This one happened about a mile from where I grew up. Victim was the daughter of a future senator (Chuck Percy) who was elected not much more than a month later and served three terms. She was beaten and stabbed, brutally, at 5 a.m. on a Sunday. An army of investigators couldn't figure out who did it or why.
I haven't read the book (nor have I heard of it) but I know a lot of Illinois voters supported Percy, when the otherwise might not have, out of sympathy. I grew up in Illinois and I recall my parents having some friends over for dinner and I heard them talking about the upcoming election. One of the guests said he would vote for Percy because he felt Percy needs support after the tragedy. I think everyone had great sympathy for the Percy family after Valerie was murdered, but I still don't think that's the right reason to vote for someone. The only legit reason to vote for someone is because his or her positions on the issues comes closest to matching your own than anyone else running for that office. Anyway, Percy won by a landslide. I don't even remember now who his opponent was, or how the candidates were doing in the polls prior to the murder, but I'm sure the landslide reflected the prevailing sentiment of public sympathy. It's very common. In a strange way, I think it was a similar factor in the 1964 presidential election. In 1960, Kennedy beat Nixon by a squeak; many believe Kennedy really didn't win all the states he got--they believe Joe Kennedy paid off various politicians to swing some precincts in their states to his son to make him president. In any case, it was about as close as the 2000 election was. But in 1964, a year after LBJ became president following the JFK assassination, LBJ won by a landslide. His opponent, Barry Goldwater, had been quite popular. But after Kennedy's assassination, Johnson assumed the face of the American people grieving for their fallen president--even those formerly opposed to Kennedy. After his death, though, people across the board were overcome with guilt for having any unkind thoughts about JFK, and were devastated with sympathy for the handsome, charismatic young father and his beautiful widow and two very young fatherless children. Johnson stepped into office and he and Lady Bird were so warm and kind to Mrs. Kennedy, and showed such sorrow and respect for the dead president, with Johnson naming everything under the sun after JFK, people were moved to almost worshipping Johnson. All the guilt and grief were transformed into love for LBJ, resulting in the landslide. Sadly for LBJ, he embroiled himself deeply in the morass the Vietnam War became, and the tide of love turned to one of anger and hostility for LBJ. 4 years had given the public enough time to be less impacted by Kennedy grief, people finding themselves viewing LBJ in a far harsher light. I think it was another example of the same phenomenon with George Bush after 9-11. People were so overcome with grief and outrage, they expressed it by throwing public support behind GWB just because he was president at that moment, even though he really didn't do anything, except publicly denounce those behind the attack, as if that was anything novel or courageous. Regardless, GWB's approval rating soared to nearly 90% in the months immediately following the attacks. It didn't really last though because it wasn't a true reflection of the majority's regard for great leadership; it was an artificial sentiment coming out of powerful emotions in the midst of highly unusual world events.
Very true. Of course, after the missle crisis, it is said that the Democrats successfully painted Goldwater as the one who might end all life on the planet, and the impact and immediacy of JFK's assassinatin were greatly impacted by TV and the killing of the first TV president. As the book is also about what was going on politically, becasuse Percy was a candidate, there are memories and information on the elections you speak of, the war, and of Percy's first campiagn, which was in '64 (same year as Goldwater vs. LBJ.) Despite the fact that the GOP was trounced that year, and Percy started that campaign as an unknown, he did surprisingly well. So despite the fact that there was a Sympathy Vote in '66, he was very well liked, even by the editors of papers like the Sun-Times. The murder was only five weeks before election day. I'm not certain polling back in those days was able to accurately reflect the impact of such an event (murder, under unusual circ of candidate's daughter) late in a campaign. There are opinions and memories in the book that Percy would have won anyway, and that he had been in the lead in some polls before the murder.
Edited by 71sportstourer, 16 November 2013 - 01:22 PM.
I wonder how thorough investigators checked the neighbors and those associated with the family and the neighbors because it sounds like the perp might have known which bedroom was hers and it makes me wonder how he'd come by that knowledge.
It sounds like the perp definitely knew of her...
