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Dale Dean FINCH





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Robbery
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: December 24, 1976
Date of arrest: Next day
Date of birth: October 21, 1956
Victims profile: Michael Pixler, 17, and Randall Morton, 16 (gas station employees)
Method of murder: Shooting (.22 caliber revolver)
Location: Rockford, Illinois, USA
Status: Sentenced to two consecutive 50- to 100-year prison terms for the murders and four to 12 years for the robbery on May 12, 1977.  Died in prison on April 22, 2013

Convict: Dale Dean Finch, born Oct. 21, 1956

Killed: Michael Pixler, 17, and Randall Morton, 16, on Christmas Eve 1976. The teenagers reported to work at 4 p.m. at a Citgo gas station at 15th Avenue and 11th Street in Rockford. Two hours later, Finch walked in, took $600 from the station and shot each boy in the head with a .22 caliber revolver. Pixler's brother, Doug Pixler, and a friend, Dino McNabb, found the bodies later that night.

Sentence: According to the Illinois Prisoner Review Board, Finch received two consecutive 50- to 100-year prison terms for the murders and four to 12 years for the robbery.

Custody date: May 18, 1977

Resides: Centralia Correctional Center, just east of St. Louis in southwestern Illinois

Letters of protest: In 2006, Michael Pixler's mother, Shirley Guthrie, presented letters and more than 6,456 names on a petition against Finch's parole. Nearly 2,400 people signed electronic petitions on to keep Finch in prison. The Illinois Prisoner Review Board on Feb. 15, 2006 unanimously denied Finch parole.

Parole denied: 18 times


Murderer Dale Dean Finch dies in prison

By Jeff Kolkey -

March 26, 2013

ROCKFORD — A man convicted of a heinous double murder on Christmas Eve in 1976 has died in prison.

Dale Dean Finch, 56, died Friday morning in the Centralia Correctional Center after suffering from a terminal illness. No autopsy was planned, a Illinois Department of Corrections spokeswoman said.

Finch shot and killed 17-year-old Michael Pixler and 16-year-old Randall Morton as they worked at a Citgo gas station in Rockford. Officials said they were killed execution style and Finch stole $600.

For family members every holiday season since included a painful reminder of their murders.

Jean Randel, 49, of Rockford, a cousin to Randall Morton, said Finch’s death was a “relief.”

“Every time the parole hearing came up it was like, ‘Please, please don’t let him out.’ We would have to relive it all again,” she said.

Finch was serving two consecutive 50- to 100-year sentences under an out-dated “indeterminate” sentencing model. The old sentencing system has since been revised and replaced with what is called truth in sentencing. As a result, Finch periodically was eligible for parole. There are only a handful of criminals from Winnebago County still in prison under the indeterminate sentencing provisions.

There was a constant cycle of periodic parole hearings and petitions.

Winnebago County State’s Attorney Joe Bruscato's office took an active role in keeping Finch from being released and the Rockford Register Star circulated printed and electronic petitions to keep him locked up.

Bruscato’s office opposed Finch’s request for parole a year ago. It was his 20th parole denial from the Illinois Prisoner Review Board.

“As state’s attorney, I have certainly determined my responsibility is to raise the level of this office’s involvement in protecting our community from some of the most heinous criminals the citizens have ever had to be protected from,” Bruscato said.


Convicted killer Finch denied parole

Feb 26, 2009

ROCKFORD (WREX) - The man convicted of killing two Rockford teenagers has been denied parole again.

Dale Dean Finch was unamimously denied parole by the Illinois Prisoner Review Board. This is the twentieth time the victims' family and friends have fought Finch's parole.

It will be another three years before he is eligible for another parole review.

Finch is serving a sentence of 112 to 212 years in the killings of Mike Pixler and Randy Morton on Christmas Eve 1976. He first became eligible for parole in the mid 1980s.


Mom fights to keep son's killer in prison

December 09, 2005

Rockford — Every December for 29 years, Shirley Pixler Guthrie has lived with the torturesome memory of her 17-year-old son’s Christmas Eve murder.

Most of that time, her grief has been compounded by having to circulate petitions almost annually to prevent the release from prison of her son’s killer, Dale Dean Finch.

Finch was convicted in 1977, a year before Illinois threw out indeterminate sentencing laws and gave judges authority to impose natural life sentences. Finch, who was 20 when he fatally shot Michael Pixler and 16-year-old Randall Morton, received two 50- to 100-year prison terms. But he became eligible for parole nine years later.

For Guthrie, the holidays usually start with the arrival of a letter from the Illinois Prisoner Review Board. This year’s notice, dated two days before Thanksgiving, notified Guthrie that the latest hearing on Finch’s parole would take place Feb. 8 in Springfield.

