German Church Road Investigation

Date: August 8, 1992

Location: German Church Road, just east of County Line Road, Burr Ridge, Illinois 60527

History: German Church Road was named after the Trinity Lutheran Church that served the original German immigrants in the area.  It became known locally in 1957 as the place where the bodies of Barbara and Patricia Grimes were found.  The case of the Grimes sister’s murders is a classic example of the unsolved child murders that still plague the Chicagoland area especially each spring.

The victims are seemingly chosen for their fair hair coloring, blue eyes and very young age.  According to some, it would seem that someone perhaps used the girl’s deaths in order to enhance their own psychic powers by stealing the psychic energy of the old Indian trail, Archer Avenue .

Barbara and Patricia Grimes, 15 and 13 years of age, respectively had left home about 7:30 p.m. December 26, 1956 for the Brighton Theater at 4223 Archer Avenue to see an Elvis Presley movie, “Love Me Tender.”  The girls never stayed out past midnight so Mrs. Loretta Grimes was frantic around 2:15 a.m. when she telephoned the Brighton Park police station to report that her teenage daughters had not returned home yet.

Barbara, 15, was five feet tall and weighed around 100 pounds.  She had brown eyes and hair, a fair complexion and was last seen wearing a gray tweed shirt, a yellow blouse, a gray three-quarter-length coat, gray babushka, white bobby socks and black ballerina shoes.

Patricia, 13, was five feet three inches and weighed 108 pounds.  She also had brown eyes with dark brown hair and a fair complexion.  She wore blue jeans, a yellow sweater, white babushka, white bobby socks and black ballerina slippers.

The days dragged on with several leads and eyewitnesses all which lead to dead-ends.  The girls only had $2.15 between them and a happy home life.  There was no reason for them to run away from home.  Almost two weeks had now past and the police were exhausting their leads.  They began to circulate flyers about the girls hoping that someone had seen them to bring this disappearance to a happy ending.

However that was not to be.  On January 23, 1957, nearly a month after the disappearances, a passing motorist, Leonard Prescott of Hinsdale , Illinois was driving on German Church Road when he noticed something unusual in a culvert by Devil’s Creek, a small tributary of the Des Plaines River .  He stopped and looked down in the culvert and approximately thirty feet above Devil’s Creek he saw what looked like two nude bodies.  He assumed they were discarded clothing-store dummies.

He drove home and told his wife who insisted they go back to the scene to make sure of what he saw.  They both made the grisly discovery of the Grimes sisters, unceremoniously thrown into a ditch.  They immediately called the Bedford Park police station.  The searching was over. The bodies were positively identified by the estranged husband of Loretta Grimes.

There were some suspects including a Walter Krantz who had made an anonymous phone call days earlier saying that he had seen two nude bodies in Santa Fe park.  When questioned by the police he said that psychic powers ran in his family and that he had seen them in his mind’s eye.

Then there was Edward “Bennie” Bedwell who was a skid row derelict and admitted that he had made a tour of skid row with some girls but denied that they were the Grimes sisters.  Other witnesses did however place Bedwell and another man with both of the sisters on West Madison Street .  Under constant questioning, Bedwell finally admitted that he had been with the sisters one night but that they had left him and his companion, a man known only as Frank.

Bennie Bedwell was a native of Paris , Tennessee and had at one time been acquainted with Elvis Presley.  Bedwell was 21 at the time of the murders and had only attended the first grade.  His parents had divorced in 1937 and his mother came to Chicago in 1940.  He worked as a dishwasher but had held other jobs including one at Ajax Consolidated Company in Cicero , Illinois .  Records at Ajax indicated that Bedwell was working there at the times of the abductions of the sisters.  Then suddenly he said he was ready to confess to his part in the murders of the Grimes sisters!

His first meeting of the girls was on January 7th in Harold’s Club on West Madison Street and they were with this stranger known as Frank.  After refusing to serve the girls liquor, they went to another bar on Madison Street where they had several drinks.  Next they frequented yet another tavern at Madison and Loomis where the bartender told them that they had had too much to drink already.  All four of them wound up at the D & L Restaurant.

After another bar stop they allegedly paired off in separate rooms at the Crest Hotel.  Bedwell claimed to have sleep with Patricia.  Throughout the next several days they spent time at bars and various flophouses.

On Sunday, January 13th, the four went to a bar on Madison Street .  Frank left the group and returned with a car in which he proposed a ride and they all agreed.  They drove southwest, stopped a gas station to use the washroom and later stopped at a restaurant on Harlem Avenue where they had hot dogs.  They ended up in the Forest Preserve where they drank more beer.  While attempting to force themselves on the two girls, two separate struggles broke out.  Bedwell claimed to have hit Patricia harder than he had wanted and she lost consciousness.

The same apparently happened to Barbara in the front seat.  They then decided to get rid of the sisters.  They undressed the two and dumped their bodies along German Church Road near Devil’s Creek.  They were not sure if the girls were alive or not.   The confession was then signed and Bedwell was held without bail and charged with murder.

The police then launched a search for the mysterious stranger, Frank.  After a description was circulated, a newspaper reporter found him in the Bridewell, the Chicago city jail.  He had been sentenced to 30 days because he couldn’t pay a $50 fine for drunkenness.  His real name was William Cole Willingham.  He admitted that he had been with the girls and Bedwell on a skid row tour but nothing else had happened.

