CARBONDALE, Ill. — Ryan Louis Livingston was born in Franklin County, Ill., on October 29, 1983, to Richard and Denise Livingston. He has an older brother, Randy, and a younger brother, Robert.
At just 22 years old, Livingston was already a father. His daughter, Hannah, born in 2004, was his everything. Becoming a father at such a young age would be hard for any man, but Livingston accepted his responsibility without complaint. Livingston loved his little girl more than life itself.
Maybe that’s why the events that unfolded in July 2006 made it that much harder for his friends and family.
Carbondale, Illinois, sits in Jackson County and is home to Southern Illinois University, or SIUC, for short. Population is between 25,000 and 30,000.
Thursday, July 13, 2006, was a typically hot summer day with temperatures reaching around 90 degrees. Later that evening, Livingston attended an outdoor concert at SIUC’s Shryock Auditorium. Around 9 p.m., he received a ride to a friend’s house on East Park Street, where he stayed for about 20 minutes.
Livingston then started walking to his brother Randy Livingston’s house in the 600 block of N. Oakland Ave., roughly three miles away. Two males approached Livingston on W. Walnut St., also known as Highway 13 East, in a possible robbery attempt between 10 and 10:30 p.m. One of the men stabbed him on his left side when he likely resisted.
When Livingston had not shown up at his brother’s house, Randy Livingston called his cellphone and he answered. Livingston otld him he had been beaten and stabbed on Highway 13 and needed help.
Randy Livingston immediately dialed 911 at 10:38 p.m., but he could not give the dispatcher his brother’s exact location, only that he was somewhere on Highway 13.
The first officer found Livingston at 10:52 p.m. lying on the sidewalk in front of 317 W. Walnut St., close to the curb. A few minutes before, witnesses across the street had seen him in distress and also dialed 911, aiding the police in locating him.
Livingston had lost a lot of blood and was floating in and out of consciousness. He was only able to give a brief description of his attackers. One assailant was black and wore a hat turned backward, and the other was also black but had a light complexion. He did not know either man.
The police canvassed the area and searched for clues. They collected some forensic evidence at the scene but have not said what that is.
An ambulance transported Livingston to Carbondale’s Memorial Hospital, where staff rushed him into surgery. The knife had penetrated his heart. Doctors attempted to repair the damage, but he died at 1:51 a.m. on Friday, July 14, 2006.
Dr. James A. Petterchak performed the autopsy that afternoon and ruled the manner of death a homicide “caused by a stab wound to the left chest.” Toxicology test results showed no drugs in Livingston’s system. His alcohol level was below the .08 legal limit in Illinois for intoxication.
There were other similar crimes in the area at the time of Ryan Livingston’s murder.
Mar. 31, 2006: Two black males allegedly rob a Jimmy John’s delivery driver while he makes a delivery in the 400 block of W. Monroe St.
One man carried a gun, while the other had a knife. The men were between 18 and 22 years old, 5-feet, 8 inches to 6 feet tall, and wore dark-colored coats with hoods. One also wore a red mask to conceal his identity.
Jul. 21, 2006: Two black males rob a couple as they are walking on Cherry Street. The men steal the woman’s purse, the man’s wallet, and their cellphones. The couple describes the thieves as in their 20s, 5-foot-8 to 5-foot-10 with average builds.
Many residents believe the robberies are connected to Livingston’s murder. The police investigated the possible connections. There were a few similarities and differences but no evidence linking them together.
On Oct. 3, 2007, the Carbondale Police Department received a typewritten letter, dated September 2007, from a woman known only as Elizabeth, who provided specific details about Livingston’s murder that the police never publicly released. Elizabeth said to put an ad in The Southern Illinoisan if the information provided was helpful, which authorities did three times. However, they never heard from Elizabeth again. They are still interested in speaking with her.
After the murder, Livingston’s friends and family created a small memorial on the concrete wall in front of 317 W. Walnut St., where he was stabbed. But days later, the city power-washed the wall.
