Other Investigations

The Galvin Murders: A Family Affair

In previous postings to my website, I’ve raised a possibility that the October 22, 1942, murders of Lillian Galvin and maid Edna Sibilski in Evanston, Illinois, could have been “a family affair.” I wondered, in effect, whether it might have been a hired killing of Lillian arranged by husband Paul Galvin, with Edna as collateral damage just because the maid happened to be there when it was carried out.

Paul Galvin, founder and then head of Motorola, was far away on U.S. business at the time, Motorola having become a major supplier of radio equipment to the U.S. military during World War II. In fact, preoccupied with the war effort and the opportunity to put Motorola on the very successful corporate map, Paul actually was elsewhere then home much of the time. As a result, their marriage may have entered dangerous territory. Both Paul and Lillian were 47 in the fall of 1942, an optimum age for mid-life crisis. Since they were devout Catholics, a divorce for Paul would have been extremely difficult and expensive in the Chicago area back in those years.

In his 1965 biography of Paul Galvin entitled The Founder’s Touch, author Harry Mark Petrakis duly acknowledged the couple’s “fun” lifestyle prior to World War II. “The holidays were particularly festive affairs,” he wrote, “and with increasing frequency their home  was the site of intimate gay parties.” Petrakis added that, “Lillian planned these parties with enthusiasm. Galvin would say of her efforts with admiration, ‘She could really pick ‘em up and lay ‘em down.’ Above all else, both of them liked parties at which things were happening—games, poker, and especially dancing.”

Describing Lillian as “a slim, lovely and petite woman with abundant sparkle” and “a zestful and gay companion,” Petrakis noted that before the war the couple “went to the theater together and once or twice a month dined and danced at one of the finer Chicago hotels. These were evenings they both enjoyed.” But then came the war. For the “lovely woman who enjoyed gaiety and dancing,” there suddenly was “little time for anything but work….all this work and the loneliness of the weeks that Galvin was away.”

At this juncture in the biography, Petrakis tried to put a good face on Lillian’s reaction, claiming that she dealt with Paul’s newly developed workaholic style and routine absence from her life “with a serene and unusual patience.” To the contrary, however, it indeed has been revealed by an informed Evanston press source that in her boredom, Lillian actually had begun keeping not-so-secret company with a fellow named Carlos Romez, a Latin dance instructor at Chicago’s posh Ambassador West Hotel. So much for shared war-time sacrifice.

Since my prior postings on the subject, however, there now has been a startling twist in the tale. On the basis of such new information, Paul Galvin has moved from a possible key figure in a premeditated murder plot to a lesser role of accomplice-after-the-fact. In this new information, the likely role of killer now falls to none other than Bob Galvin, the son and only child of Paul and Lillian Galvin, just 20 years old at the time, with father Paul then orchestrating a cover-up to protect his son.

From knowledgeable new sources among Edna Sibilski’s surviving relatives—told by the maid before her death about the goings-on in the Galvin household—and Chicago area law enforcement, I now have learned the following:

  1. Young Bob, who recently had quit college to join the U.S. Army, still was living at home in suburban Evanston while undergoing Signal Corps training in Chicago.
  2. Dating back to his college years, Bob had picked up a gambling habit, betting on sports games using local Mafia-linked bookies.
  3. In the process Bob recklessly had accumulated an overall gambling debt well beyond his capacity to cover, probably receiving alarming warnings to pay-up or else.
  4. Shortly before the fatal shootings of Lillian Galvin and her maid, Bob urgently had turned to his mother for much needed financial help.
  5. Lillian not only had refused his desperate request for assistance but even had threatened cutting Bob out of her will if he didn’t clean up his act.
  6. After the shootings, Evanston police officers rather quickly surmised that Bob, in what may have been a psychotic explosion of anger and frustration aimed at his mother, undoubtedly was the person responsible.
  7. But when Paul Galvin soon got back to Evanston and realized what had happened, he arranged for close friends Thomas Courtney and Dan Gilbert of the Illinois State’s Attorney’s Office to take over the homicide investigation, redirecting its focus on a mythical Black burglar in a supposed robbery gone bad.
  8. Notoriously corrupt and mobbed-up, Courtney and Gilbert did protect Bob in 1942. But they also must have let their Mafia friends in Chicago know what really had occurred, exposing Bob and Motorola to a later mob shakedown.
  9. Because of Paul Galvin’s importance to the nation’s war effort, the FBI reportedly entered the scene as well in 1942 to pressure those Evanston PD officers who knew the truth to keep their mouths shut.

