On the morning of September 26, 1957, a pair of petite ladies shoes was found outside of an unassuming white Queen Anne home on Buell Avenue in Joliet. One placed on the trunk of well-appointed, black 1955 Chrysler and the other toppled on the grass. This was to be the last trace of Molly Zelko. As a tough-as-nails newspaperwoman Molly crusaded against the gambling rackets of local organized crime, corrupt politicians, and unscrupulous businessmen as the editor of the weekly Joliet Spectator. She was reared for this hard-hitting environment by her mentor, William McCabe, a former State’s Attorney and owner of the newspaper who had years earlier been beaten to within inches of his life. For Molly, the crusade was personal.
In Joliet, her list of enemies was long - but did Molly finally make a more powerful enemy in the nationally interconnected web of politics, business, labor and organized crime in the 1950s?
Kennedy, Hoffa, Hoover, Giancana. All of these names that defined the political landscape of the era bore direct knowledge of the Molly Zelko case. What did they know …and did they know more than they claimed?
Who killed Molly Zelko?
The Spectator is a proud joint project of the Joliet Area Historical Museum and Joliet Public Library. From the Library’s microfilm to the yellowing binders of ancient Spectator newspapers held in the Museum archives, Molly’s story was first preserved by these institutions for decades before a contemporary Digital Media Studio was constructed, allowing the next generation of researchers to tell Molly’s story in the form of a true crime podcast shared on social media. This work is proudly offered free of charge as a public service of these organizations, and most importantly, is dedicated to the memory of the courageous Amelia “Molly” Zelko in fervent hope her ancestors will receive the answers they so greatly deserve.
Executive Producer & Host
A career newspaperman, Lonny reopened the case in a two-week series of front page articles in the Joliet Herald-News in 1978. Cain and his partner, the late John Whiteside, left no stone unturned, and even enlisted the assistance of hypnotists and physics. Cain recalls the prevalent “fear factor” that was omnipresent in the community over twenty years after the event. Lonny is currently authoring an in-depth book on this case.
Shortly after graduating high school in Joliet the year of Molly's disappearance, Lynne worked at The Spectator on Molly's desk, filling the society pages. She recalls the glamour, grit and energy of the City of Joliet in the late 50s, and the reaction of the community to this story. Lynne describes the “old West newspaper” that was the Joliet Spectator. Years later, Lynne recounted the then-forgotten story of Molly to her neighbor, a young fellow journalist by the name of John Whiteside.
A love of mysteries and a chance conversation with an outdoorsman in his family’s tavern in rural Coal City, Illinois has instilled a near forty-year fascination with this story in Dennis. Enrietta possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of Mafia history, independently and thoroughly researching the Zelko case. He concludes that it may be bigger than anyone – now or then – ever imagined.
Special Thank You
Megan Millen, Executive Director, Joliet Public Library
Keith Folk, Digital Media Studio, Joliet Public Library
Jim Zelko, Nephew of Molly Zelko
Arlene Reivers, Niece of Molly Zelko
John Conroy, Reporter
Matthew Luzi, Author, The Boys From Chicago Heights
Laura Daley, Editor
Lauren Peerbolte, Editor, Content Manager, and Most Supportive Spouse