“When I get this letter, I just get nervous,” Guthrie said. “I get sick to my stomach that this time they may let him out. It’s hard anyhow, just trying to get through Christmas.”

Finch stole $601 from the 11th Street gas station where Pixler and Morton worked. Both boys had their backs to Finch when he shot each execution-style in the head with a .22-caliber pistol. When Pixler’s brother, Doug, 16, found the boys in a pool of blood in a back room, Morton was dead. Pixler died later at Swedish­American Hospital.

“He was making $2 an hour” and had been on the job for two hours when the robbery occurred, Guthrie said. “So he lost his life for $4.”

Guthrie can’t forget her last conversation with her son in the kitchen of the Brooke Road home where she still lives.

Pixler asked his mom if he could invite friends over to play cards when he finished his shift at 10 p.m.; Guthrie asked her son if he wanted a dish of Aunt June’s baked beans from the family gathering he would miss that night. The baked beans were a favorite of Pixler’s.

“I thought, 'It's Christmas Eve. He didn't need to be working.' Something was telling me not to let him go that day,” said Guthrie, choking up. “Like a premonition or something.”

On Christmas morning, “there were his presents under the tree. I’d talked to him,” she said, “like I’d be seeing him in a few hours.”

Guthrie was spared some anguish in 2003, when the state parole board denied for three years Finch’s right to an annual review after she submitted 7,000 signatures of people who opposed his release. Even with that reprieve and another in 2000, Guthrie has protested the parole 16 times since Finch became eligible in 1986.

The effort involves convincing local businesses to make fliers and petitions available to customers and asking public officials to write letters. U.S. Rep. Don Manzullo and former Rockford mayors Charles Box and Doug Scott have penned pleas on Guthrie’s behalf; Scott even spoke at one hearing, she said.

Each time Finch comes up for parole, Guthrie sits down with a tape recorder and tells her story, then makes the trip to Springfield for the hearing.

“I don’t get any rest from this. They keep me tore up all the time,” she said. “I no sooner get done than I have to start up again. I’m 67, and this is getting too hard on me — to be put through this every year.”

Finch, 49, belongs to a small class of 310 inmates statewide who went to prison with indeterminate sentences and took a pass on a one-time offer to convert to a finite sentence when the law changed in 1978. Most inmates who decided to gamble on the annual hearing process were murderers and serial rapists who faced lengthy stays under the conversion formula, Review Board Chairman Jorge Montes said.

“That was a major mistake,” he said, “because the board has been a very conservative board. In a large number of those cases, the inmates could have been out 10 or 15 years ago.”

Montes said state officials sympathize with families that view the parole process as a hardship, but they’d be upset if they had no voice in the decisions. He pointed out that participation is optional, and the hearings keep prisoners’ behavior in check so they don’t think “that the board just rubber stamps everybody, and everybody just stays” behind bars.

“We understand that some victims’ families are aging, and it’s inconvenient and troubling to have to do that year in and year out.”

Guthrie’s brigade of volunteers include Norm Soukup, a retired Freeport math teacher who learned about the case in the Rockford Register Star in 2002 and offered to circulate petitions. He’s knocking on doors again this year.

“It was such a terrible execution of these two young men,” Soukup said. “When I read it in the paper, I just gave her a call. She should not have to fight this thing so often. It’s brutal. It’s not right.”

Morton’s parents moved to Orlando, Fla., about the time Finch became eligible for parole and don’t get involved in fighting his release, said Dennis Lee, Morton’s uncle and a retired Rockford electrician.

“She just wanted to get away from it and start a new life,” Dennis Lee said of sister Shirley Morton. “It’s still hard for her every time she comes home.”

John Gutch knew Pixler from Ken-Rock Community Center, where both played baseball, although Pixler was a few years older. Pixler also played football and wrestled at Jefferson High School. In 1987, Ken-Rock named one of the ball diamonds at Don Schmid Youth Sports Center on Kishwaukee Street in Pixler’s memory.

“He was one of those guys you always looked up to,” said Gutch, Ken-Rock executive director. “He was an awesome person, a great athlete. Kind. Friendly. He was always good with us younger guys.”

Gutch typically gathers 500 to 600 signatures for Guthrie. People who don’t frequent Ken-Rock “come in year after year and say, 'Give me a pen,’ ” he said.

“It breaks my heart to see Shirley go through this. Every December has got to be gut-wrenching. That’s why I think she’s a saint. She’s a strong woman.”


Killer gets three terms in prison

By Ernest Webster - RRSTAR.COM

May 13, 1977

Dale Dean Finch, 21, convicted of the murders of two teenage service station attendants, was sentenced Thursday to three consecutive prison terms, including two stints of from 50 to 100 years each.

