The Murder of Valerie Percy
A Buffalo Orphan
Fred Malchow was born in Buffalo in 1927, the first of three children of a poor couple. Sister Mae followed in 1928 and brother Daniel, also known as Eddie, followed in 1929.
In about 1934, in the depths of the Great Depression, the Malchows turned over their three children to the German Roman Catholic Orphanage in Buffalo. The mother apparently was not interested in raising the children, members of the family say.
The boys lived at the orphanage for nearly a decade and were sent out on their own when Fred was 16 and Daniel 14.
Their father died not long after they were released from the orphanage, but their mother lived a long life, dying in the summer of 2004. Daniel Malchow, who attended her wake, said he was never close to his mother.
"It was a tough upbringing, and it probably made us tough," Daniel Malchow told the Crime Library by phone from Buffalo. "When we got out of the orphanage, we didn't have no trade or nothing. What are you going to do to support yourself?"
He said burglary came naturally to the Malchow brothers.
Daniel Malchow, now 75 years old, said, "We'd walk around a rich area, maybe try some doorknobs, and you'd find one open sooner or later. You'd go inside and take what you could. That's how it all started."
Fred Malchow served prison time in New York for rape as a young man, and he made a connection behind bars with another Buffalo housebreaker, Billy Jackson. The Malchow brothers, Jackson and a handful of others from western New York formed a loosely based home-invasion gang that soon went national, moving its base to Chicago, where it operated with the blessing of the Windy City's crime syndicate.
"These were professional criminals," Daniel Malchow said. "And they made a very good living—always driving new cars, staying in the richest hotels. They'd throw a shirt away and buy a new one rather than wash it."
He continued, "They were always on the move, gypsy burglars. They did the same thing that John Dillinger did. He roamed the country robbing banks. They roamed the country stealing jewels from the best houses."
They returned to Chicago after each heist to sell their goods at top dollar to a mob-connected fence.
"My brother was what you'd call a cat burglar. There are hundreds of cities in the United States, and every one of them has its nice areas," Malchow said. "That's where he'd go, the nice areas, and he had a knack for picking out the really good houses. He'd get inside, go upstairs and find the diamonds and jewels. And they all had 'em. These people can buy a $20,000 diamond like you and I can buy an ice cream cone."