In August 2006, Arbor District residents formed a neighborhood watch to fight crime. Ryan’s parents divorced in 2010. His daughter is now 17 years old.
Denise Livingston maintains a blog where she writes about Ryan and owns the Facebook page, Remember Ryan.
It’s been nearly 15 years since Ryan Livingston’s murder, and police have made zero arrests, nor have they named any suspects.
Anglin, Shawn and Marilyn Halstead. “Searching for Justice.” Southern Illinoisan. July 14, 2019. (originally accessed through Newspapers.com January 21, 2021)
True Crime Diva’s Thoughts
I’m from a college town in Illinois that is smaller than Carbondale by a few thousand people. Hardly any significant crimes occur there. We recently had a couple of murders, but overall, major crimes are rare. Carbondale is a whole other ballpark with a few unsolved murders and suspicious deaths that should have been ruled murder.
I think the two other robberies mentioned above might be related to Ryan’s murder because two black males were involved in all three cases. Also, the crimes were committed in the same general area. In the other two cases, the descriptions of the men were similar. We don’t have a good description in Ryan’s case, though.
Ryan’s killers were probably SIUC students and likely not from the area, making it harder for the police to catch them.
I believe Ryan Livingston was stabbed because he resisted, whereas the victims in the other cases did not. I don’t necessarily think the attackers intended to harm him unless robbery was not the motive after all.
The mystery letter is interesting. Elizabeth was either one of the killers disguising himself as a witness or knew the killers and gave her details.
Let’s say it was one of the men who killed Ryan. There appears to be remorse and regret over what he had done. Maybe that’s why he sent the letter under a different name. Carbondale police received the letter over a year after Ryan died, and Elizabeth specifically wanted the authorities to put the ad in Carbondale’s newspaper. So, the writer was either a resident or still attending college at that time.
This definitely sounds like a robbery gone bad. I have been to Carbondale more than once; it appears to be a pretty decent place, but like any other city or college town, I’m sure there are sketchy neighborhoods and dangerous areas to avoid, so I have to wonder what the area of the robberies and murder were like at that particular time and even currently.
I’m just curious, why do you think the robbers/murderers were students at SIUC? Is that because of the letter from Elizabeth? Perhaps Elizabeth was a student or employee of the university and had helpful information. I get that university students aren’t necessarily the stereotypical mischievous but wholesome and good-hearted types often portrayed in the Disney movies starring Kurt Russell, nonetheless, respectfully, I am curious as to why you suspect that the criminals were students there.
I’m from a university town, and most of the crime that occurs there is committed by students. The majority of our students are from the Chicago area. Not to say that is the case in Carbondale. Still, it’s definitely possible that the killers were students who were taking summer classes or returned to Carbondale to attend the same concert or for another reason. The robbers in the related cases fit the age group. I think it would make it harder for the police to find the killers, too. Eventually, the students return home or move to another location after graduation.
I wonder did they run forensics on the letter? This case is really sad and his murder was completely unnecessary. Now a little girl had to grow up without her father. Hopefully someone will feel some remorse and speak out or DNA will prevail. Also, I felt so bad that the city power washed the memorial away like it was graffiti or something. I do feel like each of these cases are connected and wonder did any other crimes continue after those three by the same people? I also wonder did they take the time to set up survelliance in that area or interview residents and college students around that time?
Yes, DNA is the key here, if they have enough to be tested. But it’s probably going to take someone coming forward with info, like this Elizabeth.
You’d think the police did all of that, but they’re still tight-lipped about the case, so who knows.
You would think so and it baffles me with them being so tight lipped. They know something and all these years later his family needs closure. Especially his daughter and you’re right who knows at this point.
Exactly! I just don’t get it.
This is just so sad. He barely got a chance to live and his daughter had to grow up without him. Unless someone comes forward it seems the case will never be solved.
I wonder why the city power washed the memorial his family made on the sidewalk. That seems cold hearted.
It really is! I hope “Elizabeth” comes forward one day.
City officials claimed it was for safety reasons, something of the sort anyway. Lame, if you ask me, lol.