Despite the consecutive nature of the sentences, however, Finch will be eligible for parole in nine years, if maximum good time credits are awarded him in prison.

Finch was found guilty April 22 of the Christmas Eve slayings of Randall Morton and Michael Pixler, both attendants at the Citgo Oil Co. service station at 1603 11th St. On that date, the jury also convicted him on an armed robbery charge, filed in connection with the double murders.

According to evidence submitted during the five-day trial, Finch shot both boys after he demanded they throw the station’s receipt money on the floor. Both had their backs to him when they were shot.

Before a sizeable courtroom audience Thursday, including the parents and friends of the victims, Winnebago County Circuit Judge John E. Sype sentenced Finch to four to 12 years in prison for the armed robbery and 50 to 100 years each for the double murders.

Finch, wearing a jail-issue orange jump suit, appeared emotionless when Sype called him forward to accept the sentences. After declining to make any statements in his behalf, the defendant strode smartly to the podium directly in front of the judge. He stood ramrod straight and had his hands folded in front of him as the judge read the sentences.

“This man is one of two things,” Sype began, over construction noise on the floor above the courtroom. “Either this is the deliberate act of a callous killer who had utter disregard for his innocent victims.

“Or, it was an act of a person with a complete lack of social responsibility,” he added. “Yet in either instance, the court is of the opinion that the authorities must be informed in no uncertain terms that this young man should not be able to circulate among the citizens of this or any other state.”

As Sype clicked off the sentences, murmurs swept across the courtroom as many members of the audience nodded their heads in affirmation.

“I hope he doesn’t ever get out,” Morton’s mother said as she left the courtroom.

Pixler’s mother, red-eyed from the ordeal, said, “I hope he rots in that place.” She then broke into tears.

There was considerable speculation prior to Thursday’s hearing over whether the sentences would be consecutive or concurrent  (each served at the same time). That continued as the major point of contention even after the courtroom had emptied.

Finch’s attorney, Richard Berry, maintained the murder terms should have run concurrently because they stemmed from the same act.

“I believe the consecutive sentences in the case will be changed to concurrent sentences on appeal since they are not consistent with the law,” Berry said following the hearing. “Both murders came from a single course of action.”

Winnebago County State’s Atty. Daniel Doyle defended Sype’s sentences, adding that they addressed three separate incidents – the armed robbery, the killing of Morton and, finally, the shooting of Pixler.


Ex-worker charged in slayings

By Ernest Webster - RRSTAR.COM

Dec 26, 1976

Dale Dean Finch, a former employee of  the Citgo Oil Co. service station at 1603 11th St., was arrested by Rockford police detectives Saturday and charged with two counts of murder in connection with the shooting deaths of two employees of the station Friday night.

Finch, 20, 1111 Kishwaukee Ave., Apt. 3, was arrested Saturday at noon, only 18 hours after the slayings. His bond was set at $500,000; $250,000 for each murder count.

Dead of bullet wounds to the head are Randall Morton, 16, 2328 23rd St., son of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Morton, and Michael S. Pixler, 17, 1113 Brooke Road, son of Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Pixler and a starting football player for Jefferson High School in 1975.

Doug Pixler, brother of Michael, found the two victims at the service station about 6 p.m. Christmas Eve.

Detective Sgt. William Francis said Finch was brought into the police station “early this morning (Saturday) and he was charged with murder at noon today.”

Francis said between 30 and 35 persons were questioned by police throughout Friday night “and our bringing Finch in for questioning was a result of information we obtained from other witnesses or persons who may have had some knowledge of the case.”

He declined to say what information led to Finch’s arrest.

“A sizeable sum of money was taken from the service station,” Francis said, adding that he could not specify the amount. He said a .22-caliber pistol was used in the slayings.

Both the gun and the money were recovered, but police declined to say where either was found.

“We haven’t charged him (Finch) with armed robbery yet, but he is scheduled to see the state’s attorney  Monday and he might also be charged with armed robbery then. We’ll have to wait and see,” Francis said.

“Finch at one time worked at the service station,” Francis said, adding he didn’t know how long ago or exactly when Finch left and under what circumstances.

The laying victims were found in the garage section of the service station. They were not tied, police said.

Both had been shot in the head at close range, said Winnebago County Coroner P. John Seward. Morton was shot twice; Pixler, once.

Seward estimated they had been shot within an hour of 6 p.m., when the shootings were discovered.

Pixler’s brother, Doug, 16, who works at another Citgo station, was passing by the 11th Street station when he stopped in. He found the bodies.

Francis declined to comment on whether there was any connection between a Nov. 26 break-in at the Citgo service station, and the Friday shooting. In that break-in, robbers netted $3,000 to $4,000 which had been hidden in two City National Bank bags in the rear of the station.

