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Ricky Chadek cold case: Detectives looking for leads after 35 years

One of Omaha’s most infamous cold cases is resurfacing.
Updated: May. 27, 2021 at 3:14 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - One of Omaha’s most infamous cold cases is resurfacing. Back in March of 1985, Richard “Ricky” Chadek left a friends house - only never to be seen again. His body was found eight days later. Now, after 35-years, detectives are taking another look at the evidence to help – bring in his killer.

Ricky Chadek was your typical 11-year old boy. He was into transformers, G.I Joe, Legos. “And he wanted to be an astronaut,” said Theresa Grooms, Ricky’s mother. “So, we had a lot of Lego spaceships in our house.”

But, on March 23, 1986, Ricky’s dreams of becoming an astronaut came to an abrupt end.

It was Palm Sunday; Theresa and Ricky went to church. “Then I drove him and his bike to his friend, Tony’s house, and that was around noon,” said Theresa. “Gave him a hug and kiss goodbye, thankfully.”

Ricky was supposed to be home by 5pm. “And so, he called me,” explained Theresa. “He said ‘Mom, I’m running late. I forgot all about it, I’m sorry.’ I said, ‘don’t worry about it babe, just be safe!’”

It was the last time Theresa would talk to her son. Time ticked by, but there was no sign of Ricky. Theresa started getting worried around 5:30pm when Ricky still wasn’t home. Theresa decided to drive around the block to see if she could find him. She drove down the street to the bank at the corner of 42nd and Valley. “I saw his bike shoved back in there between the dumpster and the wooden sides of the enclosure,” said Theresa. “And I knew something was wrong.”

She got out of her car and began calling for her son. “I started shouting as loud as I could. ‘Richard Frank Chadek, The Third, you get your butt out here!’” she exclaimed. “Nothing moved. Nobody came out of their house. Nothing.”

Theresa rushed back to her house and called police. Sergeant John Pankonin is with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and says, “he didn’t get home, he didn’t make it home.” Police filed a missing child report and began asking for tips.

“One of the witnesses did indicate that a boy matching the description of Ricky did approach a blue truck,” said Pankonin. He describes the blue truck as a blue ford or chevy pick-up with wooden side boards. Police checked out hundreds of leads matching that description. “The individual that had him in his possession, either was a good communicator, or gained Ricky’s trust.”

Eight agonizing days later, three men in suits knocked on Theresa’s door. “I started backing out of the room screaming, ‘no, no, no!’” she cried. “After that, things get a little bit blurry.”

Ricky’s body was found down an embankment near 168th and Ida. His hair, clothes and body – all clean. Detectives believe Ricky was kept alive, cared for, even fed – for at least seven days. Food was even found in Ricky’s digestive track. “It looked like some ham that had been fried because of the burnt edges around it, corn, celery, potatoes,” said Pankonin. “So, it looked like he was fed possibly a good meal, a good Easter meal or just before Easter.”

Detectives found physical evidence at the scene – hair follicles. They were submitted for testing, what returned was only a partial DNA profile – not enough enter into the national DNA database. Fast forward 35 years, police are now turning to a private company to take a second look. “Right now, we are looking to see if we can progress this case further,” said Pankonin. “Possibly through genetic genealogy.”

It could bring the break in the case detectives need and Theresa has been praying for. “I still don’t know what went on in those seven to eight days,” she said. “I don’t know um, what other kinds of things he was put through. What did this person do with him for seven days?”

And even if the case has gone cold, Sergeant Pankonin’s determination to find the killer has not. “Just because the person may have passed on, doesn’t mean that we can’t close this case out and help provide some answers to Theresa and her family,” he said.

A suspect has never been arrested in Ricky Chadek’s death. Police are still looking for any leads in this case. If you know anything about Ricky’s murder, or have information which could lead to Ricky’s killer, call the Douglas County Sheriff tip line at (402) 444-6000.

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