On December 28, 1956, Barbara Grimes, 15, and Patricia Grimes, 12, left their home to see Elvis Presley’s movie “Love Me Tender” at the 8:00 p.m. showing. Many classmates saw the sisters there, and they all remembered that they were in a good mood. When the girls didn’t get home by midnight, Mrs. Grimes told the police that they were missing. Even though many people tried to find the girls, their disappearances were not solved until almost a month later, when a man driving along an unpaved road found their naked, frozen bodies. Even though the reasons for their disappearances are a complete mystery, what pathologists found when they did autopsies on their bodies was even stranger.
“Mom, we’re leaving! The show starts at 8:00, and we might go to the second showing at 10:00. Either way, we’ll be home by midnight. If we decide to stay, I have $2.50 in my wallet to pay for both showings. I’m in love with you!”
Barbara puts on her winter coat and snow boots to protect herself from the harsh Illinois winter. She rushes her younger sister Patricia out the door so they can get to the movie on time. In the past few weeks, it has been very cold, so she and her sister Patricia are in a hurry to get to the bus stop. If they miss it, they’ll have to walk a mile and a half in the cold to get to the theater. When Barbara is trying to hurry up her younger sister by pushing her down the driveway, her mother yells out the door.
“Put.50 cents of that money in your coin purse, Barbara Jeanne! I don’t want you to put them both at risk! … and always keep Patricia in your sights!”
Mrs. Grimes watches as her two daughters walk together to the movie theater to see their favorite musician. They had already seen it almost a dozen times, but they never missed a chance to see Elvis. She can’t help but admire their determination to get what they want out of life. She watches her kids until they reach the end of the driveway and slowly disappear from sight.
When the girls got to the Brighton Theater, they sat right in front of Dorothy Weinert, a classmate and friend. The girls stayed in their seats for the first showing, and when it was over, Dorothy got up to leave. She didn’t want to be like Patricia and Barbara and wait for the second showing. She remembered seeing the sisters waiting in line to buy popcorn as she left the theater. They seemed happy and genuinely happy to see their favorite celebrity crush on camera for the second time that night.
Patricia and Barbara left the theater after the second showing of “Love Me Tender” and started to walk home. Roger Menard, a young man, left almost a minute before the sisters and said they were following him. As they walked down Archer Avenue, a late-model green Buick pulled up next to them and stopped. It then drove away as the girls kept walking. Roger said that just past 42nd Street, two teenage boys in a black 1949 Mercury, including one who looked like Elvis Presley, stopped next to the girls. The girls laughed and kept walking toward their house.
Two teenage boys who knew the sisters were driving through McKinney Park at 11:30 p.m. when they saw the sisters jumping out of doorways and laughing at each other. The boys remembered saying, “There are the Grimes sisters!” to each other. At this point, the girls were only two blocks away from their house. At the rate they were going, they should have been home by 11:45 p.m.
“Where do they live? They were thought to have been home for almost 20 minutes.” Mrs. Grimes asks Theresa, who is her eldest daughter. She starts to worry as she walks back and forth to look out the window. She has always known her daughters to be honest and responsible, so she knows they wouldn’t do this on purpose. She waits for another ten minutes before deciding that she needs to do something.
“Theresa, take your brother Joey with you to the bus stop and wait there to see if you see any sign of your sisters. I’ll stay home just in case they come back.” Theresa can’t help but feel afraid as she watches Theresa and Joey leave.
Another hour has gone by, and she still doesn’t know where any of her four kids are. Just as she opens the door to go check for herself, she sees Theresa and Joey walking down the long driveway. Her heart sinks when she realizes that neither of her daughters is with them.
“Not much?” That was the only thing she could get out. Once Theresa was sure that they didn’t get on any of the three buses they waited for, she decided to call the police and report them missing.
At 2:15 a.m. on December 28, Patricia and Barbara Grimes’ mother, Loretta Grimes, made an official report that her daughters were missing. Investigators went door-to-door in the neighborhood where they were last seen, and canals and rivers in the area were also dragged.
In the weeks that followed, 15,000 flyers were sent to homes in the area, and members of a local church gave a $1,000 reward for any information that led to their return. 300,000 people were asked questions, and nearly 2,000 of them stood out as possible suspects.
One of the oldest parts of the sisters’ disappearances is that the girls were seen at local businesses up until January 9th by people who were watching them. One of the rumors going around the small town was that the girls had left on their own to go to Nashville, Tennessee, to see Elvis Presley in concert. Several people saw the girls alive in the week after they went missing, which led many of the investigators to believe this theory.
In a call on January 17, a woman named Pearl Neville told investigators that she met the Grimes sisters in Nashville, Tennessee on January 9. This seemed to back up what the police already thought had happened. She is said to have helped them by taking them to an employment center because they looked lost and scared. A worker at the office recognized the girls from their pictures and remembered that on their applications, they had written “Grimes” as their last name.
