Beneath Her Feet
on Sunday January 22nd, 2017, By Aaliyah

On December 28, 1958, sisters Barbara and Patricia Grimes left their home to see the Elvis Presley movie Love Me Tender. They never returned. A construction worker found their bodies on the side of the road January 22, 1957. Both girls were nude, injured and had apparently been thrown from a car but no obvious cause of death. It was later determined that they died from exposure. Their killer has never been identified.

On December 28, 1958, sisters Barbara (aged 15) and Patricia (ages 13), students at Thomas Kelly High School and St. Maurice respectively went to the Brighton Theatre to watch the Elvis Presley movie- “Love Me Tender”. The theatre was a mile and a half away from their house. They had $2.15 between them and there is no indication as to how they travelled to the theatre.

A friend of Patricia’s, Dorothy Weinert, sat behind the girls with her own younger sister during the movie. Weinert and her sister left the theatre during the intermission for a double feature showing that night at about 9:30, and before leaving met the sisters in the popcorn line. They both seemed in good spirits, and neither the Weinerts or anyone else noticed anything unusual.

The sisters stayed for the second show and were expected to return home at around 11:45 p.m. but when they didn’t appear until midnight, their mother sent their older brother and sister to wait for them at the bus stop. After three buses passed by with no sign of them, the siblings returned. And eventually at 2.15 a.m., their mother reported Barbara and Patricia as missing. The two girls’ disappearance launched one of the biggest missing-person cases in Chicago history, producing many reports of sightings but nothing in the way of hard evidence. It was initially thought that they might have simply run away, possibly to Nashville, Tennessee to see Elvis Presley in concert or just to “emulate his lifestyle.”

Newspaper Cutout about the case on August 24, 1958.

Sightings

Between the last confirmed sighting of them at the movie theatre on December 28, 1956, and the subsequent discovery of their bodies on January 22, 1957, there were several unconfirmed sightings of the girls both in and outside the city. The most widely reported sightings include the following:

  • Numerous people said that they saw the girls boarding a CTA bus on Archer Avenue heading east into the city after the screening. They allegedly got off the bus at Western Avenue, about halfway to their home, around 11:05 pm. Why they would get off the bus at that station is unknown.
  • Two teenage boys claimed to have seen them approximately two blocks from their home.
  • On December 30 at 5:40 am, the owner of the D&L Restaurant at 1340 West Madison said he had seen both girls, with Patricia apparently too drunk or sick to walk without staggering, accompanied by suspect Bennie Bedwell. This location was over five-and-a-half miles from the Brighton Theater. A clerk at the Claremont Hotel, after viewing the bodies at a mortuary, likewise identified the sisters as having checked into the hotel on this date.
  • On January 1, 1957, the girls were reported aboard a CTA bus on Damen Avenue.
  • The following week, a night clerk at the Unity Hotel on West 61st street refused two girls a room because of their age, whom he believed were the Grimes sisters.
  • On January 3, three employees at Kresge department store thought they had seen the girls listening to Elvis Presley music at the record counter.
  • Adding credence to the theory that both sisters had run away to Nashville, a woman reported having met them at a bus station there, and accompanied them to a state employment agency to search for work. A clerk at the same agency identified the sisters from photographs and recalled them using the “Grimes” name.

Photograps of Barbara and Patricia Grimes.

Discovery of the bodies

On January 22, 1957, about 200 feet east of County Line Road a construction worker spotted the nude bodies of the Grimes sisters behind a guard rail. Barbara Grimes lay on her left side with her legs slightly drawn up toward her body. Patricia Grimes lay on her back, covering her sister’s head. It was thought that they had most likely been dumped there from a passing car. The autopsy, performed by experienced pathologists, concluded that due to their stomachs containing the approximate proportions of their last known meal, both sisters had in fact died within about five hours of the time they were last seen at the theatre, i.e. on either the evening of December 28 or the early morning of the 29th. However, Harry Glos, at the time chief investigator for the Cook County coroner’s office, disagreed with the time of death. He pointed to a thin layer of ice found on the bodies of the girls as indicating that they had been alive until at least January 7, since only after that date would there have been snowfall enough to react with their warm bodies and create the ice layer, let alone hide the bodies until their discovery.

The nude and frozen bodies of Patricia Grimes, 13, and Barbara Grimes, 15 were discovered in a snow-covered ditch in Chicago, weeks after they disappeared.

 

There were no obviously fatal wounds on either girl’s body and nothing to indicate that they had been drunk, drugged or poisoned. Despite being “very clean”, both corpses had various bruises and rodent bites, including three puncture wounds in Barbara’s chest that may have come from an ice pick. It was also later revealed by authorities that Barbara at least had likely had intercourse around the time of her death, but no evidence of forcible molestation was found. The immediate cause of death was given as “secondary shock” resulting from exposure to low temperatures.

Suspects

 

  • Bennie Bedwell:

 

Edward Lee “Bennie” Bedwell was a 21-year-old illiterate drifter from Tennessee who allegedly bore some resemblance to Elvis Presley. According toa worker, he was there with the Grimes sisters on the morning of December 30, 1956. Bedwell was booked on murder charges January 27, 1957 after signing a confession stating that he and another man were with the Grimes sisters January 7 and after seven days of drinking at West Madison Street (“skid row”) saloons, they fed the sisters hot dogs and then beat them to death for refusing their further sexual advances before discarding the bodies on January 13. Loretta Grimes, mother of the victims, was quoted upon Bedwell’s alleged confession: “It’s a lie. My girls wouldn’t be on West Madison Street, they didn’t even know where it was.” He later withdrew the confession on the grounds that it had been coerced by the sheriff’s men. The autopsy reports later supported this contention as no alcohol or hot dogs were found in the victims’ systems nor had they been beaten to death. Bedwellwas also clocked by his place of employment, from 4:19 pm on December 28, 1956, to 12:30 am on December 29, covering the period of the girls’ likely abduction and murder.However, Harry Glos, chief investigator for the Cook County coroner’s office, who strongly believed Bedwell had in fact committed the murders, later charged that the marks found on the bodies had not been adequately investigated. He further theorised that they were evidence that the sisters had been beaten, and, in tandem with the evidence of sexual activity, were thus in line with Bedwell’s claims. Glos claimed that official investigators were covering up these and potentially other more lurid details of the case, possibly out of a desire to protect the girls’ reputations and/or spare their mother’s feelings. Similar allegations would be repeated in later years by others, some of whom claimed to have seen the original casefiles. The Chicago crime lab, meanwhile, continued to insist that there was no evidence in either girl’s case of extreme violence or sexual molestation.

Bennie Bedwell at a press conference in 1957

 

  • Max Fleig:

 

Max Fleig was a 17-year-old suspect in this case. He voluntarily took a polygraph test and failed it. After failing the polygraph, he allegedly confessed to kidnapping the girls. However, because at that time it was illegal to perform the polygraph test on a minor, police had to let Fleig go. He was never charged with the murders because there was no evidence that he killed or kidnapped the girls other than his alleged confession and the polygraph failure.

 

  • Walter Kranz:

 

Walter Kranz, a 53-year-old steamfitter, called police on January 15 to say that he had dreamt that the bodies of the girls were in Santa Fe Park at 81st Street and Wolf Road. The park was around one-and-a-half miles from the true location where they were to be found one week later. Krantz told police that psychic powers ran in his family. After multiple interrogations by the police, he was released.

 

Aaliyah

Definitely into memes

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