Many people have never heard the name, Charles Leroy Melquist. It seems to be a name lost to history, but could it hold the key to solving the oldest current cold case in Chicago history?
I had become seriously interested in the murders of Barbara and Patricia Grimes after I had left my career in law enforcement. Once I left law enforcement, I didn’t really want to do anything similar to law enforcement, so I reinvented myself by writing books on Chicago history and starting a business doing historical research for other authors, family historians, and television production companies.
One of my publishers wanted me to write a story about the Grimes case so I started conducting research on it in 2009. As part of that research, I started researching other child murders of the times such as the Schuessler/Peterson murders of 1955 and the Judith Mae Anderson case of 1957 and I came across a case that I had never heard of before.
I came across the case of Addison teenager, Bonnie Leigh Scott and her male companion, Charles Leroy Melquist, or “Chuck” as he was called.
Bonnie was a fifteen-year-old sophomore at York High School and lived with her aunt and uncle, Mr. and Mrs. Robert H. Schwolow, and her grandmother, Mrs. Doris Hutchins (her legal guardian) at 112 Normandy Drive in the west suburban town of Addison.
Bonnie’s mother, Marilyn, had been a patient at the Elgin State Mental Hospital for the last seven years and her father, Guy Scott, was a former world water-ski champion, remarried, and living on the west coast.
She reportedly had trouble in school and had run away from home at least once and was gone for almost 2 days. She fit the mold of a very vulnerable, impressionable young girl who might be starving for affection and therefore an easy target for a child predator.
Charles Melquist was born on May 3, 1937, and was the son of Elmer Melquist and Hazel Smith. In 1958, he was living with his sister and parents at 655 Yale St. in Villa Park, IL. He had a short stint in the military and was a past student at Willowbrook High School.
Melquist met Bonnie Scott in the summer of 1957 at a carnival when Melquist was roughly 20 years old, and Bonnie was 14. He had become a “big brother” figure to Bonnie and considered her a good friend.
Bonnie Goes Missing
On the evening of September 22, 1958, Bonnie Leigh Scott failed to come home. Her grandmother contacted the Addison police, and they started interviewing friends of Bonnie including Melquist.
Melquist told police of a phone call that Bonnie made to him at his home in Villa Park on the day she disappeared and that she said that she was having problems with a boyfriend who was making unwelcome sexual advances. He told police that she often called him when she had personal problems. It was later that night when Melquist claimed to have received a phone call from a male that he didn’t recognize claiming to be Scott’s boyfriend and that she had jumped out of his car at Route 66 and Mannheim Road. That intersection would be Joliet Road and La Grange Road today. The male told Melquist that Scott wanted Melquist to pick her up. Melquist claimed that he reluctantly drove to the area and saw no trace of Bonnie. The Addison police thought Melquist’s story was a little fabricated, but they had nothing else to go on. They continued interviewing friends and relatives, and it was the interviews they conducted at the 4D Restaurant at 12 E. Lake St. in Addison that added another inconsistency to Melquist’s story.
Police interviewed a waitress and four teenage boys who were with Bonnie on the night she disappeared. The waitress stated that the five were eating there and after they finished eating, they went into the parking lot at about 7:30 pm and danced in the parking lot until about 8 pm or later to the music from the boys’ car. The boys then left after Bonnie refused a ride from them. That would make it highly unlikely that Bonnie would have made an early morning phone call to Melquist complaining about the sexual advances of a boyfriend and even more unlikely that she had gotten a ride from someone and jumped out of a car at Route 66 and Lagrange Road 15 minutes later.
For the next week, Melquist took Bonnie’s grandmother out in his white ’57 convertible to search the area of Route 66 and La Grange Road as well as driving around the neighborhood looking for any trace of Bonnie.
On Saturday, November 15th a group of Boy Scouts from Cicero, Illinois led by Edward Zatas of 5322 W. 30th Place were on a nature hike in the forest preserves of Palos Hills when they came upon the decapitated corpse of a female that was badly decomposed. The body was found about 250 feet south of 95th Street on the west side of La Grange Road about 15 feet off the road and very close to the Suttonbush Slough. At first, police believed it could be the body of a newspaperwoman named Mollie Zelko who disappeared 13 months prior to the discovery. The body weighed between 110 and 120 pounds, and was about 5 feet 5 inches in height with reddish brown hair and silver painted nails.
