Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Murder of Valerie Percy

The Malchow Saga

Frederick Malchow
Frederick Malchow

Before he died, Malchow "steadfastly" denied involvement in the case in his Pennsylvania jailhouse interview with the FBI, according to the O'Brien-Baumann book.

But a cellmate reportedly tipped authorities that Malchow was wringing his hands over a pair of pants at his home that were stained with blood—by implication, Valerie Percy's blood.

According to an often-repeated detail, authorities tracked down the pants but were unable to confirm whether the blood was human or animal—which seems absurd, even for 1967 crime forensics.

In 1970, a cellmate from the Pennsylvania jail stepped forward to claim that Malchow had confessed to him.

The inmate, Jimmy Evans, 24, reportedly said, "Freddie didn't mean to stab her, but she kept rising up, and Freddie kept pushing her down on the bed. With one hand, he pushed her down, and with the other hand, in which he held a knife, he stabbed her."

Press reports said Evans passed a lie-detector test.

The sources of information and their motivations—the reward, freedom from jail, grudges—highlight the frustration of trying to discern fact from fiction in the Malchow saga.

And then there is the story of his demise, which is nearly as mysterious as the murder in which he was implicated.           

After the Percy homicide, the FBI had zeroed in any number of high-end housebreaking gangs as possible suspects. Hohimer, Malchow and others were interviewed in 1966 and '67 but apparently were not taken seriously as suspects, because their names did not surface until six years later in the Sun-Times.

The FBI questioned Malchow after he was arrested for a home invasion and rape in the late spring of 1967 in Norristown, Penn., outside Philadelphia.

Details are sketchy, but at some point after the interview, Malchow and Jimmy Evans broke away from police custody while wearing handcuffs. They managed to find a hacksaw to free their hands. They apparently holed up for a time in a hotel basement, and a shot was fired at them as they fled.

While on the run, Malchow was crossing a railroad trestle over the Schuylkill River when he jumped or was pushed. The water was shallow and the river bottom rocky, and he died in the fall. By some accounts, he died as police were closing in. But a local newspaper clip reported that his corpse was found two days after the fall.

According to Malchow's family, the body was quickly cremated and the remains shipped to a bogus address in Chicago. After relatives inquired, the ashes were located and shipped two weeks later to Buffalo, where they were interred at Forest Lawn Cemetery.

In interviews with Crime Library, members of Malchow's family questioned why he remains a suspect in the case.

His niece, Christine Avino of Buffalo, said she was perplexed that finger- and palmprint evidence has not been used to either implicate or clear her uncle and Frank Hohimer. Prints of each man were available for comparison, and law enforcers say they had a good fingerprint and several palm prints from the crime scene.

"I believe that my Uncle Fred Malchow did not commit the murder but was framed for the murder, and that my uncle was murdered and his body disposed of as quickly as possible," Avino wrote in an e-mail. "However, I would like to see the true person who committed the murder to be found, even if it was my Uncle Fred Malchow."

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