Illinois · Newspaper clippings

Man kills wife, 5 children, self

May 13, 1961
Lockport, Illinois
Charles Pitelka beats his family to death before committing suicide in the family’s garage

The victims of the massacre were his wife Vivian (33) and their children Charlene (10), Edward (8), John (6), Thomas (3), and Francine (10 months). Each received a single blow from a blunt instrument, later revealed to be a baseball bat, and each victim was dressed in pajamas leading investigators to believe they had been sleeping when attacked. After the murders, Pitelka went to the garage, turned on both vehicles, and died of carbon monoxide poisoning. 10-month-old Francine was found alive but died from her injuries on May 14.

A suicide note left at the scene contained few clues to the motive behind the murder-suicide. Two lines quoted by coroner William Blood read “I ask God for forgiveness. This is the only way out,” and “I’m a devil. My brother, Frank, knows all about me.” Pitelka had recently lost a bid for Lockport township constable and was reportedly having marital problems. Money did not seem to be an issue as the suicide note mentioned where police could find a large sum of cash to pay for the family’s funeral; $9,500 was found in a coffee can.

Clipping: The Chicago Tribune, May 14 1961

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