It really is amazing that they didn't get closer to finding who the murderer was. In this article they say that they did find a fingerprint and a palm print in blood and several other items. Funny, that they mention to individuals who were strong suspects and yet they never address the fact they were supposed to have had a prints. Did they match or did they not ? With none of the "evidence" being directly linked to the suspects, it does seem to me that they "needed" to produce a suspect and did just that. I wonder if any of the other items they found at the home were preserved ?
I lived in the Chicago suburbs in 1978 and I can remember this case even then being back in the news constantly. I understand this is going to be a book. It will certainly be an interesting one.
Here's the blurb: A dark morning. Waves on Lake Michigan. An elegant home on the beach, and a senatorial candidate who would one day be considered presidential material at home with his close knit family in one of Chicago's quietest, most elegant suburbs. This is the unlikely setting for the most notorious, baffling, and horrific cold case murder of the 1960s, which –along with its investigation– made headlines nationwide for years. Valerie Percy...pretty, smart, destined for greatness at just 22 years old, a key aide and campaigner for her father, Charles Percy...violently beaten and stabbed to death in her bedroom by a knife-wielding intruder. The only witness - her stepmother. No sexual assault. Nothing taken. No rational explanation. As inexplicable as the Manson murders that would occur in the Hollywood Hills a few years later. The killer escaped to a beach and disappeared into thin air, never to be found. Percy went on to become a long serving Senator from the state of Illinois. His late daughter’s twin became the First Lady of West Virginia, married to West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller. Glenn Wall revisits the long cold case. Talking to cops, both retired and current, reporters, friends and Percy’s former aides. And explores the players, the place, and posits a compelling theory of who did it - a violent, disturbed individual who was raised within walking distance of Percy's home, and ultimately died at the hands of his own family. This is one of the midwest’s most enduring cold cases. And it is riveting reading.
There's no reason to suspect Thoresen for the Percy murder except:
1. His family home was a block and a half from Percy's house
2. His family home stood almost directly between Percy's home and another house (Pirruccello) cops believe was broken into by the same offender 24 hrs. prior.
3. The murder weapon was a WWII era bayonet, and detectives that investigated thousands of murders in their time couldn't think of one other case in which a civilian was murdered with a bayonet.
4. Thoresen's wife was arrested at JFK less than 3 months after the Percy murder while trying to transport 4 bayonets manufactured between 1942-44.
5. The doctor who saw the crime scene said whoever committed the Percy murder was "some deranged person," which describes Thoresen to a T.
6. The crime was committed at 5 a.m. Thoresen's neighbor told the FBI that Thoresen was very weird and slept all day and was up all night.
7. Thoresen's description (6 ft. 1 in., dark hair, medium build) matches Mrs. Percy's eyewitness description. She said he was 5 ft. 8, 180, with dark hair. (When seen "leaning over the bed" at a distance of about ten feet, that would make a difference of 5-6 inches.)
8. Smashing his way into Percy's home and going ballistic on someone with no apparent connection to the killer and being seen at the scene of the crime was a reckless, senseless act. Thorsen's police record is full of senseless, reckless acts.
9. Thoresen had a long history of being in area homes without permission.
10. Thoresen was a suspect in the case and refused to discuss it with the FBI.
11. In a letter written by Thoresen's brother to Thoresen, the brother asks "why do you keep returning to Kenilworth and causing trouble?"
12. Percy's daughter was bludgeoned. Thoresen's wife said he admitted to bludgeoning one of his other victims.
13. Thoresen's wife wrote a detailed memoir of life with her husband. In it, the whereabouts of her husband at the time of the Percy murder and two prior home invasions to which the offender was linked are not accounted for.
14. The home invasion the day before, which police said was committed by the same offender, was committed by someone who pulled himself up from a gutter and up to a balcony. Such an act would require significant strength. A Kenilworth cop who arrested Thoresen numerous times recalls Thoresen as remarkably strong.
15. The glove found outside of Percy's home was linked to the crime via fiber evidence. Detectives who worked the case said the glove was not a type commonly worn by burglars and home invaders known to work the area, and from Chicago. As a woolen, winter glove it suggests an amateur, if not local. Thoresen was certainly no pro criminal, and definitely had a local connection.
16. Nothing was taken from Percy's home. Thoresen was rich. He had no need to steal and committed crimes for the thrill and challenge of it.