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Valerie Percy: A Murder That Is Still Unsolved

In 1966, 21-year old Valerie Percy was working on the political movement of her dad, Charles Percy, who was the Republican candidate for Illinois State Senator against incumbent Democratic Senator Paul Douglas. Valerie resided with her family in a luxurious three-story, seventeen-room house in Kenilworth, a prosperous community outside Chicago which borders Lake Michigan. At around 5:00 AM on the morning of September 18, Valerie’s stepmother, Loraine Percy, was waked up by the noise of glass breaking and a clicking noise that sounded like footsteps.

Lorraine drifted back asleep, but soon thereafter, she was waked up again by the noise of someone moaning. Lorraine got up and unlocked the door to Valerie’s bedroom to notice a dark-haired man standing over Valerie’s bed with a flashlight. The man swiveled and shined his flashlight in Loraine’s eyes to blind her, so she never grabbed a look at his face. Loraine immediately ran out of the room and set off the burglar alarm, urging the intruder to flee the home and escape.

Valerie Skull Was Crushed

Jim Dey | Is investigation of 1966 murder dead? Maybe, maybe not | Columns  | news-gazette.com
Pic: News Gazzete

It turned out the intruder had utilized a blunt object to bludgeon Valerie across the skull four times, fracturing her skull, before she was stabbed across her face, chest, and stomach a total of fourteen times. Her nightgown was pulled up to her ribs, but she was not sexually attacked. Valerie’s handbag and wallet were still in her bedroom and since nothing seemed to be missing from the home, robbery did not appear to be the intention. When police reached the home, they found out that a four-inch hole had been cut in a screen door before a glasscutter was utilized to break through a French door to penetrate the home.

Five bloody palm prints were discovered on the banister, a black leather glove was found near the spectacle, and there were footprints on the neighboring beach. Divers scoured Lake Michigan and discovered an army bayonet and while it could not be conclusively recognized as the killing weapon, the bayonet’s handle did fit Valerie’s head wounds. Charles Percy and Paul Douglas both decided to cancel their campaigns, but Percy eventually decided to begin again his run for State Senator. When the election eventually took place, Percy wound up winning against Douglas, which was deemed an upset, though some thought his daughter’s killing may be helped Percy garner the sympathy vote.

Valerie Case Progress

In 1969, a wanted criminal named Harold James Evans was charged. Less than two years earlier, Evans and a career burglar Frederick Malchow had been sentenced on rape and robbery penalties in Pennsylvania but managed to flee from custody. Two days later, Malchow’s corpse was found out in the Schuylkill River after he drops to his death from a railroad trestle. Upon his re-capture, Evans said to police that Malchow had admitted to him that he was credible for the killing of Valerie Percy. According to Malchow, he had broken into the Percy home to burglarize it and reached Valerie’s bedroom, but when she aroused and caught him in the act, he murdered her.

Police did not discover Evans’ story to be reasonable, but in 1973, the Chicago Sun-Times published a series of Pulitzer Prize-winning articles that related Valerie’s killing to a gang of burglars, which comprised Malchow, Evans, and another suspect called Frank Hohimer. Numerous sources contended that Hohimer had killed Valerie during a botched burglary try, including a terminally ill mobster called Leo Rugendorf and Hohimer’s brother. At the time, Hohimer was fulfilling a 30-year jail verdict for burglary, but when questioned, he fingered Frederick Malchow as the murderer. On the day of Valerie’s killing, Hohimer contended that Malchow toured his apartment in Chicago to admit to the crime and gave him some bloody clothes to burn. Nonetheless, no evidence placed either suspect at the killing spectacle, as the bloody palm prints discovered on the banister did not fit Malchow or Hohimer.

Book

In 2013, author Glenn Wall published a book about the case named “Sympathy Vote” and suggested another likely suspect called William Thoresen III. Thoresen was the son of an affluent steel tycoon and his family resided only a block and a half away from the Percy home. While Thoresen resided in San Francisco in 1966, he was known for frequently returning to Kenilworth to tour his family. Thoresen had a past of violent, unstable behavior and run-ins with the law and had been deemed a suspect in the suspicious “suicide” of his brother, Richard. During the inquiry into Valerie Percy’s killing, Thoresen’s probation officer called him a likely suspect, but when the Chicago police tried to query Thoresen, he was very uncooperative and rejected to be interviewed. On June 10, 1970, Thoresen was shot to death by his spouse, Louise, who was found not guilty on the grounds of self-defense. The most binding piece of information which potentially associated Thoresen to the crime was the bayonet discovered in Lake Michigan outside the Percy residence. Six months after the killing, Thoresen was accused of ownership of illegal weaponry once it was found that he had been hoarding military weapons, some of which were bayonets. Nonetheless, Thoresen has never been conclusively related to the crime.

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