost unexpectedly, like a brief oasis of quiet vitality amid the empty isolation. No, the locals say at midmorning: they had not yet heard about the heart-wrenching news about the Connolly lads. They close their doors with a sad shake of the head, and noiselessness resumes.
The road soon dips down the river bluff, toward Route 26. Perhaps the car found Taylor Road from this end, pushing up the river bluff alongside tickets of tall trees, leafless and begging for the attention of a delayed spring sun. The crumbling, pocked asphalt slithers alongside ravines and hollows that can support wildlife and nothing else.
Here, a half-mile from the state highway, the car ended its journey. Here, Michael Connolly ended everything.
Here, two little boys — who liked comic books and pop-rock music and the same stuff enjoyed by millions of other kids — came to the end of a trip they never asked for. And across the nation, but especially in central Illinois, our hopes and prayers ended in the most terrible way imaginable.
Phil Luciano can be reached at email@example.com or (309) 686-3155.