A new chapter was revealed Friday in one of Chicagoland’s most troubling unsolved cases---the 1966 murder of Sharon Percy in her family’s Kenilworth mansion. In the midst of a court fight over whether or not to open the investigative files in the case for public inspection, the victim’s twin sister filed an affidavit with the court asking that those files remain sealed.
“The murder of my sister in our family’s home was a horrible chapter in my life,” Sharon Percy Rockefeller told the court. “The thought or re-living these events for any reason other than to see the person or persons who murdered Valerie brought to justice is extremely painful to me and the members of the Percy and Rockefeller families.”
The two sisters were 21 years old the night in 1966 when Valerie was brutally stabbed and bludgeoned in her sleep. Her father Charles Percy was the millionaire chief of the Chicago audio-visual giant Bell & Howell, and the Republican nominee for United States Senate. Later that year, Percy won election to the Senate and served three terms.
New York attorney John Kelly, a former North Shore resident, is suing Kenilworth to open the files on the unsolved case. The tiny community’s police department is fighting that suit, contending that release of the information would compromise what they say is an ongoing investigation into the Percy murder.
“We would also have to release it to ABC, NBC, to the Tribune,” Village Attorney Chris Murdoch told Judge Anna Demacopolous. “Anybody and everybody will be able to read it. And one of the people who will want to read this, is the murderer.”
Attorney Matt Topic, who represents Kelly, says there is no evidence that there is any investigation at all. If there is one, he says, the Village has not provided any proof that release of the 50 year old files would compromise anything.
“I understand if they need to remove the name of a specific person that they are investigating,” Topic told the court. “But they have made very clear that they have exhausted a lot of leads in the past.”
Kenilworth is joined in resisting the records release by the Illinois State Police, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, and the Medical Examiner. While the judge has been permitted to view some records in her chambers, Topic told her he is at a disadvantage because he doesn’t have information on what exactly the village is trying to keep secret.
“We cannot fully argue against what their alleged evidence is because we have no idea what it is,” Topic said. “There’s a very strong presumption that records ought to be disclosed!”
The judge lambasted the Medical Examiner’s office for never even responding to Topic’s Freedom of Information request---suggesting in her comments that she didn’t understand why 50 year old pathology reports could possibly harm the case. She ordered the Medical Examiner’s office to produce an index of all of the records from the case within the next week, and set another hearing on the matter for early December.
Sharon Percy Rockefeller, the victim’s sister, has rarely spoken publicly about the case. In her affidavit to the court, she declared that she had every confidence that police were genuinely investigating the crime.
“I do not believe their work would benefit from the pbulication of any portion of the investigative record,” she said. “I ask the press and the plaintiff in this action allow the proper authorities to continue to investigate my sister’s murder without further outside interference.”
Topic suggested that while he and Kelly are sympathetic to the family’s wishes, a larger issue of openness in government must be recognized.
“The law recognizes that there can be privacy interests and that those are to be respected,” he said. “But it’s not an absolute rule. It depends on what the public’s interest in disclosure is.”