Norman Crain, retail sales manager for Forest City Oil Co., owner of the station, said safes have been installed in all Citgo stations within the last three weeks, “and they are used.”

He said the only money available in the station would be that from regular operations.


2 youths slain in station

By Ernest Webster - RRSTAR.COM

Dec 25, 1976

Christmas Eve turned to stark, brutal tragedy for two Rockford families Friday evening when two teen-age service station attendants were found shot to death.

The brother of one of the victims found the two at about 6 p.m., when he decided to stop while passing the station. The shootings occurred at the Citgo service station, 1693 11th St.

Dead of bullet wounds to the head are Randall Morton, 16, 2328 23rd St., son of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Morton, and Michael S. Pixler, 17, 1113 Brooke Rd., son of Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Pixler, and a starting football player for Jefferson High School in 1975.

The two boys were found in the garage section of the service station. They were not tied up, police said.

Both had been shot in the head at close range, said Winnebago County Coroner P. John Seward. Morton was shot twice; Pixler, once, Seward said.

Seward estimated they had been shot within an hour of the 6 p.m. discovery of the shootings.

Morton was pronounced dead at the scene. Pixler showed faint signs of life; police rushed him to SwedishAmerican Hospital. He was pronounced dead on arrival.

Late Friday night, detectives still were sequestered in police headquarters, questioning witnesses and others in connection with the shootings. Police were unable to say whether robbery may have been a motive for the shootings.

Norman Crane, acting manager of the 11th Street Citgo station, could not be reached for comment Friday night. Gene Johnson, 5757 Haddon Place, another Citgo executive, also could not be reached for comment.

Pixler’s brother Doug, 16, who works at another Citgo service station, was passing by the 11th Street station when he decided to stop, and discovered the bodies. The time was about 6 p.m.

After Doug Pixler discovered the bodies, he called police.

Joe Blume, who coached Jefferson High School’s football team last year, confirmed both boys were students at the southeast side high school.

He described Pixler as an outstanding football player last year. “If he’d been able to play this year, he’d probably have been named an all-conference player,” Blume said.

“He was an outstanding boy. He started for us last year as a junior,” Blume said. “Mike was always was someone you could count on. He was a very strong character – one of our leaders.”

Dave Dzik, former Jefferson football player now enrolled at Rock Valley College, also described Pixler as a leader. “Even though he was younger, a lot of the group really looked up to him,” said Dzik, 707 Kingsway Ave.

Dzik said he did not know how long Pixler had worked at the service station.

Blume said, “He also wrestled last year. I guess the job was just his alternative when the sports programs were cut last year.”

Police cordoned off the 11th Street service station almost immediately after they saw the two victims.

At one point, a woman was taken into the station.

The shootings Friday were the second crime in less than a month to occur at the 11th Street Citgo station.

In the early morning hours Nov. 26, according to police reports, a break-in at the station netted robbers from $3,000 to $4,000 in money in two City National Bank bags which had been hidden in the rear of the station.

Two murders reminiscent of earlier case

Veteran policemen said the double murder at the Citgo service station Friday night reminded them of an earlier execution-style slaying in Rockford, one that also occurred at a service station.

On Jan. 23, 1970, John Hogan, 19, an attendant at the Gas-For-Less service station, 2201 W. State St., was shot in the back of the head four times.

Hogan was rushed to Rockford Memorial Hospital where officials said surgery to remove the bullets from his head was “out of the question.” He died the next morning.

There were other similarities between the two incidents.

Hogan had been found unconscious and bleeding in the station rest room shortly after 8 p.m. by a customer.

In the Friday night incident, both boys were found lying in the garage section of the service station. One was already dead, the other barely alive.

In 1970, Hogan’s parents – Mr. and Mrs. Richard Hogan, 2205 W. State St. – were among the first to arrive at the scene after their son’s body was discovered.

Friday night, it was a brother of one of the victims who discovered the bodies of the two attendants, and parents of one of the victims were among the first to arrive at the scene.

There are major differences between the two cases, however.

Two Rockford men were eventually arrested and convicted in connection with the Hogan case.

And police said the Hogan murder was committed during a robbery of the station.

In the Friday night slayings, police have declined to say whether a robbery occurred at the Citgo station.

And no murder suspect has been found.


Robert Dale Finch, 2006


Victims 17-year old, Michael Pixler & 16-year old Randell Morton were Rockford Jefferson High School students at the time of the crime.


Headlines on the front page of the Dec. 25, 1976, edition of the Register-Star read "2 youths slain in station" and "Two murders reminiscent of earlier case."


Headlines on the front page of the Dec. 26, 1976, edition of the Sunday Register-Star read "Ex-worker charged in slayings," "Chance to work more lured boy to his death" and "Finch's former boss tells of problems."



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