Death of Fr. Marquardt
I was sitting at my desk eating my Subway sandwich at the Sixteenth District in Jefferson Park. It had been a slow Monday morning that day, and I was finishing up some prior case paper work when I got a phone call at 12:53 pm.
“Detective Dorian speaking.”
I was trying to answer my desk phone with my mouth still full from the last bite of my turkey sandwich.
“Phil? It’s Tommy Morton, from the Seventeenth District,” said the voice on the other line.
“What’s up Tommy? How’s it going?”
“Great Phil. Except we got a victim here at 4215 West Argyle, and we don’t have any spare detectives to come over and help us. Can you come over?” he politely asked.
“I don’t know, Tommy. I just finished my lunch and I’m not sure if I’m in the mood for any dead bodies’ right now,” I kiddingly responded.
“Can you get here quick? We could use your expertise.” He sounded too serious for my liking that day.
“Ok Tommy. I’ll be right over.”
I dusted the breadcrumbs off myself at my desk and grabbed my suit coat. I figured this was probably some alley gang-banger caught up in a drug deal gone south. We had been seeing a lot of those lately, and some of the detectives in our unit have been helping over in the Seventh District in the Englewood neighborhood on the south side of Chicago, where the drug wars and the gang member bodies keep piling up daily. I jumped into my Crown Victoria police car and sped over to the Albany Park neighborhood. With the sirens on, I was at the West Argyle address in less than ten minutes. Detective Tom Morton was anxiously awaiting my arrival at the driveway of the home. The patrolmen had already posted the crime scene tape around the house, and there was a Chicago EMT Unit and several more police cars parked in front of the crime scene.
“Hey Tommy, what do we got?” I said as we shook hands.
He was staring at my stomach as I approached him, and I was just waiting for him to make a smart-ass comment about how many Dunkin’ Donuts I must be eating.
“Hey Phil, sorry to bug you on this call. You have a little more experience on these kinds of murders than anyone in our department. “
“What kind of murder?” I innocently asked.
“Come with me downstairs.”
I followed Detective Morton inside the house and down the stairs to the basement, where there were several other patrolmen and a couple of guys from the Chicago Fire Department. I had been on the force for over twenty-five years, and I have seen more than my share of dead bodies and horrific murder scenes. I seemed to be getting the reputation of being the ‘Detective Stabler’ (Law & Order: SVU) within the district. But this one really took me by surprise, and I was sorry I had even taken the call after enjoying my foot long Subway sandwich.
In the middle of the basement, was a body of a naked old man, probably in his eighties, hanging from his neck by a rope tied up from the rafters. He had several stab wounds across his torso, and his neck had been slit open. His hands were tied together, and his genitals had been cut off and mutilated. The old man’s eyes had been gauged out and bleeding. A sharp, long broomstick was impaled into his body, and crammed inside of him from behind. Judging from all the blood and the position of the body, it looked as though he had been killed first before being hung up and filleted like a porterhouse steak.
There was pool of blood everywhere around the body, but there was one thing left under his feet that really made me raise my eyebrows. Beneath the victim, next to all the blood, was a long-stemmed red rose.
Tommy kept shaking his head, as I kept staring at the dead corpse in total amazement.
“Nobody kills like this anymore,” observed Detective Morton.
I continued to study the victim, trying to process the whole murder scene. I hadn’t seen a murder like this since that dead body we found over at the Admiral Theater on West Lawrence ten years ago. That victim turned out to be the strip club owner, who was all ‘mobbed up’, and there wasn’t any doubt that it was a Mafia hit. But this murder was different. The killer was definitely very angry with his victim and made an extra effort to take out every ounce of his anger, using a knife into the victim’s body. The killer was also trying to make a statement.
“Who is this guy?” I asked Detective Morton.
“His name is John Marquardt; he’s 79 years old. According to the neighbors, he was the nicest old man on the block. Helped all the neighborhood ladies shovel their snow with his snow blower every winter. Always planted beautiful tulips and flowers in and around his house and passed out candy to all the neighborhood kids. Nobody has anything bad to say about him, and everyone on the street is in shock,” he explained.
I continued to stare at the hanging dead body, still dripping blood onto the basement floor.
“Who called this in?” I asked.
“The Polish cleaning lady came in here this morning and found him like this. The guy apparently lives alone, and it looks like he’s been dead for several hours. We put the time of death somewhere around midnight.”
I kept staring at the body, then walked around the basement, looking for any obvious clues. Morton was looking around with me as he asked, “What do you think about the red rose, Phil?”
“It’s interesting,” I thought out loud, “definitely Murder 101.”
He looked at me with that dumb look on his face that most of the detectives from his district usually have. The detectives over at the Seventeenth District weren’t the sharpest pencils in the box.
“Tommy, the murderer left a calling card,” I explained. “Are there any rose bushes around the house?”
“Nope. The old man planted every other flower that you can think of. He obviously loved flowers, but for some reason, no roses. “
“Interesting,” I mumbled again.
I thought that it was odd that the murderer would go out of his way to plant a red rose next to the victim’s body. But why? He obviously was trying to say something. This homicide had a lot of symbolism. Some psychotic murderers get off on trying to make a valiant statement when they kill. Some use objects, some leave the murder weapon, and others leave notes. But a red, long stemmed rose? I kept turning it my head over and over. A red rose is the symbol of love, of romance, and of deep spirituality. In early Christian times, it became associated with the virtue of the Virgin Mary.
