The Grisly Murder of The Grimes Sisters


Patricia (left) and Barbara (right) Grimes via New York Daily News

A poster for for the 1956 drama, “Love Me Tender,” starring Elvis Presley via New York Daily News

Like most teenagers in the 1950s, 15-year-old Barbara and 13-year-old Patricia Grimes were obsessed with Elvis Presley.

On December 28, 1956, the sisters left their house at 7:30 PM with $2.50 between them to go to Brighton Theater to see the new Elvis Presley movie, “Love Me Tender,” for the fifteenth time. Their mother, Loretta Grimes, expected that the sisters would stay later to watch the double feature, and the girls promised to be back home by midnight.

Reliable witnesses proved that the girls arrived at the movie theater safely. Dorothy Weinert, a friend of Patricia’s, sat behind the girls during the first film. Dorothy left after the first film, but as she was leaving she saw Barbara and Patricia in good spirits and buying popcorn at the concession stand.

That was the last time Barbara and Patricia were seen alive.

via The Lineup
The missing persons poster that was hung up all over Chicago, where the girls had disappeared via WorthPoint

Loretta began to worry when midnight passed and her daughters were still out. Two of the older Grimes children went out to wait for their sisters at the bus stop, and although several buses stopped, Barbara and Patricia did not step out of any of them. By 2:00 AM, Barbara and Patricia were still missing and Loretta called the police.

Barbara and Patricia’s disappearance prompted Chicago’s largest city-wide hunt. Hundreds of police officers and civilians worked together to search the city for the girls. Even nearby counties and towns offered help and resources.

As news of the sisters’ disappearance spread, reported sightings began to come in faster than the police could keep up with them. Some people claimed to have seen the sisters on their way out of Chicago on a bus, and another witness claimed to have seen the sisters listening to Elvis Presley records in a department store. One of Patricia’s classmates claimed she received two phone calls around midnight about two weeks after the girls disappeared and that the voice on the phone sounded like Patricia’s. None of the stories proved to be reliable leads, however.

Loretta Grimes looking at the missing poster for daughters via Chicago Now

Eventually, the police came to the conclusion that the Grimes sisters must have planned their own disappearance and run away to go to Nashville to meet their idol, Elvis. This theory became so popular that Elvis publicly addressed the girls over the radio and pleaded with them to be “good Presley fans” and “go home and ease [their] mother’s worries,” according to New York Daily News.

Although the police determined Barbara and Patricia must have run away, their mother remained convinced that her daughters would never run away, especially since they had not brought any extra money or clothes with them. Their mother also believed they would not have left behind all of their new Christmas presents, including a brand new A.M. radio.

On January 22, 1957, the search ended.

A man named Leonard Prescott was driving along German Church Road on his way to the grocery store when he spotted what he first thought were two mannequins on the side of the road. He immediately went back home to get his wife, and they returned to investigate the scene together. Upon closer inspection, the Prescotts realized that the mannequins were really the bodies of Barbara and Patricia Grimes, and they called the police.

The bodies were unclothed and positioned so that Barbara was lying face down with Patricia lying face up and perpendicular on top of her. Their faces were also partially damaged by animals. The police believed the bodies had been there since the snowfall on January 9th and 10th but only just revealed by the recent thaw.

The bodies of the Grimes sisters were discovered in a secluded ditch via New York Daily News

The autopsy later revealed that the girls must have died within about four hours of going missing since the dinner they ate at home before they left for the movies was still in their stomachs. The autopsy also showed that neither girl had alcohol in their system before they died and that Barbara did have sexual relations before she died, although it could not be determined whether it was consensual or not. According to The Lineup, the coroner’s jury said the cause of death was officially “murder,” but the only explanation they could come up with was “secondary exposure to the elements.”

My poor babies. Why couldn’t they have taken me and let my babies live? If the police had listened to me they would have had the true story half an hour after the girls were missing.”

— Loretta Grimes

A funeral for the girls was held on January 28, 1957 at St. Maurice Church, where Patricia attended grade school. The funeral was donated by the Wollschlager Funeral Home and was attended by many, including the mayor of Chicago. Several newspapers reported that Loretta collapsed multiple times during the funeral and was heard sobbing that she was finally reunited with her daughters. The girls were buried in two closed white coffins near their sister, Leona Freck, who had died two years before them.

Loretta Grimes sobbing over her daughters’ coffins at their funeral via New York Daily News.

Several suspects were apprehended and questioned by the police, but the most publicized suspect was Edward Lee Bedwell, a 21-year-old troublemaking drifter who looked similar to Elvis. The police were more suspicious of him since some witnesses claimed to have seen Barbara and Patricia entering a car or restaurant with a man who resembled Elvis. Bedwell initially offered a 14-page-long confession to the murders, but there was no evidence that he was guilty and he later recanted his confession, claiming that the police had beat and bribed it out of him. Since there was no concrete evidence against him, the authorities had to set him free.

Grimes sisters Bedwell accomplice
Bedwell being questioned by the police via The Lineup

The police promised Loretta that they would never stop looking for the killer of her daughters, but she died with no closure.

An article covering the murder of Bonnie Leigh Scott via American Hauntings

The murder of the Grimes sisters was also later suspected to be tied to the murder of Bonnie Leigh Scott, who was killed about a year after the Grimes sisters. She was fifteen years old, and her body was discovered naked like the Grimes sisters. Additionally, all the girls had similar non-lethal marks around their abdomens.

According to The Lineup, the man responsible for the murder of Bonnie Scott allegedly called Loretta to brag about getting away with the murder of the Grimes sisters and Bonnie Scott.

There was also another girl who later claimed that she was abducted with the Grimes sisters when she was 14, but she didn’t come forward sooner because she was too scared.

Eventually, a man named Charles Leroy Melquist was convicted for the murder of Bonnie Scott, but he was never officially implicated in the Grimes murder. He was sentenced to 99 years in prison, but he was released after serving only 11 years. He later married and had two children.

The murder of the Grimes sisters is known as the murder that caused Chicago to lose its innocence. It officially remains a cold case, but people have not stopped searching for answers about what happened the day Barbara and Patricia were killed.