Mother of murdered journalist wants Belleville investigators to re-open case


BELLEVILLE, Ill. – Audrey Cardenas was an aspiring journalist. Her career path included an assignment as an intern reporter with the Belleville News Democrat in 1988. Her mother, Billie Fowler, described her daughter as, “a very strong, ambitious, young woman.”  

Those dreams of having a long career as a reporter ended abruptly when Cardenas was murdered in June of 1988. Belleville Police scoured an area near a creek after her body was found. 

Rodney Woidtke was soon arrested and eventually convicted of first-degree murder. He was sentenced to 45 years in prison.   

Fowler was not convinced Woidtke was guilty. He was described as mentally ill and there were doubts about his confessions. Woidtke, who has since died, was eventually granted a new trial and was found not guilty.   

Fowler is now looking into the possibility of exhuming her daughter’s body. She hopes a DNA sample might lead to answers.    

“I would like some peace and solitude while I’m still here on this earth and the only way I’m going to get that is to find out what happened to Audrey on the last day of her life,” Fowler said.  

An exhumation would take both an emotional and financial toll. Fowler is hoping for some assurances from Belleville investigators.   

“DNA is only good if you can actually test it against suspects,” Fowler said.   

She’s hopeful investigators will take another look at her daughter’s case.   

“If they are willing to re-open the case, and I can raise the money to produce the DNA, I think at that point we may have a chance,” Fowler said.   

Cardenas was 24 years old when she was murdered. Her mother is convinced the person responsible for her daughter’s death has yet to be held accountable.   

“I won’t give up,” she said. “Absolutely not.”  

FOX 2 reached out to the Belleville Police Department and the St. Clair County State’s Attorney and have not received a response.  

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