Patricia "Patty" Columbo
On May 7, 1976 Elk Grove Illinois police went to the home of Frank Columbo to tell him that his vehicle, had been found abandoned in a bad area of town. When the officer got to the door he noticed that there was a pile of newspapers on the step and the door was open. As he opened it further he saw the body of Frank Columbo laying inside on the floor and back up was immediately called.
Ultimately as officers arrived on the scene and examined the home they would be faced with an extremely brutal crime scene. They would find three bodies in which had not just been shot, but beaten, stabbed and tortured. The bodies would belong to forty-three year old Frank Columbo, his forty-one year old wife, Mary and their thirteen year old son, Michael. The only surviving member of the family was the Columbo's almost twenty year old daughter who no longer lived in the family home.
Medical examinations and apparently evidence would find that the murders had actually occurred on May 4th, a full three days before the bodies had been found. Frank had been shot four times in the head apparently just inside the front door and near the step leading to the upstairs. He had also been beaten with a bowling trophy (some reports say it was still stuck in his body) and a lamp. He had been stabbed multiple times in the throat and chest and his body even had fresh cigarette burns on it. Mary had been found crouching in the bathroom. She had been shot once between the eyes; her throat had been cut from ear to ear and she had been beaten with a glass vase. In his bedroom was thirteen year old Michael. Some reports say that he too had been shot at least once, theories were that he had been stood out of his bed first, others say it appears he was sleeping through it all. But, Michael had been stabbed nearly (some say over) 80 times with what was described as sewing scissors.
It seems that not long after the discovery officers had found Patty Columbo and had taken her to the station in order to inform her of the deaths. Investigators would later say that her behavior seemed to tell them right away something was not right. Patty did not seem overly emotional at hearing that her family had been all but slaughtered and when they were technically done with her instead of rushing to the crime scene she had stayed giving the police theories of motives and suspects. It seemed her biggest one to throw out was that this was a "mob hit." Knowing that something did not feel right it was said the police actually had a young detective at the funeral to act as a decoy or what not as such. It was reported that many, who did not know Patty's boyfriend, Frank DeLuca, but had heard plenty about him assumed the young detective was DeLuca because of the way Patty flirted and acted with him. It was described that Patty seemed to be able to turn her emotions on and off at the funeral like a faucet and sometimes seemed to be "over acting" her grief.
Although investigators felt something was off with her story, most say Patty was not a suspect in the very beginning but that soon changed. Seeing as there were no leads in the case a reward was offered. Police had gotten no where with the neighbors and community in helping them either. It was reported that the neighborhood was a fairly high class suburb and neighbors did not want to be drug into the drama per se. In a normal situation you would see a crowd of people milling around the area, but not here. The neighbors here closed their blinds, locked their doors, avoided the media and did their best to not help the police. But, hearing that there was a reward someone I only found to be described as "a friend" contacted the police and sent them to speak with two men who had discussing killing Patty's family with her. This led investigators to a man named Lanyon Mitchell. He admitted that Patty had solicited him, using sex, and money, to kill her family. Apparently he still had the map of the home she had given him as well as pictures of the family. It was discovered that this had happened (or apparently began) sometime in the late summer of 1975. Mitchell had seemingly led Patty to believe it would be done but ultimately ran off with any money she gave him and did not follow through with her plan. With this information police believed that Patty obviously was involved, but it is uncertain as to when they knew just who was involved and how. Patty was charged with the murders on May 17, 1976, ten days after the discovery. Her boyfriend, Frank DeLuca would also be arrested that following July. In 1977 the couple would face a jury and would ultimately be convicted for the murders of the Columbo family. They would each receive 200-300 years for murder; 150 years for conspiracy to commit murder and 50 years for solicitation to commit murder. At this time Patty has been in front of the parole board a total of 16 times and been denied each time. She is up again in April of 2017 but no one expects her release. Her projected discharge date is December 4, 2116... over 100 years from now. For Frank's part, his information showed the same date for a projected discharged as well as parole, at February 28, 2117.
So how did this happen and why? Over the last 40 years I believe that studies in human behavior may cast doubt on what may have been the initial theories set by prosecutors as to exactly how and why and obviously ultimately it does not matter who was the mastermind of the crime or why they did it because the family was viciously murdered. That said it is human nature for people to want to know why.
