unsolved: the grimes sisters

On December 28th, 1956, Barbara and Patricia Grimes (aged 15 and 13) travelled one and a half miles from their home in McKinley Park, Chicago, Illinois to the Brighton Theatre in order to watch the Elvis Presley movie Love Me Tender. The girls left their house at 7:30pm with a total of $2.50 between them, and never returned home.

Patricia's friend, a girl named Dorothy, sat behind the girls during the movie with her younger sister. They both left the theatre at 9.30pm at the end of the first showing, Dorothy recalls seeing the Grimes sisters in the line for popcorn, both in good spirits and with nothing unusual standing out. Assuming the girls stayed for the second feature, Loretta Grimes expected to see her daughters home at around 11:45pm. However, by midnight there was no sign of them so Loretta sent out the girl's older brother and sister to wait by the bus stop for their arrival. After three buses past, with no sign of the Grimes sisters, the siblings returned and at 2:15am their mother reported Barbara and Patricia missing.

After that night, there were no confirmed sightings of the sisters. Many people believed that the girls may have simply run away, possibly to Nashville, in order to emulate Elvis' lifestyle, or perhaps to see him live in concert. Although no sightings have been confirmed, there was plenty of people that came forward with sightings of the siblings both in and out of the city.

Numerous people said they saw the girls getting on a bus that was heading east into the city after the screening. They allegedly got off of a bus half way to their home at around 11:05pm, however it is unknown why they would have got off of the bus. A few teenage boys then reported seeing them at around 11:30pm, laughing and giggling approximately two blocks from their home. On the morning of the 29th, a security guide on the northwest side believed he was asked for directions by the Grimes sisters. Then, a classmate reported seeing Patricia walking past a restaurant that evening with two unidentified girls. The owner of a restaurant five and a half miles away from the theatre said he saw the girls at 5:30am on December 30th, with Patricia being too drunk or sick to walk properly. He believes they were with one of the suspects. A clerk at a nearby hotel says the sisters checked into the hotel on that same day. From then on, a few people believe it is possible they saw the sisters doing things from listening to Elvis at a music counter to taking the girls to an employment agency. On January 14th, the parents of a classmate of Patricia's named Sandra, received two calls just after midnight. During the first call nobody spoke, however in the second call fifteen minutes later, Sandra's mother heard a frightened voice asking if Sandra was there. Before she could get her daughter, the caller hung up, however, the mother is convinced the voice belonged to Patricia Grimes.

On January 22nd, 1957, a construction worker was driving along a country road in Willow Springs, Illinois, when he spotted two bodies. Unsure of what he had seen, he collected his wife and returned to the scene. There they found the nude bodies of the Grimes sisters. Due to the awkward positions they were placed in, the Willow Springs police department concluded they had most likely been dumped from a passing car. Pathologists came to the conclusion that the girls had died within five hours of the confirmed sighting, as proportions of their last known meal were found in their stomachs. The chief investigator disagreed, he stated that there was only a thin layer of ice on the bodies which indicated they had been alive at least until January 7th.

There were no obvious fatal wounds on their bodies, and there was nothing to suggest they were drunk, drugged or poisoned. Both bodies had several bruises and bites, with three puncture wounds on Barbara's chest that may have come from an ice pick. It was later revealed that it is likely Barbara had sexual intercourse around the time of her death but no evidence of forced sexual conduct was found. It was concluded the sisters most likely died from secondary shock, resulting from exposures to low temperatures.

The lead suspect in the Grimes sisters murders was Bennie Bedwell, a 21-year-old from Tennesse who bore some resemblance to Elvis Presley. According to the owner of the restaurant where Bennie worked, he was there with the Grimes sisters on the morning of December 30th. Bedwell was arrested for the murder of the girls on January 27th, 1957, after confessing that he and another man were with the Grimes sisters for seven days up to January 7th, when they beat the girls to death for refusing sexual advances and six days later dumped their bodies down the lane. He later withdrew his confession, stating that he had been coerced into it. The coroner found no hotdogs or alcohol in their system and concluded that the girls had not been beaten to death. Bedwell was also checked into a company at the time of the girl's disappearance, making it unlikely that he abducted and murdered them. However, the chief investigator still strongly believed Bedwell was to blame and stated that the sisters had been beaten and the evidence of Barbara's sexual activity was in line with Bedwell's claim. He believed that official investigators were covering things up, perhaps to spare the girl's mothers feelings/to not ruin the girl's reputation, something that many other people have said in later years after looking at the original case files. However, the Chicago crime lab disputed these claims and the chief investigator was fired not long after the discovery of the bodies after refusing to retract his statements.

The only other real suspect in the Grimes sister's murders was a 17-year-old named Max Fleig. He voluntarily took a polygraph test and failed it and proceeded to allegedly confess to the kidnapping and killing of the girls. However, because at the time it was, in fact, illegal to perform a polygraph test on a minor, the police department was required to let him go. He was never charged as there was no evidence other than the alleged confession and the failed polygraph. He was sent to prison a few years later for the unrelated murder of a young woman.

From then on the case went cold, with a lack of new information or suspects being collected. The girls were laid to rest in white caskets and a photo on January 28th, 1957, in a Catholic church not far from their home.

However, Ray Johnson, a former criminal investigator believes in recent years, that he may have the answers to the murder of the sisters. Johnson claims that a similar incident, the murder of Bonnie Leigh Scott which took place in Addison, Illinois about a year after the Grimes sisters murder, may have some connection. Bonnie was fifteen at the time of her death and was discovered naked. The man that committed the crime, Charles Leroy Melquist, allegedly made a phone call to Loretta Grimes, bragging about getting the way with the murders of both Scott and the Grimes sisters. Johnson says that information about the call went unpublish back in the 50's, and also that the marks found on the sisters lower abdomen were similar to those found on the body of Scott. Finally, Johnson claims to have spoken with a third girl that was abducted with the Grimes sisters but escaped. She was fourteen at the time and supposedly did not come forward out of fear, however, this has not been confirmed. Melquist was never officially implicated in the Grimes sisters killing.

The case remains unsolved, yet still open and although Ray Johnson continues to search for answers, it is unlikely that the truth about the Grimes sisters murders will ever be uncovered.

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