But what does that have to do with a 79-year old man who helped old ladies and passed out candy to little kids? Something was going on here, I was just having a hard time putting my finger on it. Why did the killer bother to hang his victim? Why the mutilated genitals and the impalement? Why didn’t the murderer just simply cut his victim’s throat and be done with it?
There were too many unanswered questions, and it was obvious that the murderer had more than just anger issues.
“Has CSI gotten here to lift any prints yet?” I was referring to the Crime Scene Investigation Unit, who usually show up to take prints and pictures.
“They just got here. So far, it looks as though everything was wiped clean,” replied Morton.
“Looks like this guy is a professional. Maybe this was a mob hit?” asked another patrolman.
“Yes, except why would the Mafia be putting a hit on a 79-year-old man who loved to plant flowers?” I asked. It just didn’t make any damn sense.
“Anything else we know about this old man?” I asked Tommy.
“We called it in. This guy used to work for the Archdiocese of Chicago.”
“The Archdiocese of Chicago? Really?” I was surprised, for some odd reason.
“Apparently, he was in the administration office for a long time. He was an ex-priest for many years prior to that.”
“An ex-priest? Who the hell would want to kill an old, ex-priest?” I asked.
“Don’t know,” Tommy replied.
“Was he defrocked?” I asked.
“As far as we know, he wasn’t. We’ve got a call into the Archdiocese. So far, all we could confirm was his identity and that he worked in their office for many years.”
“Very interesting,” I answered.
I walked up to the dead victim and after acquiring an evidence bag and putting on a set of gloves, I put the red rose into the evidence bag for the crime lab. I also wanted to study it, along with the other evidence gathered at the crime scene. When I got back to my office, I decided to make a phone call to the Archdiocese of Chicago and see how far I could get through the ranks in getting someone to give me some information on the victim.
I left a message for a Monsignor Joseph Kilbane, who was the Administrative Chief of Staff to the Cardinal. I then went online, and I found an abused victim’s website, which listed and categorized every single Catholic priest, nun, bishop or other clergy who was ever accused of any sexual inappropriate behavior over the last fifty years. But the victim’s name wasn’t on the list. So, I then decided to drive over to the Archdiocese of Chicago office at 835 North Rush Street.
There was a middle aged, gray haired lady standing guard at the front desk, who obviously didn’t like Chicago coppers. She gave me quite a dirty look when I showed her my star.
“Monsignor Kilbane is very busy today. You can leave me your name and he will try to call you back.”
“Excuse me ma’am. This is urgent. It’s regarding the murder investigation of John Marquardt.”
She looked at me with a shocked look on her face. She then walked back to his office and Monsignor Kilbane then appeared. We exchanged greetings and he brought me over to his lavish office within the Arch-diocese’s primary headquarters. I gave him my card and told him about John Marquardt’s murder today, and how we were trying to do a thorough murder investigation. He had no reaction when I said that Marquardt was dead.
“Can you tell me a little about John Marquardt and why he left the priesthood?” I asked him. He looked at me and thought for a moment.
“From what I recall, he voluntarily left due to personal reasons over thirty years ago. He used to be a parish diocesan priest, and he was assigned as pastor to several area parishes within the Chicagoland area. He couldn’t fulfill his duties any longer and needed to be a caregiver for his mother, which he did for several years. When his mother passed away, Cardinal Brody put him on staff, and he worked here at the office for many years. He just recently retired,” the Monsignor calmly explained.
“So, he voluntarily left the priesthood? There were never any complaints about any inappropriate behavior while he was a priest?” I asked.
“None. He was the nicest old man with a heart of gold. Everyone here at the office loved him. He did some volunteer work at Chicago Lurie Children’s Hospital a few days a week as well,” he mentioned.
“And he wasn’t defrocked or ever accused of anything inappropriate?” I pressured.
I could tell Kilbane was starting to get a little aggravated with me.
“Look, Detective. Whatever it is that you’re looking for, you’re not going to find any dirt on John Marquardt. He was a well-respected former priest and a wonderful man. He will be mourned and missed by many,” he curtly answered.
He then rose from his desk and began escorting me out of his office.
“Please excuse me, Detective. I have a very busy schedule today.”
We shook hands and mentioned that I would probably be contacting him again soon with any more questions. He gave me the ‘good luck with that’ look on his face and retrieved back to his office.
I thought it was unusual that the Monsignor wasn’t shocked, nor did he ask any questions regarding the circumstances of Marquardt’s murder. Usually, when a friend or colleague is killed, people usually want to hear all the details and ponder the situation as to whom, what and where. But Kilbane didn’t ask me anything at all. He didn’t even look surprised.
I went back to my office and started writing up my investigation report. I had a feeling that, unless CSI can come up with any DNA evidence at the crime scene, or find any witnesses, or come up with any clues or suspects, this murder investigation was going to remain open for a very long time. Whoever this murderer is, he is no amateur.
Getting a ‘collar’ on this murder was going to be very difficult. The red rose in the plastic bag was still sitting on the corner of my desk, and I had neglected to submit it to CSI for testing. It was still fresh and hadn’t displayed any discoloration or wilting yet. I would send it off later, I thought to myself. As I continued to stare at the fresh, long stemmed red rose, I kept repeating to myself the same observation that Tommy Morton mentioned out loud at the crime scene:
Nobody kills like this anymore.