The Crimes of Patricia Columbo
The True Story of Illinois’ Longest-Serving Female Inmate.
A Family Is Annihilated
It was Thursday, May 6, 1976 when the maroon 1972 Thunderbird was spotted parked at 140 South Whipple in west Chicago. The officer responding to the suspicious vehicle report arrived around two o’clock and noted that the car had an Elk Grove Village sticker in the front window. There were no hubcaps, the right front window had been smashed and covered by a piece of cardboard and the ignition had been pulled. Seeing as how the car hadn’t been stripped, though, the officer believed it had been stolen by amateurs. A check, though, revealed that the car had not been reported stolen and was registered to a Frank Columbo of Elk Grove Village, a suburb 20 miles northwest from Chicago.
At one time home to farmers and German immigrants, Elk Grove Village eventually developed into a residential community. Its easy commute to O’Hare International Airport helped the population to double in the 1960s and the village itself to continue expanding with new housing, roads, schools and businesses. The growth would continue throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s and eventually Elk Grove Village would house the largest consolidated business park in North America. In 1976, Elk Grove Village was considered a safe haven from the crime that plagued cities like Chicago.
Frank Columbo was a successful auto parts salesman who had no business being in the neighborhood and so the officer attempted to phone the Columbo residence multiple times over the next hour or so, getting only the insistent beeping of a busy signal. He then transmitted the information to the Elk Grove Village Police Department.
On Friday, May 7, at roughly 4:45 p.m., an officer was dispatched to the Columbo home at 55 Brantwood to inform the occupants that their car had been found in Chicago. Upon arriving, the officer was immediately on alert seeing three days’ worth of newspapers gathered around the front porch and while the storm door was closed, it was unlocked and the front door was ajar. The officer received no response to his knocks, other than the sound of a dog barking from inside. He called for backup and while waiting, walked the perimeter of the house’s exterior, noting not only…