Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Murder of Valerie Percy

Zsa-Zsa's Jewels

Fred Malchow married young and had three sons. Two still live in the Buffalo area, and the third died not long ago. He abandoned his family, although he would pop in now and then and try to win the favor of his sons with gifts of cash. (He later took up with a Chicago woman, Edna, and had a daughter they named Kathy.)

Fred Malchow's son David, 55, a Buffalo postal worker, said he recalls vividly one of those visits in about 1963.

"I must have been 13 or 14," David Malchow said in a phone interview. "My father stopped by, and he opened a bag he was carrying. I looked inside, and it looked like a jewelry store. It was full of diamonds and jewels of every shape and color. I knew it was all stolen, and he didn't hide it. In fact, he'd brag about it."

He once boasted that he was responsible for a jewelry burglary at the home of Zsa Zsa Gabor, a crime that made front-page headlines.

Zsa Zsa Gabor
Zsa Zsa Gabor

In the Petacque/Hough stories in the Sun-Times, Frank Hohimer characterized Fred Malchow as a "psychopathic killer...He could kill six people and never be excited about it. He'd just sit down and eat a meal. Just that cold-hearted."

Crime Library asked Daniel and David Malchow whether this was an accurate portrayal of their kin.

"He was a very hardcore criminal," David Malchow said of his father. "He had no fear of anything. There's no doubt about it."

He added, however, that murder was not a part of his father's typical crime repertoire. And he notes that Fred Malchow's Chicago girlfriend, Edna, has told authorities that she was in Mississippi with Malchow on the day of the Percy murder. (Edna, too, has been lost as a witness: she died about two years ago.)

"I don't think basically he was a violent person," Daniel Malchow said of his brother. "But when you go into someone's home, that's a pretty risky thing there. Any burglar who goes into a person's home, they might have to turn violent if the person confronts them."

But was Fred Malchow capable of murder? After a long pause, Daniel Malchow chose his words carefully.

"I would say he was capable of it," he said. "He could kill anybody. He was a pretty daring person. I know I was in houses with him that he was burglarizing. He wanted to rape the woman in the bed, and I said no—'no rape. We're here to get to the diamonds.' I really hate to say it about my brother because he's dead and it's a terrible thing to admit. But he wanted to commit rapes, and I put a stop to it...It seems to me in that Percy killing, somebody got into that house for jewels, then went upstairs and saw this pretty young girl. They went for lust instead of the jewels."

Malchow emphasized that he was not indicting his brother. He said, "Whether my brother did it or not, we'll never know. I don't think there's any proof he did it."


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