Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Murder of Valerie Percy

No Ordinary Investigation

Richard Nixon attended Valerie's funeral, and J. Edgar Hoover took a personal interest in bringing the murderer to justice. A battalion of federal, state and city investigators were assigned to help the Kenilworth police solve the case.

Kenilworth Police sign
Kenilworth Police sign

Detectives looked for spurned lovers, jealous boyfriends, or resentful romantic third wheels. They found none. Immediate family members were questioned and judged to be beyond suspicion. The family's two servants, Frederick Millington and Henry Witting, were scrutinized but cleared.

Detectives pored over clues from other break-ins in wealthy Chicago suburbs, and city cops leaned hard on Chicago mobsters and housebreaking crews for leads. The FBI looked into Charles Percy's political opponents and business relationships. Friends and acquaintances were interrogated as well.

Law enforcers chased thousands of tips. Ultimately, it was all to no avail. No charges were brought.

Thirty-eight years later, the homicide that True Detective magazine once dubbed "America's No. 1 Murder Mystery" is still unsolved.

Today, the crime is also largely forgotten, mentioned in the Chicago newspapers only on the obit page when a crime reporter or cop who worked on the case dies.

Recently, comeuppance for Valerie Percy's killer has been advocated by an active Internet discussion group led by a police lieutenant from Maryville, Tenn. Group members have collected a vast archive of material about the crime, including newspaper clips, biographies and witness lists.

One participant, Peggy Lakin, 51, a writer from Pennsylvania, told Crime Library she is motivated by a sense that justice has not been done.

"I do believe it's important for those who commit violent crimes to realize that there are people who will not let it go, and they will never truly be free," Lakin said.

Two other participants in the group are relatives of Fred Malchow, a dead career criminal from Buffalo who was long ago accused in the Percy murder but was never officially named by law enforcers as the perpetrator.

The man's relatives, including his brother and a son, spoke out about the case for the first time, telling Crime Library they would like to see justice for Valerie Percy—and for Fred Malchow.


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