Case of the Month: Barbara and Patricia Grimes left their home on December 28, 1956, to watch the Elvis Presley movie “Love me tender” in a theater close to their Chicago home. They had $2.50 with them. Barbara Jeanne was 15 years old and her sister Patricia Kathleen was 13. They never returned home.
The sisters were seen together near the theatre’s concession stand around 930pm and later that evening on a bus around 11pm. On January 22, 1957, their naked and frozen bodies were found along Devil’s Creek, Cook County, Illinois.
Their mother, Loretta Grimes was expecting them back home around 1145pm that night. Near midnight, she sent two of their other children to check the bus stop. Those children waited and watched several busses go by but their siblings never showed up.
Patricia Kathleen Grimes (Dec 31, 1943 – Dec 1956) wore a yellow sweater over blue jeans, a black jacket with white sleeve stripes, a white scarf over her head, and had black shoes on. Barbara Jeanne Grimes (May 5, 1941 – Dec 1956) wore a yellow blouse over a gray tweed skirt, a three-quarter length coat, a gray scarf, and white bobby socks in black ballerina shoes. Their clothes were never found.
The authorities believed that the sisters had run away, their mother didn’t. Many people called in tips, claimed sightings, and even made demands. None let authorities to either Barbara or Patricia.
On January 22, 1957, Leonard Prescott was driving near Willow Springs and thought that he saw two discarded mannequin dolls near the guard rail. They turned out to be Barbara and Patricia. Barbara’s nude body was found on her left side, legs slightly bent upwards, with her arms up. Her head was not visible as it was covered by her sister’s body. Patricia’s nude body was on her back with arms and legs stretched out.
Cook County Sheriff Joseph D. Lohman and Harry Glos, an investigator from the Coroner’s Office led by Walter McCarron, thought that the sisters had been dead for a while and were undiscovered because of the snow.
The sisters’ frozen bodies were taken to the Cook County Morgue to thaw before they could be examined. In their frozen state, several people noticed trauma. Patricia apparently had three wounds in her abdomen, trauma on the left part of her face, and possibly a broken nose. Barbara had bruises on her face and on her head in general with puncture wounds in her chest area. Whether there is conclusive evidence that those puncture wounds were made with a knife or another weapon, isn’t clear. It would be interesting to know whether Barbara’s puncture wounds could have been made with the same weapon that caused Patricia’s wounds.
Three experienced pathologists performed the autopsies however, the exact cause and time of death was never established. They thought that the girls died from shock due to exposure and might have died on the night they were seen last. If true, then all the sightings were fraudulent. Heavy snowfall can explain why nudes bodies were not noticed before the temperature rose enough for the snow to melt.
However, in other reports from the public domain we can read that: “the autopsy later revealed that the girls had died within four hours of going missing because the meals that they had eaten that night at home were still in the girls’ stomachs. The official finding by the coroner’s jury was that they were murdered and the only cause of death they could come up with was “exposure to the elements“. Then coroner, Walter McCarron was criticized because there were reports that the autopsies had been flubbed.” I wish we had the documents. The sisters were buried on January 28, 1957.
There are people who believe that the Grimes’ Murders are related to the Schuessler-Peterson Murders of October 1955.
The bodies of John (13) and Antony (11) Schuessler and Robert (14) Peterson were found in an almost crime-free part of town. Here too the children went to the movies. Here too, they had a small amount of money with them: $4. — Here too the children were seen after the movies but this time not in the theatre.
They were seen around 6pm in the lobby of a nearby building. The only familiar person there was Robert’s eye doctor. However, it was Sunday evening and the boys were unaccompanied. Why would they call on an eye doctor? had something happened in the theatre and Robert remembered that his eye doctor was nearby?
The boys were seen in a bowling alley around 745pm after the movies had ended. The owner later told police that they attracted the attention of an older man, around 50 years of age, who was watching young boys bowling. Whether he actually spoke to the children is unclear. The papers said that the boys left, visited another bowling alley, and then started hitchhiking.
It should have been clear to them that they were late and expected back home. They were old enough. The papers say that the hitchhiking started around 9pm. I am not sure how this time was determined but after this, the boys were never seen alive again.
John and Anton Schuessler and Robert Peterson were found two days later. All three were naked, bound, their eyes taped closed, and all died of strangulation. The coroner thought that they had been dead for 36 hours before they were found. Robert had been beaten and showed signs of strangulation with a rope. I am not sure that all three were strangled in the same way (e.g. rope versus manual strangulation) and with the same rope (a necktie was mentioned as well). If the rope or necktie were preserved they should be examined with the M-Vac. Just like with the Grimes Sisters, their clothes were never found.
