|Mary Beth "Pixie" Grismore|
Pixie left home at an early age in search of employment. She fell in love with a co-worker, Robert Hale, who would bring her to live in his hometown in Marshall, Indiana near Turkey Run State Park. She had two sons by Hale before the couple divorced in 1977 when she was 25. Returning to her roots, Pixie fell in love again and remarried an Iowa farmer, Donald Gilmore, who lived a few miles from her Iowa hometown, on February 12, 1978. Days later, she returned back to her home in Marshall, Indiana for one last trip to gather up her remaining belongings and visit with old friends.
After she finished packing her personal belongings into her husband's 1973 Ford Thunderbird for the trip back to the Iowa farmhouse awaiting her, Pixie, two friends and her sister travelled together to nearby Terre Haute, Indiana for a last night on the town together on February 21, 1978. They saw a movie, "Looking for Mr. Goodbar," starring Diane Keaton and Richard Gere, in which Keaton's 28-year-old female character is raped and murdered by a jealous lover, a foretelling of the fate Grismore would soon meet. They ate at the Red Lobster and then went dancing at Bo Disco on Third Street, a popular Terre Haute nightclub at the time. Her sister and two friends dropped her off at her home at 1:30 a.m. It was the last time they would see her alive. When one of the friends tried to call her the next morning to awaken her as she promised, she got no answer. Her new husband in Iowa also tried unsuccessfully to reach her. When her friends and family went to the home, there was no sign of the 26-year-old Pixie or her car. The china, antiques and personal belongings had been left behind, as well as her clothing, including those she had worn the night before.
As the days passed by, police reported that leads in the investigation of her disappearance were "scarce." Police turned to an Illinois psychic, who told them Pixie had been shot twice in the head by a man hiding in a closet of her home. The psychic suggested police search Turkey Run State Park for her body. Despite an extensive search of the park, her body wasn't found. On May 3, 1978, police in Whitehall, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus, were investigating an abandoned car complaint at a Holiday Inn motel parking lot. After discovering the car belonged to a missing person, police impounded it and pried open the locked trunk where they made a grisly discovery. The badly-decomposed body of the 5'8", 137-pound Grismore was identified through her medical and dental records. According to the Franklin County coroner, the cause of her death was strangulation. Police found fingerprints on the car's rearview mirror they gathered as evidence for their investigation; otherwise, her car revealed little else about her death.
Police Report No Leads In Solving Grismore's Murder
In the 33 years following the discovery of her body, media coverage of Grismore's unsolved murder has been nearly non-existent. A search of the Indiana State Library's newspaper index found just two articles in the Indianapolis News, one story a year after her death and a second story five years later in 1983. "The file is active, and we check every lead we get, but there is nothing new to report," Det. Jerry Stadler of the Indiana State Police told the News on February 27, 1979. "The file is active, and we check on any lead we receive," Parke County Sheriff Mike Easlinger is quoted as telling the News in a January 5, 1983 story. Easlinger acknowledged police were no closer to solving her murder than the day her body was found nearly five years earlier. While the Ohio Attorney General's website for unsolved murders still lists Grismore's death as an unsolved murder, the Indiana State Police's website page for cold cases makes no mention of it. As far as can be discerned from news reports, police don't know whether Grismore was murdered in Indiana or Ohio where her body was discovered. The FBI joined in the investigation when it became apparent her body had been transported across state lines. According to Ohio's website, investigators are still looking for information regarding her murder:
Her death has been ruled a homicide and investigators believe her death could have taken place shortly after her disappearance. Several leads have been established: however, investigators need more information. Before Mary's death, she had recently married and taken the Grismore last name. Her last name just before the recent marriage was (Hale). Investigators are attempting to locate anyone who may have any information regarding her murder.An ignored magazine story 13 years ago reveals leads not reported by Indiana news media
In 1998, a relatively obscure magazine associated with World Net Daily, "Dispatches", ran a story by H.J. Halterman entitled, "The grisly saga of Pixie Grismore: Was her murder 20 years ago covered up by politics?" In this explosive story, Halterman ties Indiana's former U.S. Senator Birch Bayh and Patrick Ralston, a major figure in the administration of Gov. Evan Bayh, to Grismore, with whom both men had allegedly been romantically involved shortly before her disappearance and death.
