SHERIFF’S POLICE SOLVE DECADES OLD MURDER CASE OF
OAK FOREST 11-YEAR-OLD
Wednesday, October 29, 2008 — Bond has been set today for a former Oak Forest man charged with murder in the 1980 death of an 11-year-old boy abducted on his way to purchase a gallon of milk, Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart announced Wednesday.
Ronald Rice, 54, formerly of Oak Forest, was charged Wednesday with one count of murder in the death of Edwin Milo Gulbransen, 11, of Oak Forest. Rice appeared for a bond hearing in 6th District Circuit Court in Markham Wednesday morning.
On Sunday, June 22, 1980, about 10:15 a.m., Edwin Gulbransen was riding his bicycle to a local convenience store near 159th and Rob Roy in Oak Forest to pick up a carton of milk. When the boy failed to return home within a half-hour, his mother went out driving to look for him. She found his bicycle on the side of the road near 157th and Ridgeland Avenue, but there was no sign of the boy.
Four days later on June 26, the boy’s partially decomposed body was found in the wooded field of a forest preserve near 158th and Ridgeland. Shortly after the boy’s body was discovered, Rice came forward and told police he struck the boy with his car. Rice said he put the boy in his car to take him to the hospital, but then saw the boy was not breathing. Rice said he panicked and dumped the child’s body in the woods. At that time he was charged with leaving the scene of an accident and obstruction of justice. Within five weeks, Rice was convicted and sentenced to six months in Cook County Jail.
Edwin Gulbransen’s death made national headlines in 1980. At the time, Rice told police he was distraught over the accident. As Rice arrived to turn himself in to Sheriff’s Police investigators at the Markham courthouse two weeks after the incident, a throng of reporters and camera crews were waiting to capture his arrival.
In 1984, Rice was convicted of deviant sexual assault of a 12-year-old boy and sentenced to 60 years in prison. He remains in prison for this crime and has a projected parole date of October, 2012. Recently, Sheriff’s Police and Cook County State’s Attorney’s personnel learned from Illinois Department of Corrections officials that Rice admitted to sexually assaulting and killing Edwin Gulbransen that day. The case was reopened and, following several months of investigation and interviews, resulted in the charges brought Wednesday.
“We hope these charges bring some sense of peace to the Gulbransen family after so many years,” Sheriff Dart said.
Rice received no bond during his initial bond hearing this morning in 6th District Circuit Court in Markham. He is slated to appear again on Nov. 21. Rice will remain in IDOC custody pending future court dates in this case.
According to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, Rice will be charged under the murder statute in place in 1980. If convicted, Rice could face the death penalty.
Sheriff Dart thanked the Sheriff’s Police Cold Case Squad, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office and the Illinois Department of Corrections for their extensive work and assistance in this investigation.