The Joy Ride that May Still Hold Clues to 1956 Grimes Murders

I was born in Chicago ten years after this murder took place.   My mother was about the girls’ ages when they were murdered, and she lived in the Back of the Yards neighborhood that bordered the McKinley Park neighborhood where the girls lived.  I remember how protective my mother was with us, but I didn’t really know why until she told me the story. 

Barbara and Patricia Grimes were 15 and 13 years old respectively.  They lived with their single mother Loretta, brothers Jimmy and Joey, and older sisters, Theresa, and Shirley at 3634 S. Damen Ave.

On December 28, 1956, they left their home at approximately 7:30 pm to see their heartthrob Elvis Presley at the Brighton Theater at 4211 Archer Ave.  Some had seen them at the theater, but they never returned home that night. 

On January 22, 1957, at around noon, their frozen, nude bodies were discovered on the far side of a guard rail about 250 feet east of County Line Road on the north side of German Church Road. 

I had written many articles on the case and will include the links at the end of the article.  After serving my country for nine years, and a career in law enforcement I became interested in the case when I started to write books on Chicago history. 

The more and more I talked with people, the more and more information would develop.  Nobody has ever been charged and convicted for the crime and for some reason it stuck with me.  The more law enforcement people I talk to (current and retired) I get the same response that for some reason this case has stuck with them.

There are clues and links to the mob, to the Chicago political machine, to crooked cops, to the Catholic Church, and to local gangs of kids that frequented the area and much I have written about before.  I, however, keep coming back to two incidents that happened the same night the girls went missing. 

Not many cops believe in coincidences and if you were ever in law enforcement you know what I mean.  So here goes.

On the early morning of December 29, 1956, shortly after 2:00 am the police were called to the area of 35th and Seeley (2 blocks from the girls’ home) to a call of a fight at Kenneth “Duke” Ryan’s house at 3404 Archer Ave.  This would have been roughly three hours after the girls were last seen at the end of the movie. When they arrived, they spoke with the father, Eugene.  The father stated that he was yelling at his son for coming home late and he was arguing with some friends, David Morgan of 3629 Archer Ave, Ronald Rapp of 3329 S. Oakley Ave., and Fred Johanes, of 3257 S. Leavitt St.

It seemed that Ryan stated that all the above were in Rapp’s vehicle and Ryan and Morgan had jumped out of the car at 11:30 pm at 35th and Seeley and don’t know what happened in the car after they left.

Johanes and Rapp told police that they had been driving around with a 17-year-old girl in the car having sex and drinking whiskey. Some newspaper articles mentioned they had two girls in the car although neither girl was named or questioned.

The strange “coincidence” is that two other young men, Earl Zastro, 15, of 3833 S. Wolcott, and Eddie Lorden, 17, of 3416 S. Hermitage Ave. told of seeing the Grimes girls playing “hide and seek” at you guessed it, 35th and Seeley at 11:30 pm!  This was the exact time and place when Ryan and Morgan jumped from Rapps’ car!  It was also the same time that Theresa Grimes and her younger brother, Joey, were standing at the bus stop waiting for Barbara and Petey to get off the bus.

It also turns out that even though these two events were going on simultaneously at the exact same location it never came out that all the boys were very close friends.  Also, Eddie Lorden owned a 55 Blue Buick Special Hardtop that was seen by a number of people in tandem with a black ‘49 Mercury following the Grimes Girls down Archer Avenue after the movie had let out.  I wonder if Ronald Rapp owned a ’49 Mercury?

One of the individuals arrested later bragged to a friend after the event that he drove the girls to German Church Road, forced them out of the car at knifepoint with no clothes on but didn’t intend to kill them. 

After this individual was questioned by the police he went back to his friend and bragged that he, “just told the police what they wanted to hear”. 

According to newspaper reports, all were cleared of any wrongdoing in the disappearance of the Grimes girls and the friend never went to the police with the information because she was threatened with death and the death of her family if she did.  Her daughter told us that the individual was known in the neighborhood for being extremely cruel and many times tortured small animals and her mother lived in fear of this individual up to her death.

Also, one sticking point could be that one of the boys involved was the son of a Sergeant with the Cook County Sheriff’s Office who went on to be very well-known and respected.

A new witness comes forward

About two years ago I had the pleasure of speaking with a woman from North Carolina (We will call her Janice) and her daughter. Janice wished to speak with me about some information that she had never provided at the time of the murders. She stated that she knew the Grimes sisters because her cousin had introduced them on multiple occasions and she lived above a bar that was a couple of blocks from the Grimes’ house.

She stated that she was nineteen years old and engaged to be married at the time. She was living alone but had a good job downtown.

The bar owner had recently purchased a pink Cadillac for his fifteen-year-old daughter but didn’t trust her driving it yet. It seems that the bar owner’s daughter wanted to see the same Elvis Presley movie on the same night the Grimes girls went missing. He asked this woman if she would drive the girl to the show in her pink Cadillac. She was a friend to both of them so she said that she would.

She said she couldn’t believe her luck when she found a parking space in front of the theater. After the show, she came out to the car to see two teenage boys admiring the car. She noticed that one boy had blonde hair and that the other had dark slicked-back hair and was wearing a gold and blue letterman’s sweater. (Gold and blue happened to be the school colors for DeLasalle High School) The boys asked if they could get a ride in the car and the fifteen-year-old thought it was a great idea. Janice didn’t want any part of it and she needed to get her charge back home because she had to be up early to go to work.

After she turned the boys down they walked over to a group of three girls and Janice immediately recognized them as Barbara and Patricia Grimes. They were with a third girl that she didn’t recognize. She remembers how crowded it was when the full show let out and there were young girls and boys everywhere along with parents and friends who were picking them up after the show.

She said that the girls were standing outside and it was really cold outside. She also didn’t know if they knew these boys and she thought the boys were rather pushy so she drove up right next to them and asked them if they wanted a ride. They said that they didn’t need a ride because the boys were going to take them home but they thanked her anyway.

I thought that this information was rather important because I had another woman contact me who stated that she was with the girls when they had gotten a lift home and it rather corroborated the “third girl” theory. I will right another article about that story soon.

Another reason I thought this story was important was that gold and dark-colored fibers were found under the fingernails of one of the girls and one of the boys in the group I discussed earlier had dark slicked-back hair and played football for DeLasalle High School.

I truly don’t believe that any of the boys had any intention of setting out to kill the girls that night.  In fact, I still don’t believe they are primarily responsible for the girls’ deaths, but I believe they may have been unwitting accomplices of convicted child killer Charles Leroy Melquist.  You can read more about Melquist in another article that I had written about his possible involvement.

We are truly hoping that someone out there knows something and may be able to crack this case wide open.  Even though 66 years have gone by, the girls still have family members who are looking for closure and we know that someone out there knows someone who knows something.

Read my other article on convicted child killer Charles Melquist