May 15

This Day in History

Crime

May 15, 1976:

A young woman and her married lover kill her family

Patricia Columbo and Frank DeLuca are arrested for the brutal slaying of Columbo's parents and brother in Elk Grove, Illinois. Twenty-year-old Columbo had left her family home two years earlier to live with DeLuca, a 36-year-old married man. The pair later killed Frank, Mary, and Michael Columbo in order to receive the family inheritance, unaware that the Columbos had written Patricia out of their wills years earlier.

As a 16-year-old, Columbo worked in a suburban coffee shop where she met pharmacist Frank DeLuca, who managed the pharmacy next door. He soon hired her to work in his store and the two began an unusual sexual relationship; Columbo showed classmates pictures of her having sex with DeLuca's dog.

In April 1974, DeLuca brought Columbo to stay in his own home, despite the fact that he still lived with his wife and five kids. Her parents were relieved when she later told them she was going to move into her own apartment, and even provided her with money. However, they soon learned that DeLuca had left his wife and moved in with their daughter, prompting Columbo's father to beat DeLuca severely.

On May 4, 1976, Patricia Columbo, then 19, and Frank DeLuca, 39, decided to carry out the plan themselves. They crept into the Columbo family home and shot Columbo's parents. They then bludgeoned Mike with a bowling trophy and stabbed him nearly 100 times with scissors. Police questioned Patricia but had no reason to suspect her until the following week.

Inspired by the promise of reward money, a friend led police to the men who had discussed killing the Columbo family with Patricia. After the couple was arrested, DeLuca's employees revealed that they had seen him washing and burning bloodstained clothes on the day after the murders. Apparently, he had kept them silent by threatening their families. While in jail, DeLuca attempted to have these witnesses killed by a cellmate, but another inmate thwarted the plan by telling the police.

The jury convicted Patricia Columbo and Frank DeLuca, and they were each sentenced to 200 to 300 years in prison. But Columbo managed to keep herself in the spotlight: In 1979, it was reported that she had assisted in organizing sex orgies involving guards and wardens at her prison in Dwight, Illinois. High-ranking officials at the prison, including the warden, were forced to resign in the wake of the scandal.

Fact Check We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, contact us!

What Happened on Your Birthday?

Pick a Date

Shop HISTORY