Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Murder of Valerie Percy

The Murder

In the predawn hush of a September Sunday in 1966, someone broke into a mansion on Lake Michigan outside Chicago, crept upstairs to a bedroom, and stabbed and bludgeoned a bright, pretty young woman named Valerie Jeanne Percy to death.

Valerie Percy
Valerie Percy

Percy was struck on the head and stabbed more than a dozen times. Her nightgown had been pulled up, exposing her nude torso.

Nothing was missing from the house. Jewelry and a wallet on the woman's dresser lay undisturbed, and the killer seemed to have navigated through the 17-room Tudor villa directly to the victim's bedroom.

Dr. Edward Kelliher, a crime psychiatrist in Chicago, told reporters, "The facts so far revealed indicate that the murderer knew Valerie and that he went to her home for the purpose of murdering her." He said the vicious nature of the slaying showed "the murderer wanted to attack her personally."

Everyone expected a rapid resolution to the homicide, given Valerie Percy's pedigree. She was the daughter of Charles Percy, and murder is not supposed to foul the lives of families of such stature. Chuck Percy, as everyone knew him, was a self-made Mr. America. The wunderkind businessman had been a millionaire CEO before age 30, a protégé of a president by 35, a United States senator at 47. Many believed he was destined for the White House.

Senator Chuck Percy
Senator Chuck Percy

Smart and famously hardworking, Percy had leading-man looks and a hail-fellow manner that could disarm even the most cynical curmudgeon.

He lived on a three-acre lakeside estate in Kenilworth, Ill., Chicago's safest and most exclusive suburb, with his lovely wife and five well-mannered children—twins Valerie and Sharon, 21; Roger, 19; Gail, 13, and Mark, 11.

Percy estate, overhead view
Percy estate, overhead view

Kenilworth cops were accustomed to burglaries, not murders. The tiny, mile-square city had not registered a single slaying in the 75 years since it was founded by Chicago retail magnate Joseph Sears.

And although Valerie Percy was one of 11,040 homicide victims in the United States in 1966, the investigation of her killing was different from the rest.

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