One of the strangest cases that I worked on is the unsolved homicide of Mr. McHenry Biggers. Nothing in the file makes sense. The people we spoke to did not make sense. What we found out did not make sense either. That is, what we were able to find.
This is, alas, one of those cases where I fear that we may never get to the bottom of it because the file is incomplete and in very bad shape. For example, there are major gaps in the time lines; people were not asked to be more specific when they were interviewed, reports are missing, and so on.
Let me try here to give you the facts:
On Sunday, October 26, 1986, before 01:00 a.m., two black males invaded the home of McHenry & Bessie Mae Biggers, on 1412 N. Market Street, in Champaign, Illinois. During the home invasion, McHenry Biggers suffered a fatal heart attack. Mrs. Biggers called 911 at precisely 01:09 a.m. according to the dispatch log. Despite the fact that police and emergency personnel arrived within minutes, Mr. Biggers could not be saved and was pronounced dead at 01:59 a.m. McHenry Biggers had suffered heart problems before. His body showed a scar from previous heart surgery.
The first officer who arrived on the scene described in his police report how he found Mr. Biggers. The victim was laying face down on the kitchen floor dressed only in his underwear. The officer detected no vital signs. He did see slight bluish discoloration on the palms of the hands and noted that the victim felt cold to the touch. The house, he noted, felt warm.
The officer described that the kitchen light was the only light turned on in the immediate area. According to the diagram in the file, the kitchen was right across from the master bedroom.
Mrs. Biggers said that she waited inside the master bedroom for at least five minutes after the intruders left before going into the kitchen to call the police. It is there, that she found her husband on the floor. Her 911 call came in at exactly 1:09 a.m.
Let us assume that she waited for 15 minutes after she heard the last noises from the intruders, before venturing out towards the phone in the kitchen. That would place the ending of the home invasion at approx. 12:55 a.m.
On November 25, 1986, Mrs. Bessie Mae Biggers gave a statement to the police. Unfortunately, none of the officers ever asked Mrs. Biggers to express herself more clearly. Basically, she repeated what she had told them before. Usually, she claimed, she hears it when people knock on the door but this time, she did not. She did not see anyone come inside the house and neither did she hear anyone but her husband talking. Mrs. Biggers will contradict herself later on in the interview.
The interview seems to skip the part where the intruders come in and we never learn exactly where her husband was at that exact time. Was he in bed, somewhere in the master bedroom, or elsewhere in the house?
She heard her husband denying that he had drugs in the house. The two intruders then made him enter the master bedroom and followed him inside. It is unknown whether they turned on the lights or not. Since Mrs. Biggers was in the bed, she hid under the covers. She did see that one of the intruders was dressed in dark clothes, was heavy set, and wore either a mask or a hood. The smaller one of the two had little “bugged” eyes. She saw that her husband grabbed something (probably his wallet) and then the three men left the bedroom to go into the living room. She heard her husband again state that he did not have “anything.” At this point in the interview, she repeated that she did not hear the two men talking but, she did hear her husband’s voice. It is unknown whether the bedroom lights were turned off or not.
She did confirm that the master bedroom lights were out when one of the two intruders came back in the bedroom! This intruder, who searched the room, turned on the lights. Before or after he turned on the lights, he said: “Lady, where is the dough?”Mrs. Biggers kept hiding and of course, did not answer and pretended to be asleep! Then Mrs. Biggers heard a sound as if someone fell. The intruder went to the master bedroom door and asked the other man what happened. She did not hear what the other man answered but did hear him say to look in the little tin box beside the bed. The intruder in the master bedroom then put something in his pockets that sounded like paper.
Mrs. Biggers was then asked some questions about her husband’s clients because, McHenry Biggers did used to sell drugs. Mrs. Biggers described one incident when a woman tried to steal drugs from the home. This happened about three months before the home invasion. She told police that her husband used to keep some drugs in a little silver lunch box. This was the same box one of the intruders was referring to that fateful night. One woman tried to take drugs out of that box.
Mrs. Biggers had come home one day. Details about at what date and time are missing. She found her husband and this woman in the bedroom. Mrs. Biggers sat on the bed to make a telephone call and claimed she did not notice the woman on the other side of the bed. Her husband got up and left the bedroom.
Now pause here for a moment…if there was a phone in the master bedroom why did she not call the police that fateful night from the master bedroom? If she had, maybe Mr. Biggers could have been saved.
Mrs. Biggers then described what happened with that one woman. It is a perfect example of a point in the interview where police should have insisted that she explains herself more clearly. This woman apparently is searching through drawers. Mrs. Biggers stated “another lady was sitting (unclear) she thought maybe that the girl was there working, doing some work for me, you know.” Now, exactly how many people were in that master bedroom? And, would she as lady of the house not know who is or is not working for her? McHenry walked out, Mrs. Biggers is in with one or two women? Eventually, it becomes clear she was referring to one woman only but this is an example of how vague and confusing everything in this file is.
