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The Grimes sisters

Barbara and Patricia Grimes were huge Elvis Presley fans. They had already seen his new film Love Me Tender 11 times. On December 28, 1956, the sisters sat through two screenings before heading home. Somewhere along the way, they were abducted, never to be seen alive again. This is one of America’s unsolved murders: A gruesome double murder of two young females.

So much remains unknown about this case. Their nude and frozen remains were discovered on January 22, 1957. An unseasonably hot spell came over the Chicago, Illinois area causing the snow to melt, revealing the bodies. If not for the change in weather, their bodies may have lay for months or even years.

Photograph from crime scene

Coroners were unable to answer several questions regarding the cause of death. They remained at odds over several details. Ultimately, the deaths were listed as “murder, secondary shock.” They theorized that the sisters died shortly after their abduction. The stomach contents consisted of remnants eaten on December 28th. Although the cause was not ascertained, the medical experts eliminated other causes.

For instance, they sisters were not stabbed or physically injured. While Barbara had sexual intercourse prior to her death, she and Patricia were not sexually violated. They were killed at different location and dumped along German Church Road near Devil’s Creek. Date unknown.

Interviews reached into the thousands, with several individuals held for further questioning. Edward “Bennie” Bedwell, age 21, was a semi-literate drifter who possibly resembled Elvis. He confessed to killing the sisters with William Willingham, Jr. Bennie claimed that he and William fed the girls hot dogs and then beat them to death. Based on the evidence, his story did not hold up. He was released.

Max Fleig, age 17, also confessed. Like Bennie, his story did not match up to the facts of the case. He, too, was released.

Walter Kranz was a 53-year-old steamfitter who had psychic abilities. He contacted the police after having a dream showing him how the girls were killed. He quickly became a person of interest. However, there wasn’t any evidence to detain him.

Years later, another individual came to light. Charles LeRoy Melquist was a 23-year-old stone worker. Two years after the disappearance and murder of the Grimes sisters, Melquist was arrested for killing Bonnie Leigh Scott, age 15. Melquist was not a master criminal. No, he was another inept criminal.

Bonnie was a sophomore at York Community High School in Elmhurst, Illinois. The school district includes Addison, where Bonnie lived. Bonnie’s parents were divorcing; therefore, she resided with her Aunt Jean and Uncle Robert Schwolow, along with their 15-year-old daughter Sue and grandmother Doris Hitchins. She was last at 6:30 pm on September 22, 1958. Melquist contacted police claiming to be a witness to Bonnie Leigh’s abduction.  

Bonnie’s nude and decapitated body was discovered on November 15, 1958. Police brought Melquist in for another voluntary interview. While he was with one group of detectives, police officers were executing a search warrant on his 1958 silver Chevrolet. They found enough evidence to charge him. Melquist wrote out a 7-page confession. He was sentenced to 99 years in prison but served only 11 years.

Bonnie’s body was dumped a few miles from where the Grimes sisters were found 2 years prior. Because of the location and broad similarities in the cases, people have theorized that Melquist may have gotten away with additional murders. Further, he did resemble Elvis—but that wasn’t difficult given Elvis’ popularity. To be clear, the basis for the connection is very thin and a stretch. A very long stretch.

Joseph and Lorretta Grimes died without knowing who committed these heinous murders. Sadly, the deaths of Barbara and Patricia were not the first instance of a child predeceasing Joseph and Lorretta. Older sister Leona Grimes Freck died at the age of 26 in 1954. Three children remained: Shirley, Theresa, and Joseph James.

Side note: There are a couple of pronounced errors online. The mother’s name is spelt Lorretta. There are 2 Rs. The other relates to Patricia’s age at the time of her murder. Patricia was born on December 31, 1943. She was 12 years old at the time she disappeared. Even though her remains were found in January the following year, her age is listed as 12. This is because coroners were unable to determined when she died but theorized based on her stomach contents that it was before her birthday. Further, there wasn’t any evidence to suggest that the girls were held captive.

This case is a reminder that there are many unsolved murders in America. In a 2019 NPR story, it was reported that there were 250,000 unsolved murders per year in America, with 6,000 added annually. The FBI estimates that 40% of homicides go unsolved. These are terrifying numbers!

For more information on this case or 3 additional unsolved murders/disappearances, please see my presentation on Ghost Education 101, https://m.facebook.com/GhostEducation101/posts/293007789193183?locale=ne_NP. Scroll down to find the video.