Just after Christmas in 1956, two sisters, Barbara and Patricia Grimes decided to go to a movie theater and see an Elvis Presley film. They never returned to their home located on 3634 South Damen Avenue. After almost a month of searching in one of Chicago’s largest missing person’s investigation, their nude bodies were discovered in a rural ravine. The double murder of the Grimes Sisters remains unsolved.
Watch a Movie at Brighton Theater
On December 28, 1956, 15-year-old Barbara Grimes and her 13-year-old sister Patricia went to the nearby Brighton movie theater to see the Elvis Presley movie Love Me Tender. Several reliable sightings at the theater determined the two did arrive safely at the cinema. A friend sat behind them during the film, and this same friend later spotted them in line to purchase snacks at 9:30 PM.
The two sisters apparently stayed for the second show of a double-feature. Then they vanished.
When they did not arrive home by midnight, their mother, Loretta Grimes, became worried. She sent out two of her other children to the bus stop closest to the house to wait for the two girls. Several buses passed by, but the sisters were not on them. At a little after 2:00 AM on the morning of December 29, their mother called the police. Within a week Law enforcement authorities determined it was unlikely the two girls ran away on their own.
In the subsequent days, police officers fanned out across the Chicago areas. They found people who eagerly reported having seen the two girls. It became a headache for the police to keep up with all of the alleged sightings:
- Several people claimed they witnessed two young girls matching a description of the Grimes sisters get on a bus heading east into the heart of Chicago. However, nobody saw these two girls get off the bus at any stop on the route.
- Similarly, a train conductor claimed to have seen them on a train near the Chicago suburb of Glenview.
- A night security guard claimed he was asked for directions by two young girls the night of their disappearance.
- On the evening of the 29th, a fellow student of Patricia reportedly saw her walking past a restaurant in the company of two other girls — neither of which was Barbara.
- A restaurant worker reported a sighting early on the morning of the 30th. He said they were in the company of a man at this point, and that one of the girls acted sickly or drunk and needed assistance when walking.
- A hotel clerk stated the girls briefly stayed at his hotel. A clerk at another hotel claimed he refused them a room due to their young age.
- Several days later, employees of a department store reported seeing the Grimes sisters in their store, listening to Elvis Presley records.
- Most mysteriously, roughly two weeks after the girls’ disappearance, a classmate of Patricia’s received two puzzling phone calls near midnight. During the first call, the party on the other line was silent. During the next call, a voice the mother was sure was Patricia’s said: “Is that you, Sandra? Is Sandra there?” The caller then hung up.
Discovery of the Bodies
The fate of the sisters become known before the month was up. On January 22, 1957, Leonard Prescott, a day laborer found, the bodies of Barbara and Patricia Grimes in a ravine off German Church Rd and County Line Rd in Willow Springs. They appeared to have been dumped or thrown there by someone in a passing car.
The search for the killers became complicated when the autopsy pathologists and the chief investigator of the county coroner’s office could not agree on a time of death. Similarly, an apparent cause of death remained uncertain due to the puzzling wounds on the bodies.
Suspects in the Murder of Grimes Sisters
The police conducted a massive search for possible culprits and finally focused on three likely suspects:
- Edward “Bennie” Bedwell, a homeless man from Tennessee. He initially admitted to the murder of the Grimes sisters. He later recanted, saying the police forced him to issue a false confession.
- Max Fleig, a young man in his teens, admitted to the murders in a polygraph test. Unfortunately, Illinois law considered it illegal to polygraph a juvenile. The police released him. Fleig later murdered a young woman and went to prison.
- Walter Kranz, a man in his early 50s who considered himself a psychic. Before the discovery of the bodies, Kranz called the police stating he dreamed of their location. The location he disclosed proved to be remarkably accurate. Police grilled the man but were unable to come up with enough evidence to proceed.
Despite a lengthy investigation, the crime remains unsolved. The police interviewed approximately 300,000 individuals with no credible suspects identified.
Ray Johnson Investigation
Retired West Chicago Police Officer Ray Johnson became interested in the case in 2010 and began his own unofficial investigation. He believes the cold case is solvable. According to Johnson, Charles Leroy Melquist murdered 15-year-old Bonnie Leigh Scott in 1958. Johnson noted the similarities in the murders, but police never questioned Melquist about Barbara and Patricia Grimes. Ray Johnson thinks public assistance can help crack the case and made this video linked below.
Historic Mysteries updated this article on April 4, 2020.