The police thought they had the case all wrapped up.  However, later toxicology reports from Walter Camp indicated that the sisters had died within four to six hours after having finished dinner at 7:30 PM on December 28th!

When Bedwell took the stand he testified that he had been forced to sign the confession under duress.  He was released on $20,000 bail fronted by a downstate bondsman.  On March 4, 1957, State’s Attorney Adamowski announced that charges against Bennie Bedwell had been dismissed!  Deputies began their investigation again with renewed vigor.

A few days later sheriff’s deputies found an abandoned shack about a half-mile from German Church Road .  On a crossbeam on the inside written with a lipstick was, “HELP - P & B - HELP.”  Handwriting analysis later determined that either sister didn’t write the scrawl.  Authorities decided that it was most likely a hoax.

Today the case is still considered unsolved but not unsolvable.  Some 39 years after the murders of the Schuessler-Peterson, a suspect was arrested and convicted of the crimes.  The murders at German Church Road have a lot of similarities.  All the victims were beaten, nude, killed elsewhere and dumped in remote wooded areas.  And both of the locations have since become haunted.

The bodies were discovered on the Werner property.  A mailbox with the name Werner was still visible for some time, although they moved away from the property in 1957.  Mrs. Werner became so distraught that she had to be institutionalized for a period.  Local legends soon corrupted about the Grimes girls’ house, a place where time stood still in 1957, including an old car in the garage and a calendar on the wall from 1957.  Vandals have hit the house a number of times over the years and electronic devices were installed to warn the Cook County Police whenever anyone was trespassing on the property.  Today however, a new subdivision, Bridal Path, has been built directly on the site of the old Werner house and close to where the bodies were found.

In 2007 the first book of its kind was written by local author Tamara Shaffer entitled Murder Gone Cold. It was published by the Ghost Research Society Press some fifty years after the discovery of the bodies in 1957. It was our hope that someone, still alive today, would come forward with some information about this gruesome crime, give police a lead so that they could finally catch the killer(s) and give the family some peace and closure.










Hauntings: A real ghost has been seen on German Church Road near the guardrails that mark the location where the bodies were found.  In fact it is a ghostly reenactment of the dumping of the bodies.  For those people living nearby it’s been a common occurrence to hear the sounds of a car screeching to a halt in front of the guardrails in the dead of night.  They hear the car open its doors, something landing in the weeds, the doors shut and then the car peeling away.

On several occasions a car was visible as well as the ghostly sounds and a local resident called the Cook County Police and stated that she had seen a grisly apparition.  Although the vision was hazy and not perfect, she saw what appeared to be a car looking like a black sedan unloading two nude bodies over the side of the guardrails before disappearing.  And on rare occasions both the sights and sounds are experienced. 

In 1982, Jim and Debbie Serpico, a suburban couple, and a group of their friends parked their cars at a nearby church lot and took a Halloween walking tour of the grounds before the house burned, just for fun. Stepping over the barricade, they headed up the driveway toward the house, with only the moon lighting their way. Just as they were debating whether to go inside, they heard a car approach—a dark car with no headlights—that sped past them and disappeared behind the house. Not sure if someone had reported them to police, as locals often did when people visited the grounds, the group opted for a hasty exit. They reached the road only to find the barricade still in place and a policeman parked nearby, who assured them he had seen no car. This is only one of many similar episodes associated with Devil’s Creek and the surrounding property over the years.



The Ghost Research Society investigated German Church Road on August 8, 1992. Team members included: Howard Heim, Bill & Rochelle Zaszczurynski, Thomas Baker, Teresa Spano, Fran and Lisa Pizano and Dale Kaczmarek  









Equipment setup: There was no equipment setup as this early investigation, our group did not have the kind of equipment that we do have today. Cassette tape recorders and 35mm cameras were used.

Experiments performed: We explored the area and the foundation of the old Werner house. This was long before the current housing project, Bridal Path was built. The stone foundation and cellar was all that was left of this building, as it had been torched many years ago by arsonists. There were some interesting occult-type symbols spray-painted on the foundation and research did not indicate any known symbol or translation. The group also walked around the actual site where the bodies had been dumped near Devil's Creek.

Personal experiences: No one from the group experienced anything out of the ordinary. In fact, it was a peaceful location on a bright summer day. Looking at the area that afternoon, one would never guess that a very gruesome crime had been committed some thirty-five years ago.

Evidence collected: No evidence was collected during this investigation. The group took a number of pictures which came out perfectly normal.

Conclusions: While this area was once a site of a horrendous crime, today it is tranquil and peaceful. Even the reports of phantom cars and sounds have decreased and almost completely stopped in recent years. This might be due to the building of the new sub-division, Bridal Path. In most haunted locations, changes in the environment, structural change or a complete tear-down of a location, often replacing it with something quite different has stirred up the ghost. In this case however the building of Bridal Path has acted like a bandage or healing effect by not dwelling on the past but going forward with the future. This construction and the sheer length of time since the murders may eventually cause a complete cessation of the haunting phenomena witnessed in years gone by. We can all only hope!

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