In court Wednesday, an attorney representing the Village of Kenilworth made a stunning revelation: much of what has been popularly reported on the 50-year-old Valerie Percy murder case, is wrong.
The 1966 Percy murder is one of the Chicagoland area’s most enduring mysteries. The 21 year old daughter of millionaire and soon-to-be-senator Charles Percy was stabbed and bludgeoned to death in her family’s Kenilworth home, in the waning weeks of her father’s campaign. 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. Wednesday’s hearing concerned a lawsuit filed by New York attorney John Kelly, demanding that police open the books on the crime which has haunted Chicago for five decades.
“Many, many of the facts in those pages are wrong,” attorney Chris Murdoch told the judge, referring to a recitation of the widely reported facts included in the plaintiff’s motion. “It’s not true what he says in the brief about the facts in this murder.”
Murdoch said Kenilworth wants to keep it that way, essentially keeping fact separated from fiction, which he argued would be cleared up if the case files were opened. That, he argued, would hamper a very active investigation. But attorney Matt Topic argued there is no evidence that such an investigation even exists.
“It’s 50 years later,” Topic told the judge. “I think we should start from the assumption that it’s not very plausible that it really is ongoing.”
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.
According to the long-accepted narrative, 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.
Charles 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.
In Wednesday’s hearing, Judge Anna Demacopoulos went out of her way to side with the public’s right to know.
“All persons are entitled to full and complete information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts and policies of those who represent them,” she said, citing the state’s Freedom of Information statute. “Access by all persons to public records promotes the transparency and accountability of public bodies at all levels of government.”
But the judge said that transparency does not come without limits.
“The people’s right to know must be balanced with the practical necessities of governing,” she said, citing the need to balance openness with the necessities of law enforcement.
Kenilworth says the files in question constitute a staggering 20,000 pages. Police chief David Miller has tendered a confidential 12 page memo to the court, outlining that evidence. The judge did not rule on the larger issues of the case, instead ordering Kenilworth’s legal team to release the memo. But she gave them permission to redact certain sections.
“I’m going to reserve any comments about what it shows, or what it means, until I’ve seen it,” Topic said after court.
The next hearing on the matter is set for October 17.