Bonnie Scott’s grandmother, Mrs. Hutchins, called the Addison police after she had found out that a body had been discovered and spoke with Chief Nels Anderson and Sgt. William Deveaney. She asked them if the body that was found could be that of her granddaughter. Mrs. Hutchins told them that if they spoke with Dr. P.D. Grimes in Elmhurst that he could compare the dental records of Bonnie to the dental work of the dead girl. Dr. Grimes indeed confirmed that the remains were those of Bonnie Leigh Scott.
After the identity of the body was confirmed, the Addison police again picked up Charles Melquist and questioned him until about 3:15 am on the 17th of November. Chief Anderson himself gave Melquist a ride home and while they were sitting in the driveway of Melquist’s home, Melquist asked Chief Anderson if he thought the fact, he was being questioned could hinder him from becoming a DuPage County Deputy. (According to some of Melquist’s associates he fancied becoming a police officer and had at times impersonated a police officer). Chief Anderson asked Melquist if he could come back to the police department at 10:00 am and Melquist cooperated.
Both Melquist and his father Elmer returned to the police station at 10:00 am and Melquist requested that he be given a polygraph examination. The Cook County Sheriff’s Office administered a portable test to Melquist which indicated that he was being deceptive. They asked Melquist to submit to an additional polygraph administered by John Reid at 600 N. Michigan Avenue in Chicago.
Before the end of that polygraph examination, Melquist was confessing to the murder of Bonnie Leigh Scott in great detail.
According to Melquist’s confession, he picked Bonnie up at her home in Addison and drove to the driveway of his home in Villa Park. Before picking her up he grabbed a satin throw pillow from his house and placed it into his car.
Once they were back in the driveway of his home, Melquist stated that they became playful in the car and Melquist held the satin pillow over her head and face. He said, “I held it too long and she smothered. I saw she was not moving.”
He then stripped off her clothes and stuffed them under his front seat. He drove to 95th and LaGrange Road and stated he pushed the body over the guard rail like a “sack”. He said, “She was lying on her back. I dragged her by the feet down the embankment 15 feet to this small thicket. Then I left.”
Melquist returned home and for days thought that he must have dreamt the whole thing and couldn’t believe that he could have killed Bonnie. He said that he had to go back to determine if she was there or if it had all been a dream. He returned on Friday, September 16th, and verified that there was a body and that he had not dreamt the whole affair. He said that he returned to the scene about a month later and took with him a 4-inch butcher knife and a pitchfork and that he intended to bury her with but when he saw the body again he had an overwhelming “urge to cut”. He took the knife and severed Bonnie’s head and then picked it up and threw it about 20 yards from the body. He then turned the knife to the torso and just started slashing. He stated he returned to the body a third time but was scared away by some people walking nearby. It was then and only then that he threw the knife out of his vehicle on the east side of La Grange Road north of 95th St. and drove to the area of Irving Park and Elmhurst Road where he found a bonfire that he threw Bonnie’s clothes in. If this was true, then Bonnie’s clothes were in the vehicle when the Addison P.D. had first questioned Melquist and they were in the vehicle when Melquist transported Bonnie’s grandmother around the communities looking for traces of the missing girl.
The similarities between the Scott murder and the Grimes murders were intriguing. Bonnie was 15 and Barbara Grimes was 15. The bodies of both the Scott girl and the Grimes girls were left nude just over a guard rail and the two sites were only about three-quarters of a mile apart. There was no definitive cause of death determined in either case.
I knew there had to be more than that to link Melquist to the killings and after a few years of research and a ton of help from a Facebook group,“Help Solve Chicago’s Grimes Sisters Murders”, we compiled the following list:
What Makes Melquist a good suspect in the Grimes case?