According to Halterman's bombshell report, investigators learned Grismore had worked at Turkey Run State Park as a lifeguard where she was supervised by Ralston. Investigators learned that Ralston and Grismore had an affair while both were married, and that Ralston had hooked up with her for one last fling days before her disappearance and shortly after she had remarried to Donald Grismore.
Investigators were eventually led to question Pixie's supervisor at Indiana's Turkey Run State Park, where she had worked as a lifeguard in the summer of 1977. On June 16, they interviewed him again, in Indianapolis -- and this time they read him his rights. Under questioning he admitted to evasion and falsehood in his first meeting with the FBI agents, and this time he told them a new story.Ralston Implicates Birch Bayh In A Romantic Relationship With Grismore
Patrick Ralston admitted that he began a romantic affair with the pretty lifeguard in July of 1977. His wife had just given birth to their baby on June 2 and then underwent surgery in early July, and she had been recovering while staying with her family in Terre Haute. His home was so empty and he was so alone, and he began to spend more time supervising things around the swimming pool where the cute young lifeguard worked. Ralston explained to the investigators that he and his wife drifted farther apart and by November of 1977 he filed for divorce.
On Jan. 15, 1978, Ralston was seriously injured when a frozen water heater exploded at the park. He spent seven days in a Terre Haute hospital and another week recuperating at home. By mid-February he was feeling better but things had changed: His relations with his wife had improved and Pixie surprised almost everyone who thought they knew her by marrying a farmer from the area in Iowa she had once called her home.
On Feb. 16, Ralston telephoned Pixie and suggested they get together one more time for old times' sake. She agreed and they met at the bar of the Cloverdale, Indiana, Holiday Inn. Pixie rented room 215 on the hotel's south side, and while there she called her new husband in Iowa from the hotel room phone.
Halterman says investigators considered Ralston a suspect in Grismore's death and disappearance. What is the most shocking allegation contained in Halterman's story, though, is his claim that Ralston tried to get investigators off his back by implicating Sen. Birch Bayh. Halterman said Ralston told investigators Grismore had told him she had recently hooked up with Bayh for a sexual encounter. Sure enough, hotel records turned up Bayh's name on the guest registration records at the Indianapolis Airport Holiday Inn airport where Ralston said Grismore had told her she hooked up with Bayh.
Up to that point nothing that Pat Ralston had told the FBI particularly removed him from consideration as a suspect, but then he played his ace: While he and Pixie were in the bar, Ralston told the FBI, she told him that she had done something the day before -- Feb. 15 -- that she had always wanted to do. Pixie told Ralston that P.A. Mack, Indiana Sen. Birch Bayh's chief of staff, had arranged for her to meet with the senator at the bar of an Indianapolis motel and that she partied with the senator and his entourage for a while and that she had then gone to the senator's hotel room with him and that she had "slept with him." Pixie said that she had left Bayh's hotel room early on the morning of the 16th, Ralston told the FBI agents.News that Birch Bayh liked running around with women other than his wife had long been rumored in Indiana political circles. Soon after arriving in Washington, the handsome young senator became very good friends with Massachusetts Sen. Edward M. "Ted" Kennedy, a renowned womanizer, and began running around and partying a lot with him. The two were nearly killed in a 1964 plane crash that killed the plane's pilots and critically injured Kennedy. Bayh pulled Kennedy from the plane's wreckage and is credited with saving his life, something Kennedy couldn't bring himself to do five years later after driving his car off a Chappaquiddick bridge and leaving his female companion, Mary Jo Kopechne, behind to drown in the submerged automobile. What is particularly disturbing about the alleged sexual encounter with Grismore is the fact that his wife, Marvella, was struggling with breast cancer at the time the tryst is alleged to have taken place. She had underwent a mascectomy and undergone radiation and chemotherapy treatments for her cancer. She died on April 24, 1979, a little more than one year after Ralston claimed Bayh had his sexual encounter with Grismore.
So the feds checked it out: A registration card for the night of Feb. 15, 1978, indicated that one B.E. Bayh of 2919 Garfield Street NW, Washington, D.C., had indeed stayed in room 579 of the Indianapolis Airport Holiday Inn while he was representing "USS" -- that is, the United States Senate. The room cost $24.
