It is one of the Chicagoland area’s most enduring mysteries: the 1966 murder of 21-year-old Valerie Percy.
Percy was stabbed and bludgeoned to death in her family’s Kenilworth home, in the waning weeks of her father Charles Percy’s successful bid for U.S. Senate. The crime was never solved.
Fifty years later, Kenilworth refuses to open the case files, insisting that the case is still a very active investigation. And now, the leafy North Shore suburb is the target of a lawsuit filed by New York attorney John Kelly, demanding that police open the books on a crime which has haunted Chicago for five decades.
“We don’t even believe there is a pending investigation,” says Matt Topic of the Chicago law firm Loevy and Loevy, which represents Kelly in the Cook County case. “At least, they haven’t shown that there is a pending investigation.”
At one time, the case occupied the public consciousness in Chicago like no other. On the night of September 18, 1966, someone cut a hole in a French door of the Percy’s Kenilworth mansion, and worked his way upstairs where Valerie Percy was asleep near her parents second floor bedroom.
Percy’s second wife Lorraine said she heard moans down the hall, and when she stepped into the bedroom, she encountered the killer standing over Valerie’s bed. Percy said she was blinded by the light of the intruder’s flashlight, and that while she ran to summon help, the man escaped.
Percy went on to serve 18 years in the United States Senate. He died in 2011, never knowing the truth about his daughter’s murder.
“It’s unsolved,” says Topic. “But just because it’s unsolved, doesn’t mean that it’s really being actively investigated any more.”
In court documents, Kenilworth insists the case is an “ongoing investigation”, and that the case files in question constitute some 20,000 pages of reports, crime scene photos, witness statements, tips, and interviews.
“The investigation into Ms. Percy’s murder is ongoing and currently active,” attorneys for the Police Department wrote. “Release of any portion of the Investigation File would obstruct and jeopardize that investigation.”
Topic disagrees, and disputes that there is any active investigation.
“Are there individual things that maybe should be withheld? We grant that maybe there are some things that could,” he said. “But to withhold the entirety of the file is just completely not what the law allows.”
A hearing on the case is set for September 7th in Cook County Circuit Court.
“The vast majority of this information should be released,” Topic said. “If law enforcement is allowed to withhold the entirety of their files even 50 years after a crime has occurred simply because it hasn’t been solved yet, it really interferes with the ability to monitor law enforcement, and hold law enforcement accountable.”
City officials and attorneys for the Village of Kenilworth did not respond to inquiries for comment on the lawsuit.