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Shattered Sense of Innocence

Shattered Sense of Innocence

The 1955 Murders of Three Chicago Children

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Richard C. Lindberg and Gloria Jean Sykes


E-book (Other formats: Hardcover)
6 x 9, 48 illustrations

Elmer H Johnson & Carol Holmes Johnson Series in Criminology


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About the Book

In October 1955, three Chicago boys were found murdered, their bodies naked and dumped in a ditch in Robinson Woods on the city’s Northwest Side. A community and a nation were shocked. In a time when such crimes against children were rare, the public was transfixed as local television stations aired stark footage of the first hours of the investigation. Life and Newsweek magazines published exclusive stories the following week. When Kenneth Hansen was convicted and sentenced for the murders, the case was considered solved—until questions were raised about Hansen’s presumed guilt.

Shattered Sense of Innocence: The 1955 Murders of Three Chicago Children tells the gripping story of the three murdered boys—thirteen-year-old John Schuessler, his eleven-year-old brother, Anton, and thirteen-year-old Bobby Peterson—and the quest to find and bring to justice their killer. Authors Richard C. Lindberg and Gloria Jean Sykes recount the bungled 1955 police investigation, the failures of multiple law enforcement agencies, and the subsequent convictions of Kenneth Hansen, in 1995 and 2002, and present new information concerning two suspects overlooked by police for five decades.

The authors deftly examine all sides of this tragic story, drawing on exclusive interviews with law enforcement agents, with horse trainers affiliated with the so-called horse mafia, and with the man convicted of the murders, Kenneth Hansen. This intensely intimate account offers a rare glimpse into one community and examines how these atrocious crimes altered public perceptions nationwide. Shattered Sense of Innocence, which is also a story of political controversy, a determined federal agent’s quest for justice, and a community’s loss of innocence, includes fifty illustrations.


Richard C. Lindberg is a journalist, a research historian, and the author of eleven books, including To Serve and Collect: Chicago Politics and Police Corruption from the Lager Beer Riot to the Summerdale Scandal, 1855–1960, the first book-length history of the Chicago Police Department published since 1887, and Chicago by Gaslight: A History of the Chicago Netherworld, 1880–1920. He is a past president of the Illinois Academy of Criminology and the Society of Midland Authors and a recipient of the Frederic Milton Thrasher Award for Excellence in Research and Reportage for his work on Chicago organized crime and street gangs.
Gloria Jean Sykes is a documentary film producer and investigative journalist. The wide respect her work has earned is evident in Emmy nominations for three of her specials, Campaign ’90; Homelessness: A Prayer; and Children of Alcoholic Parents. She produced the prime-time NBC series What Happened?, which explores the mysteries surrounding such high-profile cases as the meltdown at Three Mile Island, and her documentaries Multiple Personalities and Marriage and Murder garnered honors as A&E’s highest-rated programs. Her first feature movie, the HBO Original Cheaters, spotlights the 1995 Steinmetz High School academic decathlon scandal. First airing in 2000, it also earned an Emmy nomination.


“One of the most horrific crimes of the 1950s, the kidnapping, molestation, and brutal murder of three Illinois boys is brilliantly reexamined and brought back to harrowing life in Shattered Sense of Innocence. The human drama, poignancy, raw terror, and legal quest for justice captured by the authors make the book one that readers of true crime will eagerly want to read.”—Vincent Bugliosi, author of Helter Skelter
“[A] history book, a true crime novel, and just a good read.”Chicago Life Magazine