Melquist could render girls unconscious and smothered Bonnie Leigh Scott
According to past girlfriends of Charles Melquist, he had acquired knowledge of a judo-type hold in the military where he could render girls unconscious without much effort. At least two previous girlfriends came forward to discuss how one moment they were “making out” with Melquist and the next moment they were waking up with Melquist standing over them apologizing.
There was never any definitive cause of death in the Grimes Case. They were not strangled, shot, stabbed, beaten, or drugged. The only thing the coroner could not rule out was suffocation, the exact way that Melquist claimed to have killed Scott.
Dr. Paul Hletko stated that the Grimes killer’s personality would match that of Melquist
An article written by Robert Wiedrich appeared in the Chicago Tribune on November 20, 1958, quoting opinions from Dr. Paul Hletko, chief medical officer of the state welfare department. In the article, Dr. Hletko stated, “I think that when the Grimes killer is found he will be the same type of person as Charles Melquist.” He also goes on to state that Melquist saw himself as a “Lady’s Man” with long sideburns, carefully waved hair, and the hot rod way in which he drove his car all point to the same type of individual. He stated that Melquist had fantasies of throwing naked women into whirling blades to destroy them and the fact that he returned to the body of Bonnie Leigh Scott to slash it supported the doctor’s theory that Melquist was an obsessive-compulsive who associated sex with something horrible. This theory also goes on to explain the next point.
Three postmortem puncture wounds on Patricia’s chest matched that of Melquist’s M.O. and tools
As a result of the autopsy of the Grimes girls, a cause of death was not found although “exposure” is listed as the official cause of death. There were however three puncture wounds found on the chest of Patricia who was lying on top of her sister face up. The puncture wounds appeared to have been inflicted by an ice pick or similar weapon, but the wounds were only about three-quarters of an inch deep which was not deep enough to have been fatal. As with Melquist’s M.O., if he were to usually return to the scene of the crime to mutilate the body because of some “urge” that he had mentioned in his confession then he would have suffered from this same “urge” if he were responsible for the murder of the Grimes sisters. According to reports of searches conducted on Melquist’s house and vehicle, a three-pronged garden fork was found in the trunk of Melquist’s vehicle. If Melquist returned to the bodies of the Grimes sisters, there would have been one big difference between what he would have found. Scott’s body was disposed of in September and discovered in mid-November. The Grimes girls went missing at the end of December and their bodies were found in late January. It is brutally cold in December and January and without a doubt, Melquist would have encountered frozen bodies. If Melquist would have used an ice pick or even the three-pronged garden fork to slash the girls, he would have likely started with the girl on top (Patricia) and met with a solid mass. Anyone who has ever tried to cut into a frozen beef roast knows that the knife will not go in far hence the shallow wounds.
Phone numbers of Grimes girls’ neighbors in Melquist’s “little black book”
During a search of Melquist’s house at 655 Yale in Villa Park, investigators found the phone numbers of numerous girls around the same age as Bonnie Leigh Scott and the phone numbers of two neighbors of the Grimes girls. The police found the phone numbers of Sharon Blomberg, 15 of 1406 W. Marquette Road who formerly lived at 3332 Archer Avenue which was only 2 blocks from the Grimes sisters, and Diane Prunty, 15 of 3949 S. Rockwell Street who used to live at 4331 S. Maplewood which was only a half mile trek through McKinley Park to where the Grimes sisters lived. They also stated that they frequented a sweets shop at 35th and Archer that the Grimes sisters also frequented, swam in McKinley Park, and have gone to the Brighton Theater where the girls watched “Love Me Tender” the night they disappeared.
