Famous Unsolved Crimes Valerie Percy Case Part 2

About a famous unsolved crime involving the murder of Valerie Percy, history of the investigation, clues, and unanswered questions.


Valerie Percy Case (1966)

Then, in 1973, the police were certain they had zeroed in on the real killer or killers in the case. It was believed they were members of what authorities called a Mafia-backed band of thieves who specialized in robbing homes of wealthy persons nationwide. Two members of the gang, 46-year-old Francis Leroy Hohimer, who was serving 30 years for armed robbery in the Iowa state penitentiary, and Frederick Malchow, a longtime buddy of Hohimer, who had died in 1967 in a plunge from a railroad trestle after breaking out of a Pennsylvania prison, were considered to have the necessary penchant for violence to have done the job. Hohimer's favorite weapon on heists was a propane blowtorch, which served both as an entry device and as a "convincer" to force reluctant victims to reveal where their valuables were hidden. Hohimer was first fingered by a fatally ill Mafia operative, Leo Rugendorf, who told Chicago Sun-Times reporter Art Petacque that Hohimer had informed him: "They'll get me for the Valerie Percy murder. The girl woke up, and I hit her on the top of the head with a pistol." Reporter Petacque, who was to share a Pulitzer Prize for his work, dug up Hohimer's brother Harold, who corroborated Rugendorf's claim, revealing his brother had said that "he had to `off' a girl." Another witness insisted that Hohimer told him two weeks before the murder that he'd cased the Percy mansion and intended to hit it.

Hohimer finally broke his silence but insisted he hadn't been in on the crime. He accused Malchow, claiming Malchow had come to his apartment on the morning of the murder in clothes soaked with blood. In 1975 Hohimer wrote a book about his years as a cat burglar, The Home Invaders, in which he admitted a number of capers--including one at Elvis Presley's Memphis mansion--but held to his version of Malchow's guilt in the Percy job.

Unanswered Questions: Authorities admit there will be no prosecution in the case because physical evidence is weak, failing to link either of the two prime suspects to the mansion. The strongest physical evidence--four palm prints--matched neither Hohimer's nor Malchow's. And what about the vicious nature of the attack, with its repeated stabbings? Such an attack is generally regarded as sexual, and hardly ever the work of professional burglars. Does it indicate that either Malchow or Hohimer was a breed apart from other cat men? Or was one of them cunning enough to disguise the attack as that of a sex maniac? Technically, at least, the failure to prosecute leaves the Percy murder unsolved.

Whom to Notify: Superintendent of Police, Kenilworth, Ill. 60043.

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