On January 14, Patricia’s classmate Sandra Tollstan’s parents got two phone calls from people they didn’t know. On the first call, no one answered when the phone was picked up, and on the second call, Sandra’s mother heard a scared woman ask, “Sandra, is that you? I asked, “Is Sandra there?” but before her mom could hand the phone to Sandra, the line went dead. When she told investigators about this event, she was sure that the young girl she talked to was Patricia Grimes.
Leonard Prescott was driving along a rural country road near Willow Springs, Illinois, when he saw “two flesh-colored things” lying behind a short guardrail. This caught his attention because a lot of snow had fallen in the week after they went missing, but it was melting quickly. Later that day, he and his wife went back to the spot. When they looked more closely, he realized that what he thought were mannequins were actually the naked, frozen bodies of Patricia and Barbara.
After Mrs. Grimes’s questions went unanswered for almost a month, her daughters’ bodies were identified on January 22 with the help of her husband. After Mr. Grimes told them who they were, police moved forward with their investigation as a double m*urder.
After looking at the crime scene, it was thought that the girls were either dragged or thrown behind a ten-foot-long guardrail that blocked the edge of Devil’s Creek. They were frozen to the ground and showed signs that they had been in a fight or died violently.
Because of how the girls died, three different forensic pathologists were asked to do autopsies on them. They looked at the bodies for five hours, but they couldn’t agree on the time or cause of de*ath. They did agree, though, that the girls died within five hours of leaving the theater. On Barbara’s chest, there were three wounds that looked like they were caused by an icepick, and on her face and head, there were wounds that looked like they were caused by a blunt force. She also had either consensual or non-consensual sex right before she died. On Patricia’s face and head, there were also a number of bruises.
In the end, it was decided that Patricia and Barbara died from a combination of shock and exposure. However, this conclusion was only reached after other possible causes of de*ath were ruled out. The pathologists also thought that many of the wounds on their bodies were caused by rodents and that the holes in Barbara’s chest were made after she died. The autopsy showed that neither of the girls had any drugs or alcohol in their bodies. This rules out the possibility that they were drugged. Even though they had been out in the elements, their bodies were strangely clean when they were found, and none of their clothes could be found.
One of the coroners who helped do their autopsies found that their bodies had been behind the guardrail for almost three weeks. He said that the snow that fell on January 9 kept their bodies hidden until it melted on January 22. Still, the head of the Cook County Police Department’s investigation is sure that the girls died after January 7 because ice was covering their skin. For this to happen, the moisture in the air would have had to react to the heat leaving their skin.
When the Grimes sisters’ bodies were found and the news came out on January 24, the owners of a local restaurant, John and Minnie Duros, told police that one of their employees was with two young girls who looked like the Grimes sisters on the night of December 30, two days after they went missing. He was also with another young man.
The young man in question, Edward Bedwell, was charged with the k*illings. After being questioned for three days, he signed a 14-page statement saying that he and his friend Cole Willingham spent the week of December 30-January 7 drinking in bars on Skid Row with the Grimes Sisters. He said that after drinking with the girls for days and feeding them hot dogs, the men beat the girls badly when they turned down their sexual advances and dumped them off a cliff. Still, Mrs. Grimes was sure that her daughters had never heard of Skid Row and didn’t even know where it was. Since neither of them had alcohol or a hot dog in their stomachs when they died, the autopsies showed that his admission was not true.
Cole Willingham strongly denied that he had anything to do with their de*aths. He said that he had been with two girls that week, but not Patricia and Barbara. Edward Bedwell later retracted his confession and admitted that he had given a false confession after being interrogated for a long time and under a lot of pressure. He was released on February 6 after paying a $20,000 bond, and he was tried and found not guilty of raping a 13-year-old girl the same year.
After Bedwell changed his confession, detectives focused on Walter Kranz, a self-proclaimed psychic who called the police on January 15 under an unknown name and number and said he had a dream that the girls were found in an unincorporated part of Lyons Township. When asked how he knew this, he wouldn’t say who he was, but the call could be traced back to his house. In the phone call, Kranz talked about a park that was only a mile away from where Patricia and Barbara’s bodies were found.
When handwriting experts looked at a ransom note that was sent to Mrs. Grimes before their bodies were found, they thought it was likely that Walter had written the note. After a lot of questioning, he was finally cleared of any wrongdoing.
Even though more than 160 police officers, officers from different police departments, hundreds of thousands of leads, and several likely suspects were involved in the investigation, the real story of what happened that led to Patricia and Barbara Grimes’ Mysterious de*aths remains unsolved.