It seems more than likely that Bob Galvin, still residing in the family home, would have become aware of Lillian’s apparent extra-marital indiscretions at the Ambassador West Hotel. Such dishonoring of his father, greatly loved and respected by his son, only could have added to Bob’s mounting rage toward his mother. And Paul Galvin’s ensuing awareness of that personally hurtful reality also could have made easier his subsequent forgiveness and acceptance of his son.

Bob evidently continued to go through an emotional and physical meltdown for some months after the murders, temporarily moved and cared for by his father in a suite at Chicago’s Edgewater Beach Hotel for purposes of his gradual recuperation. And that situation also required Bob’s separation from military service. Or, in author Petrakis’s more euphemistic words, “the tragedy impaired the young man’s health, and in the months following….he developed a severe ulcer which forced him to accept a medical discharge from the Signal Corps.”

Although Petrakis openly seemed to accept the “burglary” theory of the homicide, he also included a few curious lines in his book suggesting that he might have had his own private suspicions. “A father lives in his son in a way a son can never live in his father,” the biographer wrote, “and because of this ancient incompatibility, there is often disappointment and despair….It was a dark and forbidding period for both father and son, a time when they tried to protect and console one another, to shield each other from the silences that prompted recall of the past.”

Now going back for a thorough review of initial articles about the crime in the Chicago Tribune before the “fix” was firmly in place only tends to reinforce the case against Bob. Such press coverage beginning October 23, 1942, contains statements by law enforcement personnel strongly suggesting an inside job, that the killer most likely was someone personally familiar with the Galvin household and its routine. There was no forced entry, the killer evidently having gained easy entry or admittance through the front door. While a few expensive items later were reported to have been taken—a ring and a fur coat which never turned up fenced anywhere—the house in general showed no signs of having been searched for valuables. Drawers of desks, dressers, and silver cabinets, for example, were not disturbed. It also was noted that professional thieves of jewelry and other upscale items usually try very hard not to harm anyone unless absolutely necessary. If confronted by two women, they simply would leave as quickly as possible. And if such thieves do carry weapons, they normally rely on small caliber handguns. But in the shooting of Lillian Galvin and Edna Sibilski, the weapon used was a large .45-caliber pistol, immediately suggesting to law enforcement a killer with a possible U.S. Army connection.

It must be emphasized that only four people then were truly on intimate terms with the Galvin home in Evanston: Paul Galvin, his wife Lillian, Edna the maid, and the Galvin’s young son Bob. Paul was on a train returning from the East Coast when the shootings occurred, and Lillian and Edna were the murder victims. That seemingly could point to Bob, actually in the U.S. Army at the time, as a significant person of interest if not an outright suspect.

Two later documents also are essential additions to the story. Full copies of both are appended.

Chicago Tribune Article (October 16, 1943)

Arizona Republic Obituary (October 11, 2011)

The first is a Chicago Tribune article of October 16, 1943, based on information released by Evanston PD almost a year after the double-homicide, probably against the wishes of Illinois State’s Attorney’s office and the FBI. It made note of a “bloodstained linen handkerchief bearing the embroidered initial ‘B’ found near the Galvin residence about a week after the crime.” The handkerchief was described as “14 inches square….made of expensive linen. Tiny red, blue, and green stripes are woven into the cloth near the hem. There is no laundry mark.” And it was added that “Chemical analysis showed that human blood caused the stains.”

Though unstated, the inference looked to be obvious. Yet it remained unclear whether law enforcement investigators ever had checked for possible matching handkerchiefs in Bob Galvin’s possession.

