Holly Lee Blake
March 2 1962 - 1969

My heart is so easily hurt when I do research on a child and in the end find out that there are no known pictures of that child to be found. How can a child be born and no one thinks it's a great idea to document the most precious moment with a picture?  Such is the case with Holly Lee Blake. A child born into this world for what seems to have been only to suffer and die at the hands of the woman who gave birth to her.

In 1969, a child name Vera Rodriquez had a hard time with hearing a little girl crying in pain. The noise was
coming from an apartment building near where she lived at the time. Vera was only 12 years old at that time and when she would bring up the crying girl to her mother, she was told to mind her own business.

"I remember being afraid for whoever was in there. It seemed like there was a constant state of
nightmare coming from that room"
Vera Rodriquez

31 years later, Vera's memories of the little girl were vivid and would help to identify her as the remains found
buried beside and apartment building in the 800 block of Buckingham Place. Violent Crimes Detectives Robert Jellen and Reno Baiocchi would find her to be very helpful when they found the remains. Vera told the Detectives that she could remember Holly being pushed in a toddlers stroller and that she had a younger brother as well as parents named Joan and Tom. Vera had never been enrolled in school and it seemed she had never been to the doctor as there were no records at all of her having visited one. Both of Holly's parents were day laborers so there was no record of either having worked. The Violent Crimes Detective Division Cmdr. William Hayes gave full credit to Vera for helping to find the person who killed Holly.

"Without this investigation, no one would have known this girl existed"
William Hayes

In 1999, in the Chicago neighborhood where the Buckingham Place address was, there were some renovations taking place. During the renovations, Larry Vincent discoed was digging about 2 1/2 feet into the ground outside of the apartment where Holly had lived with her family. While digging, he found a plastic bag and saw what looked like clothing inside of it, like someone had discarded rag, he would say. Tapping the bag cause a skull to roll out:

"It didn't scare me, but it certainly concerned me. It wasn't right"
Larry Vincent.

It was later discovered to be the remains of Holly lee Blake, someone who few people even knew existed up to that point. Holly's life was one of being physically abused as well as malnourished. Holly was locked in a back room of the apartment where she lived with her parents. Dr Edmund Donaghue, who was the Cook County Medical Examiner at that time stated that the DNA was used to show that the child was a girl who had been between five and six years old had been buried between 1968 and 1969. It was determined that she had been murdered and the cause of death was listed as asphyxia.

When the bones were discovered, there were pajamas which she had been buried in. The manufacturers date on the pajamas was 1968 and it was discovered that they had been discontinued in 1969. Detectives had to go through thousands of school records to find Scott Blake and learn that this parents were Tom and Joan Blake who lived at the Buckingham Place address. Scott lead detectives to his mother who had since remarried and went by the name Joan Miller who was living in Beatrice, Nebraska. Police subpoenaed Holly's birth records and found that she was born in 1962. At first, Joan denied ever having a daughter though she did admit to having lived at the address.

It was learned that Joan had kept her secret well hidden in the town she had lived in for more than ten years after leaving Chicago. Joan lived alone and kept the ashes of a deceased boyfriend in her apartment. Joan had rarely spoken to anyone in her town and few spoke to her. It was said that she would have food and cigarettes delivered to her apartment though she only lived a few blocks away from the Food Mart. Joan rarely went out, not even to the trash can telling people she simply didn't feel up to going out:

"She never wanted to come out at all. It wasn't that she wasn't able to physically,
but she didn't want to and she never said why. I guess the mystery will never
be solved. What do they do now? Just drop it? What would you do if you found
out the answer? She's gone"
Eva Renz - Town resident who checked on Joan often

As it turned out, Joan was in the hospital suffering from congestive heart failure and her condition was getting
worse. On March 18, Robert Jellen flew to Nebraska to speak with her. The only responses she could give were to nod or shake her head since she was on a ventilator. When asked if she caused the death of her daughter, Joan nodded that yes she had. When asked if she had buried her daughter by the side of the house, Joan again nodded that yes she had. When asked if her husband was involved in the death and burial, Joan shook her head to say no. Police were able to get DNA from Joan to establish if she was the mother of the child they had found. It would later be revealed that the DNA was a match.

It was learned that Holly had been struck in the head four weeks before she died. The hit had broken her jaw in three places and she was unable to eat solid food. Holly was later killed when hands pressed down on her ribs so strong that five of her ribs were broken and it became impossible for her to breath.

Joan Milled died on a Friday in March of 2000, in her hospital room. The case has been closed though the police had not had the opportunity to ask her why Holly had died. Holly's father had died years before. Neither of these two people will ever have to pay for what happened to Holly.

Holly was survived by two younger brothers, Scott and Kevin,  who never even knew she was alive. Scott Blake at one point told the police that he didn't remember having a sister though he did have some memories of always hearing someone crying when he was a child and he knew his mother was a violent person:

"I look back on it and it gives me an eerie feeling. It's a sister I didn't know"
Scott Blake

Scott had plans to bury his mother  with a private funeral:

"Now that she's dead, I believe she's at peace with what happened. I'm always going
to wonder what happened"

All I could find about a funeral for Holly was that she was cremated and Scott is in possession of her ashes.

Return To Holly's Story
Read A Transcript From The Show "Cold Case Files"
Click here for a picture of Holly's Birth Certificate

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