Loretta Grimes receives two cruel phone calls from the same person
Loretta Grimes, the mother of the Grimes girls, received a great many prank calls and letters both before and after the bodies of her girls were found. Many of these phone calls and letters were very cruel with some stating that the girls were immoral and got what was coming to them. In May of 1957, about 3 months after the girls’ bodies were discovered, Loretta received a call that she said she would never forget. The male caller stated that he knew who killed her girls and that he had been the one who undressed them. He stated, “I know something about your little girl (Barbara was the older but smaller one.) that no one else knows but you. Not even the police know. The smaller girl’s toes are crossed on both of her feet.” This was a little-known deformity that Barbara had and after revealing that information the caller laughed cruelly. The day after the Scott body was found and before anyone knew the identity of the girl, Loretta Grimes received another phone call. She was positive that the voice of the man was the same voice of the caller back in May. The caller boasted, “I committed another perfect crime. This is another one those cops won’t solve and they’re not going to hook it on to Bedwell or to Barry Cook.” He laughed after making the statement about Bedwell and Cook the same way the caller did in May of 1957. Loretta definitely recognized the voice of the caller in both cases, and she was positive it was the same person. She said that she could never forget his voice!
Best friend and neighbor of Grimes girls saw Charles Melquist in the girls’ house
Sandy Bauer was a next-door neighbor and close friend to the girls. Years later she recognized a photo of Charles Melquist during a meeting we had and stated that she was 100% positive that he was on the back porch of the Grimes house the day that the girls went to the movie and never came home. She said that she had gone to the Grimes’s house earlier in the day to see if Patricia or Barbara were going to the show because she planned on going with them. When she walked into the house the only person home was their brother Joey. Patricia (Petey to close friends and family) was out having ice cream with her brother Jimmy, Barbara, her sister Theresa, and their mother Loretta were at work. She heard voices on the back porch and saw Joey talking to a person that she said was definitely Charles Melquist. She stated she was standing right next to him and looking up at him and she thought it was funny that she didn’t recognize him as being from the neighborhood. She said that the most noticeable thing about him was his height and that he wore a bandana on his head which wasn’t common for young men at the time. She said that she went home but her father would not let her go to the movie with Barbara and Petey because she was too young. She said that she was haunted for the rest of her life by the image of Barbara and Petey waving goodbye to her as they walked past her house on the way to the movie theater. She later went on to be an honorary pallbearer at the funeral. She keeps the memory ring that Mrs. Grimes gave her the day of the funeral to this day along with the bottle of perfume that Petey had given to her for Christmas three days before they disappeared.
One thing that always bothered me about looking at Charles Melquist as a suspect in the Grimes killings was the question of location. What was a guy from Villa Park doing in the McKinley Park neighborhood of Chicago? A few years ago, the pieces started coming together.
Jim Pasciak describes a person matching Melquist’s description in the neighborhood
A woman named Margie Novak reached out to me with the information she thought could help with the case. She stated that her boyfriend, Jim Pasciak, was a member of a group of teen boys who hung out at a house on 38th and Wood in McKinley Park and always thought they had met the girls’ killer.
I proceeded to Ms. Novak’s home, and she placed a call to Jim who was living in Michigan at the time. Jim stated that a couple of months before the girls went missing another member of the group named Bob Moran brought a visitor to their club. The visitor’s name was Chuck. Bob had met Chuck at a carnival earlier that year and was a bit older than the regular members of the club. Jim stated that Chuck seemed to be in his late teens or early 20s at the time and the boys in the club were 15 to 17 years of age. Chuck drove a ’49 Black Mercury with a split windshield and would bring the boys beer and take them for rides showing off and driving fast down the back roads in the Palos Area and also in the area of Sante Fe Park. Jim said he always thought it was weird that a guy his age was hanging out with a group of young boys and was a little concerned when he would take them into secluded areas but he never tried anything of a sexual nature with them and did supply a vehicle and beer so nobody complained.
Jim said that on one occasion Chuck had driven the boys to the Peoples Movie Theater at 1620 W. 47th Street. Chuck paid for tickets for all of them. At one point in the show, the police showed up and arrested Chuck who had allegedly been touching a young girl inappropriately during the show. The boys asked the police how they were going to get home and the police told them it looked like they were walking.
After that incident, Chuck still hung out with the boys but sometimes, he would have to drive to the police station to “check in” and leave the boys in the car. One time when they left the police station, he drove them to a home somewhere in the Palos area and he backed into a driveway. He then peeled out shooting gravel all over the front windows of the home and sped off. He stated that the home belonged to a judge he despised.