Bayh's Political Career Ends, While Ralston Emerges As Key Figure In Son's Administration
At the time of Grismore's death, Birch Bayh's political career was nearing its end. Bayh had been touted for many years as presidential timber, particularly because of his ability to survive in a conservative Republican state like Indiana with one of the Senate's most liberal voting records. He successfully authored two constitutional amendments, the 25th Amendment concerning presidential succession and the 26th Amendment lowering the voting age from 21 to 18. He was also the author of the unsuccessful Equal Rights Amendment. Once a rising star in the Democratic Party, Bayh's star faded after losing badly in the 1976 Democratic presidential nomination to Jimmy Carter. Bayh ran in 1976 for president after passing up a bid in 1972 due to his wife being diagnosed with breast cancer. Bayh dropped out of the 1976 race after finishing third in the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary.
In 1980, political forces came together to end Birch's political career. A rising new star, U.S. Rep. Dan Quayle, had the backing of his family-owned newspaper empire, that included the Indianapolis Star and News, as well as several smaller Indiana daily newspapers. With Jimmy Carter's unpopularity and Ronald Reagan's landslide win, Bayh was swept out of office. Oddly, while the Pulliam-owned newspaper used the muscle of its newspapers to aid Quayle's election against Bayh in 1980, the newspaper publisher never looked into Bayh's and Ralston's ties to the Grismore investigation according to retired, Pulitzer-prize winning reporter Dick Cady, who was surprised to learn of Halterman's 11-year-old story tying Bayh to Grismore when contacted about it. Cady retold his years working as a reporter and editor for the Star in a book he authored last year, "Deadline Indianapolis: The Story Behind the Stories At the Pulliam Press." Cady did political reporting for the Star during the period in question.
The purpose of Halterman's reporting of the untold story behind the death of Mary Beth Grismore did not seem to be aimed at Birch Bayh as much as his son, Evan Bayh, who at the time was being touted as a future Democratic presidential candidate in 2000. The younger Bayh passed up bids in 2000 and 2004 after serving two successful terms as Indiana governor and winning election to his father's old Senate seat in 1996 before launching and then aborting a campaign for the presidency in 2008 to back another losing candidate, Sen. Hillary Clinton. Bayh shocked the political world when he announced his retirement from the Senate last year after two terms of service. Halterman couldn't help but notice the prominent role Ralston had played in Bayh's two terms as governor despite the fact he had outed his father's romance with Grismore to investigators:
The secret's been kept, all these years, and the Bayh political dynasty continues -- Birch's son Evan, who was until recently Indiana's governor, and thereby the boss of any Indiana state police agencies still investigating Pixie Grismore's murder, has even been suggested as a future Democratic presidential contender, just like his Dad once was. And Evan gets to hobnob with President Clinton, who needs some good advice on how to handle embarrassing reports about affairs with former girlfriends. As governor, Bayh the Younger got to appoint men like witness P.A. Mack, his father's old fixer-upper, to important positions like trustee of Indiana University. And men like Pat Ralston as head of Indiana's Department of Natural Resources in 1989.Halterman apparently believed he was revealing a dark secret that would gain prominent media attention once the story was published in 1998. Yet the untold story remains just that 13 years later. Perhaps another Hoosier politician and aspiring president, Gov. Mitch Daniels, can ask the Indiana State Police, which no longer acknowledges it as a cold case, to conduct an honest and serious investigation in hope of solving the mysterious death of Mary Beth Grismore 33 years ago. There is no statute of limitations on the crime of murder. Justice is calling.
Ralston became the Democratic Party chairman of Indiana's Vigo County -- the Bayh family powerbase -- in January 1995. Ralston, as county party chairman, was instrumental in fund-raising efforts on behalf of newly-elected Indiana Gov. Frank O' Bannon, formerly lieutenant governor for Evan Bayh. O' Bannon, with political considerations involving both his old boss and a key fund-raising party chairman, had been reported to be considering the reappointment of Ralston as DNR director, but that was not to be: On Feb. 21, 1997, 19 years after Pixie Grismore's final party with her friends in Terre Haute, Ralston was instead announced as the new governor's choice to be the director of the Indiana State Emergency Management Agency.
UPDATE: Sgt. Dave Bursten, public information officer for the Indiana State Police, has confirmed the Grismore case is still an open investigation. He said the closing of the Terre Haute post and revamping of the agency's website is why her case is not listed as a cold case file. Bursten said anyone with information or tips regarding the case should telephone the agency's hotline at 1-800-453-4756.