The same newspaper article also repeated that Evanston PD officials continued to be “convinced the crime was committed by a person who was well acquainted with the Galvin household. Additional evidence in support of this view was revealed yesterday for the first time. In a kitchen cabinet of the Galvin home, the family kept a purse with money for laundry and incidental expenses, starting each week with $15. After the murders this purse was empty. No other cabinets in the kitchen were opened.”

Suffice it to say that the possible automobile-related lead in this article, one of a few conflicting vehicle descriptions, ultimately went nowhere.

The second such document, a much more recent one, is the authorized obituary for Bob Galvin who died at age 89 on October 11, 2011. Appearing in the October 13, 2011, editions of both the Chicago Tribune and the Arizona Republic,  it’s safe to assume that Bob himself, like a lot of prominent folks, had overseen its drafting for eventual use. And for anyone interested in the troubled history of the Galvin family, an opening sentence provided a glaring omission that spoke volumes. “The son of Paul Galvin,” it simply read, “he was born in 1922 in Marshfield, Wisconsin.” Even in death, Bob chose once again to erase his mother completely from his life. There was no reference to Lillian whatsoever in an otherwise lengthy and comprehensive resumé.

Over the years following the 1942 murders, Bob obviously had managed to redeem himself in his father’s eyes, joining and rising in corporate management ranks at Motorola. As his obituary noted, after Paul Galvin died in 1959, Bob immediately succeeded his late father as the company’s CEO, serving in that in-charge capacity until stepping aside in 1986. As I’ve mentioned in prior postings, the Mafia’s sizeable, well organized and effectively unchallenged theft of gold from Motorola, primarily from the huge semiconductor plant at 52nd Street and McDowell in Phoenix, looks to have been in operation over the 1968-1982 span, entirely on Bob Galvin’s watch and clearly suggesting some sort of mob leverage.

As a final reminder, the Mafia’s gold diversion from Motorola was the “big story” on which Phoenix journalist Don Bolles had been working leading up to his fatal car-bombing in 1976. Bolles evidently had found his way to it by tracking skim money coming to the mob as silent partners in Arizona’s Funk/Emprise-controlled greyhound racing business, money that was being used to cover the Mafia’s start-up costs of the gold scam. It was a story Bolles never got to write. In a curious chain of events, his homicide may have been at least a partial consequence of two other murders in Evanston, Illinois, some 34 years earlier.


Copyright © 2020 Don Devereux, All Rights Reserved

Journalists, historians, teachers, and students are free to quote from any of this material in writings of their own, provided that they do so with proper attribution and acknowledgement of applicable copyrights.

9 thoughts on “The Galvin Murders: A Family Affair

  1. Don, this is an excellent report!  It makes for a fascinating read. Thank you for all you do. David

    David G. Eisenstein, Esq.2588 El Camino Real, Ste. F-139 Carlsbad, CA 92008  (858) 345-6838 

  2. NOTE: Regarding the above two postings, Mary Fricker is a longtime and respected journalist in the Bay Area. In turn David Eisenstein is a former Tucson attorney, essentially a political Independent, who some three decades ago had unsuccessful hopes of becoming a Republican Party nominee for AzAG with intentions of pursuing the truth in the Bolles case. Sadly he didn’t get that opportunity, and the miscarriage of justice remained in place. I also have received congratulatory messages on the Galvin Murders piece from Nancy Igoe Pleines, granddaughter of an Evanston PD officer, from former Evanston PD Sgt. Angela Hearts-Glass, and from Anita Lande, a surviving relative of Galvin maid Edna Sibilski, all reaching me from Illinois.

    • No, i haven’t had the opportunity to follow that podcast personally, but a few friends of mine have and gave it good reviews. I understand that it included portions of an interview of me on the Arizona Project and the Don Bolles case.

    • No, but I just participated in a feature-length documentary by filmmaker Nick Bartlett based on my investigative work in the Don Bolles case. Perhaps one day it’ll turn up on Netflix or some similar streaming platform. Feel free to recommend it.

    • Angela Hearts-Glass is a former Evanston PD sergeant who supported and encouraged my investigative work on the Galvin murders while she still was with that law enforcement agency. By last reports, she is now working for a civil rights group that monitors allegations of police misconduct vis-a-vis minority communities in the greater Chicago area. It’s always good to hear from Angela.

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