Mrs. Biggers continues. This woman takes something out of a box. Then, McHenry Biggers comes back into the master bedroom and demands that the woman gives “it” back. The woman tries to hide something in her clothes. When it appears that her husband and this woman are going to fight, Mrs. Biggers grabs the woman and throws her on the bed. She demands to know what the woman took. Supposedly then, the woman bites Mrs. Biggers in her arm. McHenry Biggers took “it” out of the woman’s clothes. There is no information about how this all ended, how badly hurt Mrs. Biggers was, what exactly it was the woman took (presumably drugs), etc.
According to her statement, Mrs. Biggers had told her husband several times that she was afraid of drugs. She herself had never used them. She had demanded her husband stopped selling drugs or else, she would leave him. At that, he supposedly got rid of the drugs.
Then, for the first time in the entire interview she describes in detail how something makes her feel: “I had done got tired of being bugged up with people knocking all night and women just coming in, walking on me, stepping on me, you know, and ooh, just a whole lot of stuff went on, you know, just I don’t even think about.”
This is strange. Why?
Because there is more emotion in this one statement about drugs than there was in the entire statement where she described finding her unresponsive husband on the kitchen floor and hearing him being pronounced dead!
Apart from saying that she was frightened that night, Mrs. Biggers did not volunteer anything about how she felt that night during the home invasion (for example: angry with the intruders, betrayed because her husband apparently still had drug connections, suspicious how the intruders knew about the lunch box, stunned that the intruders did not wake her or suspected her to be awake, etc.).
As mentioned before, the file is terribly incomplete. The autopsy report is missing and worse, there are conflicting police reports without any reference that the gaps in the time line or the discrepancies in the statements have been (re)investigated. For example, we do not know how long the two men were in the house. Depending on that, we could determine approx when Mr. Biggers died.
During the invasion, two other family members were present in the house, the Biggers’ two daughters. They were woken by the police and were not able to give any useful information. They were released to an older sister. Since the file states “who took them with her” I assume the older sister herself did not live in the parental house anymore. According to the files, police did not ask the older sister any questions about her father; whether she knew or had heard he supplied drugs, or knew of anyone who could have done this to her father.
According to an October 26, 1986, report, nothing appeared to be stolen from the Biggers’ home. However, in another report dated November 3, 1986, an officer mentioned that the intruders had stolen rings, other jewelry, and possibly a gun.
Around November 1986, police learned that someone had been trying to sell rings in the Champaign area. One man bought such a ring. Let us call him Scott. Scott brought the ring to the police. According to him, someone sold him the ring the day after the Biggers’ home invasion. He had been told that the ring was not stolen. It was this person’s property but he just needed money. Scott bought the ring for $50. — The ring was shown to McHenry Biggers’ son who stated the ring looked like the ring that belonged to his father.
Note another gap: there were not just three daughters. Apparently, there was a son as well!
On November 25, 1986, at 03:20 p.m., police officially interviewed Scott. He stated that one or two days after the robbery at the Biggers, he was shown a ring with one large diamond as he was driving on Roper Street, west of Bellefointaine Street, near the Green apartments. Scott was approached by a man, let’s call him Alex. Alex wanted to pawn the ring. According to him, the stone was an imitation but the ring itself should be worth something. Scott bought the ring for $50. — and Alex went into the direction of the Green apartments. Alex had told Scott that the ring was his and he just needed money. Later, Scott heard that the ring might be stolen from McHenry Biggers. Scott’s taped statement confirms his earlier given statement of November 3, 1986.
On November 25, 1986 at 2:45 p.m., an informant gave a statement. Police showed him several rings. He recognized the one marked number 7. It was the ring sold by Alex to Scott. He knew this for sure because he had been asked by Alex for an appraisal of that ring. When Alex returned to pick up the ring, the informant had found out that the ring was stolen during a robbery. Alex snatched the ring, left, and sold it later to Scott. The informant did find that the stone was not a diamond but a zirconia. The informant later told Scott that the ring was stolen from Biggers. At that, Scott got upset and went to the police.
According to the informant, shortly after the home invasion at the Biggers, a daughter of McHenry Biggers came to him and asked about her father’s ring. Police did not ask the informant which daughter, how he knew her to be Biggers’ daughter, whether he had seen her before, or wondered how she knew where to look for her father’s rings, etc.
Nobody seemed to find it odd that shortly after her father died of cardiac arrest during a home invasion, this daughter is looking for her father’s ring on the streets only hours after the father was pronounced dead. Unfortunately, the file does not have any statements made by family members, except for Mrs. Biggers. She was shown the same rings as the informant and did not recognize any of them. It would also have been very helpful if we had an exact listing of all their children.
This case will be one of the hardest to solve since we start from behind, and I mean from farther behind than usual. The file is thin, incomplete, and the basics are missing. However, since so many people were involved and since people were talking, someone was bound to hear something.
I hope you remember what was said on the streets. Please whisper it in Vidocq’s ear.
|Date||October 26, 1986|
|Police Department||Champaign Police Department|
Categories: UnsolvedTags: Champaign, Crime Scene, Drugs, Evidence, Finger Printing, Forensics, Illinois, Investigations Division, McHenry Biggers, Partial Finger Printing, Police, Unsolved Homicide, Victim, Witnesses