Patty Columbo was sixteen years old when she met Frank Deluca. Frank was thirty-four years old, married and the father of five children. It seems that the relationship quickly turned into a very strange sexual one. It was said that Patty would show pictures to friends of her having sex with DeLuca's dog, let alone that they were doing things that few privileged 19 years old, especially in 1976 had even imagined. It seems it did not take long for Patty's parents to find out about the relationship and they highly disapproved. In April of 1974 Patty moved into the DeLuca house. There is question whether DeLuca's wife knew the real reason Patty was there or not. Some reports say that she was clueless and likely thought they were just helping out a young girl. It seems Patty did not stay there long though and it was said that her parents helped her financially to get an apartment of her own, but soon DeLuca was living with her. Some reports say that he made the choice to leave his wife and live with Patty while other reports say that his wife discovered the affair he was having with Patty and kicked him out. At any rate he and Patty were living in an apartment together. This of course infuriated her family more.
It was said that at some point during all of this Frank Columbo had confront Frank DeLuca about his relationship with his daughter. Columbo had taken a shot gun with him to get his point across and although he did not shoot DeLuca he did apparently use the butt of the gun to beat him with. DeLuca filed charges but later dropped them, some say at Patty's insistence.
At their trial in 1977 the prosecution proclaimed that Patty was the mastermind in having her family killed. They based this on the information they had gotten from Lanyon Mitchell from when he said Patty had tried to hire him. The prosecution portrayed Frank DeLuca as some sort of patsy of sorts who just did as Patty wanted and indicated he was less than intelligent. They believed that the motive was to get her inheritance from her family. Obviously the death of her parents would have likely ensured this but the death of her brother was to ensure she got it all and did not have to split it. The problem with that is that apparently the Columbo's had changed their Will and had disinherited Patty, obviously without her knowledge. So in reality Patty did not inherit anything from the death of her parents and would not have even if she had not been involved in their deaths. It was their belief, although I am uncertain exactly how they determined this, that DeLuca had fired the gun on the victims while Patty had done the stabbing and mutilation of the victims.
Another theory has come to light in the last forty years as I said earlier. I should point out that while I do not think it excuses Patty in any way for the role that she played what so ever, I do think this later theory seems a bit more plausible than the one presented at trial. The newer theory was that although he was a Pharmacist in 1976 and while not "rolling in the dough" DeLuca would have had a little cushion, by the time of the murders he was facing divorce, child support and possibly alimony to his wife. Some say he had proposed to Patty by the time the murders had taken place. Others have reportedly said that Patty was "obsessed" with him. It is the theory of some that DeLuca, who was twice Patty's age, was the mastermind of the crime and had been the one pushing Patty to have it done and then recruited her to help him do it himself. I find this to be quite a bit more plausible as a theory than Patty being the mastermind to murder her family. I believe she was likely "brainwashed" in a way by DeLuca by this point and she would have done anything he asked of her. That is not to say that she did not participate willingly or even in an excited way. In fact, by all accounts she had no issue participating in the killing of her family.
It was not argued that Frank Columbo was a strict, Italian parent. It has been said that Patty was the "apple of her father's eye" right up until she was about 6 years old and Michael was born. Although it seems that she was still taken care of well and loved some say it was obvious that Frank's life was now about his male heir. It has been theorized that this may have been why Michael was stabbed so many times, that it was Patty's rage and jealousy towards him. Many believe that Frank DeLuca, who apparently had a reputation of seducing young women, found an easy target in Patty. She was a rebellious teenager when they met; he was a much older man. To her, he was likely "worldly" and knew everything. Her already strict father, who she was having issues with, rightly disapproved but not in the eyes of his at first 16 year old daughter. It is said that she likely continued her strange relationship with DeLuca not just because of his seduction or manipulation but she saw him as a way out of her parents' home.
As they went on to serve their sentences it seems DeLuca has done so fairly quietly. Patty on the other had her fair share of more drama, at least in the early years. In 1979 it was discovered that she assisted in organizing sex orgies involving prison guards and even the warden at her prison in Dwight Illinois. The warden and several other high ranking officials were forced to resign. Patty became the first female inmate in Illnois to obtain their bachelors degree while in prison. She is now a model prisoner who tutors illiterate criminals. She is also the longest serving female prisoner.
There are some who believe the theory in which it was Frank DeLuca that was the mastermind, that Patty should be paroled at some point. While I also believe this theory I do not believe that she has rehabilitated. By most accounts it has not been until the last two or three years that she appears to have taken any responsibility for her actions or would even speak of them. Many say she still shows no remorse for what happened on that May night in 1976 or accountability. To add to this the woman has been in prison since she was 20 years old... she's now 60. How would she function other than a drain on society? I read a report that said there is a cousin in which has advocated for her release but most other family members still fight to keep her in prison, although I would gander to guess many of those who were alive in 1976 are no longer alive now and the longer time goes on, the less there will be.
No... both Patty Columbo and Frank DeLuca are where they need to be.