On a fall afternoon in 1980, police found the dismembered remains of a young mother near a bridge in rural Illinois, marking the beginning of a murder mystery that would baffleinvestigators for decades.

On Thursday, 37 years after the crime, police arrested the woman’s former husband, Thomas Small, in connection with her murder. Police believe Small, 70, killed Diane Small, dismembered her body and then disposed of the remains near the Air Tight Bridge in rural Coles County. 

Small was 26 years old when she disappeared in 1980. Authorities found her badly decomposed body on Oct. 19 of that year, four days after she had left her Bradley home on the 400 block of North Michigan Avenue.

Her head was never found. It took authorities 12 years to identify her remains through DNA testing.

“Nobody knew who it was because there wasn’t any head, feet and hands,” Judy Whiteside, a Coles County resident, told FoxIllinois.com.

The Smalls had a 2-year-old daughter at the time Diane Small disappeared.

“This is great news, especially for her daughter,” retired Bradley Chief Steve Coy told the Daily Journal. “She has always wanted to know what happened.”

Sources close to the case told the newspaper that Small — who lives in Kankakee County — confessed to killing his wife.

A spokesman for the Bradley Police Department could not be reached when contacted Monday. 

Small reportedly told police at the time that his wife voluntarily left the couple’s home on OCt. 15 and never returned. 

In a statement released last week, the Coles County Sheriff’s Department said Small is currently in custody in connection with his wife’s murder and that “charges are pending.”

Small is currently in custody at the Kankakee County Jail and is due in court this week. 

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