The Grimes Sisters murder remains an unsolved cold case. As far as Chicagoans are concerned, it was the murder that made the city lose its innocence; it’s a dark spot on Chicago history.
Love Me Tender
On December 28, 1956, two teenage girls, 13-year-old Patricia Grimes and 15-year-old Barbara Grimes left their home after having dinner to see a film. The Brighton Theater in Chicago was playing the new Elvis Presley movie, Love Me Tender. The Grimes sisters were obsessed with Elvis Presley and were planning to stay to watch a double feature. They promised their mother, Loretta Grimes, that they would be home by midnight.
The girls made it to the movie and were seen by friends at the theater, including Dorothy Weinert. She sat near the sisters during the first feature and left when it was over. Before she left, she saw the girls at the concession stand. She was the last to see them alive.
When midnight came passed, Loretta Grimes sent two of the older children to the bus stop to await their sisters’ arrival. The girls didn’t get off of any of the buses. By 2:00 AM the girls still hadn’t come home, so the Grimes family notified police officers. An investigation and search for the girls began immediately. As the people of Chicago chimed in to help the Grimes family reunite, many unreliable and ultimately empty leads poured in. They ranged from seeing the girls after the movie listening to Elvis Presley records in a department store, seeing the girls leaving the bus station out of Chicago, another friend of Patricia Grimes’ claimed to have received a phone call and hearing Patricia’s voice on the other line.
Ultimately, the police department assumed that Patricia and Barbara Grimes must have run away to Nashville, Tennessee to meet Elvis Presley. It was the only explanation they had. This conclusion gained so much traction that even Elvis Presley was aware of it and addressed the girls over the radio in a message encouraging them to go home saying, “If you are good Presley fans, you’ll go home and ease your mother’s worries”.
When their Grimes girls’ idol spoke to this message directly to them, they were already dead. Their bodies were found by Leonard Prescott, who was driving on German Church Road on an errand when he spotted two “flesh-colored things” that he first mistook for mannequins.
They were actually the bodies of Barbara and Patricia. Their bodies lay naked in the snow. Autopsy reports later showed that the girls died within a few hours of having gone missing, the dinner they ate was still sitting in their stomachs. Their death was ruled as simply “murder”, and “secondary exposure to the elements”. The girls were buried by her older sister Leona Freck who died two years prior.
Who Did It?
The Grimes murders are still unsolved. Multiple people were questioned and arrested. Then there was the murder of Bonnie Leigh Scott, a 15-year old who was murdered a year later. She was discovered naked, similar to the Grimes sisters. A man named Charles Leroy Melquist was convicted of the murder, but never for the Grimes murders. Another suspect was Walter Kranz, who said he dreamt of the location of the girl’s bodies and was also brought in for questioning. There was one person who confessed. Edward Lee Bennie Bedwell, who just happened to look like Elvis and claimed to have met the girls and spent a week with the girls and a friend named Frank until the girls on a bender.
His story did not line up with the autopsy reports that said that the girls did not have liquor in their systems and that one of the girls had had sex. It was also undetermined if it was consensual or not. In his confession, Bennie claimed that his friend knocked the girls out, stripped them and left them on the side of the road after they’d they turned down the boy’s sexual advances. Despite the discrepancies, Bennie later rescinded his confession claiming police officers had bribed and beaten him for a confession. Bennie walked free.
The Chicago police department told Loretta Grimes that they wouldn’t close the case of the murder of Barbara and Patricia Grimes until they found out who had killed her girls. They tried, but they never did find the killer. To this day, the case remains open.