Mystery – The Grimes Sisters

People don’t go missing for no reason. They either want to be alone, start over in life, or are simple taken away against their wishes. For Patricia and Barbara Grimes, the latter is what happened to them in 1956.

Barbara (L) was 15, and Patricia (R) was 12.

December 28, 1956, the two sisters, who were very close to each other went to a movie theater to watch a movie of Love Me Tender. It had played twice that night and the girls had stayed for both viewings. The theater was approximately a mile and a half from their home, and they told their mother, Loretta, that they would be home by midnight.

Barbara who was 15, and Patricia who was 12, had sat in front of some friends from school during the first showing. At the intermission the friends left and saw the sisters in line to buy popcorn.

Loretta Grimes

When the girls didn’t arrive home by midnight, Loretta sent two of her other children, 17-year-old Theresa, and 14-year-old Joey to the closest bus stop to wait for them. After three buses had come and gone with no sign of the girls, they went home. Their mother immediately called police and put in a missing person’s report.

The police began searching for the sisters. Their church posted a reward for information, neighboring police stations assisted with the search, and hundreds of volunteers.

The police also suggested that the girls were staying with boyfriends, or even ran away to Nashville like Elvis Presley had done. In January 1957, Elvis himself had released a statement that “If you are good Presley fans, you will go home and ease your mother’s worries.” Sadly, the girls never had the opportunity to do so.

January 22, 1957, Barbara and Patricia Grimes were found, naked, on the side of the road just over the guard rail. A roadworker had discovered them. Police arrived on the scene and their father, Joseph, was driven to identify the bodies.

The next day their autopsies occurred. Three experienced forensic pathologists performed the autopsies, viewing the bodies for 5 hours. Their official cause of death was “murder”, and the specific means was “secondary shock” as the two girls were exposed to low temperatures which reduced their body temperature below the level compatible with life.

It is believed that the sisters were murdered within 5 hours of their last sighting at the movie theater. But in the almost 4 weeks since they disappeared, people had claimed to see them in various businesses and reported those sightings to the police as well.

Here are the suspects in the case:

  • Edward Lee “Bennie” Bedwell – 21-year-old drifter from Tennessee. He was a tall man and bore a strong resemblance to Elvis Presley. The owners of the restaurant that he worked at claimed that he had arrived with two girls that resembled the Grimes sisters, and when police learned of this, Edward was questioned for three days.
    • Edward was formally charged with their murder on January 27, 1957, after signing a 14-page confession. In his confession he claimed that he and his accomplice, William Cole Willingham, had taken the girls to various West Madison Street saloons. Loretta Grimes claimed that this was a lie, as her girls wouldn’t have known where this was.
    • The accomplice William Willingham stated that they had been in the company of two girls, but not the Grimes sisters. He wholeheartedly denied any involvement in their murders.
    • When it was learned that Edward had been at work during the time of the murders, he was released on a $20,000 bond paid for by an individual from Champaign.
  • Max Fleig – 17-years-old. He was a prime suspect in the murder simply due to his age. During an unofficial polygraph test, Max had confessed to the murders. In Illinois there were laws at the time that prevented juveniles from polygraph tests. Because he admitted to the crimes during the polygraph, the police were not able to use the test as evidence. They were forced to release him. There was no other evidence connecting Max to the murders despite his confession.
  • Walter Kranz – 53-years-old, he was a steamfitter and self-proclaimed psychic. He had called in on January 15, a week before the sisters were found, and stated that they were deceased and could be found in an unincorporated area of Lyons Township.
    • The operator traced the call back to Walter who had refused to give his name. The location that he provided for where the sisters were was one mile from where they were found. Walter claimed that his family has had psychic powers for generations and the information came to him in a dream.
    • Without any real evidence, and multiple interrogations, Walter was released.

It’s sad that this family lost not one, but two children, and unfortunately, they are not able to get closure as they still do not know who murdered them, nor why. I hope that they were able to find peace and that those who were responsible have faced their justice.

Stay Curious my Friends!

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