This is where some similarities with the Grimes case end as we have more in the Schuessler-Peterson case.
On August 11, 1994, Kenneth Hansen was arrested and charged with the Schuessler-Peterson Murders. Hansen has denied involvement and professed his innocence from the beginning. He had an alibi: he was in Texas on his honeymoon with his bride. However, he had no proof for the exact dates.
What spoke in his favor was the absence of any physical evidence to tie him to either the crime scene or the murdered children. Witnesses against Hansen admitted being paid by the prosecution and others who came forward only did so after speaking to the authorities first.
Even though there was nothing to show that the boys had been sexually assaulted, the trial judge allowed the state to present evidence of Hansen’s homosexuality and deviate lifestyle. The jury found him guilty. Hanson was sentenced to 200 years in prison.
Leonard Goodman, a Chicago Attorney at Law, has this update on his website: after the trial a woman claimed that it was her husband who had killed the three boys. Her story was partly corroborated by witnesses and some physical evidence (for example: her husband drove a Packard automobile. Markings on the dead boys’ skin was traced to the rubber mats of a Packard model car). Despite hearing the new evidence, the trial judge denied Hanson a new trial.
In May 2000, there was hope for Hanson when the Illinois Court of Appeals reversed his conviction based on unreliable trial witnesses. But after a retrial in 2002, Hanson was convicted again and received the same sentence. Hanson passed away on September 12, 2007 in the Pontiac Correctional Center, IL.
As for the Grimes case, several people were considered suspects but upon further investigation no arrests were ever made due to a lack of physical evidence. But there is one thing that might help us: DNA.
Harry Glos, the investigator for the Coroner’s office, disclosed information that if true and if the physical evidence has been properly preserved might shed a light on the case. He stated that Barbara had been sexually assaulted before her death. This was later reluctantly confirmed by police. They had wanted to keep this detail quiet to help filter incoming tips and information. Glos also claimed that the sisters had trauma that was never explained such as the puncture wounds and the bruises. He was fired shortly after for disclosing confidential evidence.
Combine this with the post from the Chicago History Cop Ray Johnson who discusses the Grimes case as well. In this article you will see that he touches on the 1958 murder of Bonnie Leigh Scott. In her case “The man who was responsible for the crime had made a phone call to Loretta Grimes shortly after Scott’s body was discovered boasting about killing the Grimes girls and Scott and getting away with both crimes. Mrs. Grimes claimed that the voice of that person was the same as the voice of the person who called her after her girls’ bodies were discovered and boasted about undressing them and shared with Loretta personal information about one of the girls that was not previously published.”
Convicted for the 1958 murder of Bonnie Leigh Scott was Charles Melquist. That information is in the public domain. Johnson continuous with: “Aside from the phone call to Loretta Grimes there was other physical evidence on the Grimes girls’ bodies that match the M.O. [modus operandi]of the Scott case and would help to explain some of the then unexplained and “non-lethal” marks on the Grimes bodies.”
Well, we could compare Melquist’s DNA with the evidence from the Grimes and Scott cases if it all still exists. I have not been able to find any information about that. If you know please contact me.
RIP Barbara and Patricia Grimes, Bonnie Leigh Scott, John and Anton Schuessler, and Robert Peterson.
In the series “Case of the Month” I highlight old cold cases. These posts are not an in-depth analysis and of course, sometimes more information can be found online and in newspaper archives. The goal of these posts is to get the cases back in the spotlights, to get people talking again, and if anything to make sure that we do not forget the victims. Just because their cases are cold does not mean that we can forget about them.
If you have any thoughts about this case then I encourage you to post them on your own social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, etc. Every time that we mention Barbara and Patricia’s name online we enhance their digital footprint.
We must make sure that Barbara and Patricia Grimes retains a web presence if we ever wish to find answers in their case. You can help by linking to or sharing this post.
Thank you for remembering the Grimes Sisters with us.
Pantagraph Bloomington, Illinois, Dec 29, 1962, page 1
Middlesboro Daily News – Jan 26, 1957
St. Petersburg Times – Jan 28, 1957
St. Petersburg Times – Feb 9, 1957
The Deseret News – Jan 28, 1957
The Milwaukee Journal – Jan 28, 1957
Chicago Tribune from May 30, 2013