Chicago has its share of unsolved murders. In fact, there are many unsolved crimes in general throughout the history of Chicago. In recent years, however, advances in criminal science and forensics have helped solve some of the most notorious unsolved crimes from Chicago’s past. In recent years, for example, the Schuessler-Peterson murders, which baffled investigators for decades, was finally solved and the killer brought to justice. One case, however, remains to baffle those who touch it and that is the 1957 murder of Judith Mae Anderson.
At the time of the crime it was one of the largest criminal and murder investigations that the Chicago Police Department had ever launched. Over 1,000 police officers, detectives, scientists, doctors and divers would participate in the investigation. For weeks it was the top news story in the city and among the city newspapers until the trail ran cold and the clues dried up. Eventually over 90,000 people would be interviewed by investigators and no one was ever charged or brought to trial for this brutal and heinous crime. It remains unsolved to this day.
Judith Mae Anderson was only 15 years old on August 16, 1957. Her parents were Ralph and Ruth Anderson. She had grown up in a house filled with men and was the only daughter. She was just a few weeks from her sweet sixteen birthday and getting ready to start her junior year in high school.
August 16 was a Sunday and Judith picked up the phone and called her mother that night. It was 11:00 PM and she called to ask her mother if she could stay later at a friend’s house. The two girls were watching a movie and the extra time was to allow for the end of the movie. Her mother told her no and expected Judy to come home in about 20 minutes since that was the normal length of time for the walk home. Judith Mae Anderson would never make it home.
Eventually investigators were able to put together a bit of a timeline of the events that night:
Just after 7:30 that night Judy was seen exiting the dairy bar located on W. North Avenue. A clerk there would later tell investigators that she saw Judith enter and leave the bar four times that night. At one point she saw Judith carrying a large vase with a fluted top. It was reported that she told someone that she had plans on going on a long trip and wanted to give the vase to her mother for her birthday before she left.
Just after 11:00 PM two witnesses would come forward saying they heard what they thought was a gun shot near the home of Judy’s friend, Elena Abbatacola.
At about 11:30 PM the police get a phone call saying that someone has heard screaming near a school ground about a mile from the Anderson home.
Around that same time a woman peering out of her second floor apartment window would later claim that she heard a loud, long and “heartbreaking” cry that continued for about 10 minutes.
At midnight Judith’s father, Ralph, called the Abbatacola house but there was no answer. About half an hour later he would visit the house but no one answered the door. He then sets about searching the neighborhood for his daughter.
At 2:30 in the morning Mary Abbatacola, Elena’s mother, is awakened and answers the door. She then awakens Elena who tells them that Judith had plans to take the bus home that night instead of walking.
Nothing is found for several days and then the grisly discoveries start happening that add an extra layer of horror to this story. On the 23rd a cut down 50 gallon metal oil drum is found floating in Montrose Harbor. Inside is something out of a horror movie. A nude torso, legs, left arm, elbow and wrist are found. At first, it is not connected to Judith.
The next day another metal barrel is found floating in Montrose Harbor. Inside are more human remains and this time the remains can be identified. Inside are the head, right arm and both hands of Judith Mae Anderson. The remains are put together and examined. It is determined that Judith probably was shot four times in the head 24 to 72 hours before the remains were discovered in the harbor.
To this day there has been no one charged in this murder. Her killer could still be on the loose. The mystery remains and is deeper than ever. However, there may still be someone out there who knows something or someone who might have heard something. Perhaps the killer of Judith Mae Anderson can still be found and brought to justice.