STREATOR, Ill. — Twenty years ago Sunday, 7-year-old Dalton Mesarchik was all ready to go a youth program.
“My child was safe inside,” Michelle Mesarchik said.
The church’s van, which was set to pick Dalton and other kids up for the program, was thought-to-be late, but Mesarchik said they were reassured after her daughter called asking if it was still coming.
Mesarchik then asked if Dalton still wanted to go and he said “yes” and went back out on the enclosed porch to wait for the van.
“My boy loved Jesus,” Mesarchik said. “He was going to learn about Jesus.”
At some point after Dalton went back on his Streator porch, authorities believe he was coaxed or forced into a vehicle. Once family realized he was gone, they called the church again and were told the driver had called out for the night due to a family emergency.
“That’s when everything went crazy,” Mesarchik said. “He wasn’t the type of child that wandered off — he was the super glue child that was always right by me.”
Mesarchik immediately called police which brought out search teams and an Amber Alert.
What happened to Dalton still remains a mystery. The next day on March 27, 2003, his body was found by a fisherman in the Vermillion River.
Police said he had been bludgeoned to death with a Benchtop Pro hammer, which was sold only at K-Mart.
Media members swarmed the small town, approximately 80 miles south of Chicago, as family members were questioned by police. Michelle and her family were cleared of wrongdoing.
With so much attention on the community, family hoped for an arrest, but it never came.
“Life keeps going even though there’s a part of us that’s stopped,” Mesarchik said. “We don’t have our answers, we don’t have our justice.”
Michelle has turned to social media in an effort to keep Dalton’s story in people’s minds and to help advocate for other tragic local cases. While every tip can be important, Mesarchik said each anniversary can “bring out the crazies.”
“It’s scary, tell the police — do not contact victim’s families,” she said. “They contact you as if you’re going to talk case information with a stranger.”
Despite some less-than-desirable attention online, Dalton’s story remains in the hearts of Streator residents and a vigil was held Sunday night to mark the 20th anniversary.
With Easter coming up, Mesarchik is not forgetting her “funny” son’s favorite holiday.
“He loved hard boiled eggs — he called the yolks ‘egg cheese,'” Mesarchik laughed.
Without answers for the last 20 years, faith helps her get by.
“If I didn’t have faith in God and his promises, I wouldn’t be here,” she said. “I don’t know how someone could go through this without having God to rely on.”
A $50,000 reward remains active regarding Dalton’s murder. Anyone with information can submit a tip here or call the FBI at 1-800-225-5324.