Jim said they all thought it was funny that after the Grimes girls disappeared, they never saw Chuck again. They didn’t know his last name and didn’t know anything about his personal life or where he lived. Jim did say that there was something wrong with Chuck’s mouth and he stated that it was due to an injury he had received in the military. Jim also said they did remember that a short time later they saw their friend Chuck had gone to prison for a crime similar to the Grimes case.
Could the black ’49 Mercury that “Chuck” drove be the one that was seen trying to pick up the girls in tandem with a blue ’55 Buick? Bob Moran had met Chuck at a carnival which was where Melquist and Bonnie had met. You can see from the photos of Melquist that there seems to be an issue with his lip or mouth similar to the scars from a cleft palate repair. There is also the fact that “Chuck” was arrested a short time after the Grimes case for a similar crime and Melquist fits that profile.
Melquist and lead Chicago P.D. investigator in Grimes case had ties to mob boss, Sam Giancana
Another possible link to the McKinley Park neighborhood was the fact that both Melquist and Chicago Narcotics Detective Sheldon Teller had links to mob boss Sam Giancana. It seemed odd that the lead investigator in the Grimes case was technically a narcotics investigator and not a homicide detective. Jim Grimes, the girls’ brother, had told me that he remembered Detective Teller and his partner Miles Cooperman very clearly and they were at the Grimes home quite often. In fact, a few police officers were there all day for at least the first couple of months and would play cards with Loretta to pass the time. Sandy Bauer, the girls’ friend, and neighbor remembered that she told Teller that she was sad her dog had died and a few days later he brought her a new puppy. So sad that Teller was twice tried and once convicted in federal court of selling narcotics and protecting the drug business of Sam Giancana. In 1961 he was brought up on charges, but the judge dismissed the case against him while the jury was still deliberating. Teller was reinstated but demoted to Sergeant and reassigned. The second time he was brought up on federal charges in 1966 the case stuck and he and another detective, John D. Sullivan, were convicted along with Teller’s wife. Teller was sentenced to 18 years, Sullivan to nine years, and Teller’s wife to five years. After the convictions, Judge Parsons had both men taken into immediate custody because the head federal prosecutor was receiving death threats over the phone and an attempt was made to dynamite his car.
Teller was also using a guy named “Chuck” who was once in the military and was the same age as Melquist as an informant at the time of the Grimes murder. It seemed that Chuck’s job was to infiltrate local groups of teens who could be potential clients or dealers for Giancana while at the same time finding out who Giancana’s competition was and giving the information to Teller so that he could make spectacular drug busts thereby eliminating Giancana’s competition and bolstering Teller’s law enforcement career. Teller would have a definite motive to protect someone who was beneficial to both Giancana and himself.
It was also strange that Teller was one of the first people through the door at Melquist’s house when the search warrant was executed in the Scott case and Teller made sure to grab Melquist’s list of contacts. I had the opportunity to speak to one of the girls listed in that book who was a neighbor of the Grimes girls and she remembered Teller coming to their house and asking why Melquist would have their phone number. She and her mother at the time didn’t know how or why Melquist had their number.
The girl, now a woman, also told me that Teller started dating her mother for a while after that even though Teller was married at the time.
Much of this could be coincidental except for the fact that even though Melquist was described in the media as being an un-employed stone mason, he drove a brand new white ’57 convertible and had Sam Giancana’s personal attorney, Robert McDonnell, representing Melquist in the Scott case. Robert McDonnell was so close to Giancana that he married Giancana’s daughter, Antoinette.
Finally, when Melquist was sentenced in the Scott murder to 99 years he was out of prison after having only served less than nine.
While I and others agree that Charles Melquist seems a likely suspect in the Grimes murders, I have not found one person who believes that he would have acted alone. Everyone who knew Barbara and Patricia knew that they were very smart and they were extremely protective of one another and would definitely fight to protect each other. It would have been very difficult for one person to control both girls without separating them or having assistance.
I lean on the side that there was a local group of boys who, wittingly or unwittingly, helped to facilitate the murder of the girls even though I don’t believe it was their intention to kill the girls.