A very cold winter and the unthinkable happens in our neighborhood.

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A very cold winter in Battle Creek 1963

This post is a bit out of order chronologically. These events happened just before the previous post.

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Ice skating in the 60’s

This was the winter of 1963, and it was a very cold winter indeed. All the oil furnaces in the neighborhood were on and working overtime to keep the homes occupants warm in the brutality cold winter.  In those days, as a child, and you lived within 1/2 a mile from the school, you were expected to walk. It did not matter if it was 20 below 0. You walked! For us kids it was glorious. It was winter break which meant days outside enjoying the snow! Ice skating in the ice rinks our parents made by laying down plastic sheets to create ice on the lawn to skate on. Or sled riding on the big hill near the pond. We got so cold that after awhile your lips seized to function and you mumbled while you talked. Then back in and peal off the winter clothes covered  with ice. Then into the kitchen for hot chocolate!

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Daisy Zick

One day the unthinkable happened. A murder on Jono road.  And in the very same house that we had once lived in on 100 Jono road!  The home in 1963 was owned by Floyd and Daisy Zick.  Daisy Zick was an attractive and very flirty woman. Her across the street neighbor Mrs. DeFrance had many times seen her entertain men at her home in the mornings while her husband Floyd was off too work as a butcher. Young boys in the neighborhood had even snuck up on her property and hide in the bushes to get a glimpse of her sunbathing toppless on her lawn chaise chair in her back yard.

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100 Jono Road

It was Tuesday, January 14, 1963. It was cold, bitterly cold, even by mid-Michigan standards. The night before the temperature was near zero. Today the temperature was going to dip to between ten to seventeen degrees below zero after nightfall. Daisy Zick worked at the Kellogg cereal plant in Battle Creek and that morning she was making her lunch a sandwich and a banana and getting ready for her shift at Kellogg’s when there was a knock on her door. She opened it and perhaps  expecting  to find one of her men friends at the door. Instead she was attacked and stabbed multiple times with a curved packing knife. She had put up a fight by the look of the wounds on her hands and arms.  They found her in the guest bedroom, crumpled up in the corner of the room next to the bed and nightstand. This room ironically turned out to be my room when we lived in the house. She had many stab wounds to her arms where she had held them up to defend herself. And many wounds to her breasts and torso and back. The perpetrator then fled in the Zick’s car leaving the garage door open. The car was later found abandoned about a mile away on Michigan avenue.

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Daisy Zick’s Car

The police got involved and started investigating and contacting a number of people in the nearby area. Wattles road, Jono road and US 12 were all nearby streets and points of interest. As the police combed the area around Jono road and Wattles Road, more information emerged. Mrs. Beulah Hankey who lived Wattles Road claimed that she passed the Zick car being driven north on Wattles Road between 11: 20 a.m. to 11: 30 a.m. She was with my friends mother Mrs. Habenicht, another neighbor who was able to substantiate this story. Mrs. Hankey felt her estimate of the time was accurate because Mrs. Habenicht left her home at 11: 20 a.m. after giving her young son medication for a heart condition. Little did Mrs. Hankey realize that Daisy’s killer was behind the wheel.  Lloyd Eakins the oil delivery man had been making oil a deliveries at a homes on Wattles Road, just off Juno Street, at around 10: 00 a.m. Like so many people that day, he didn’t see anyone walking in the cold.

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Heating Oil Delivery

The investigators pulled up in the Habenicht driveway around 11:15.  Betty Habenicht had called ahead for heating oil to be delivered that morning. The deliveryman, Mr. Lloyd Eakins of Battle Creek, arrived at her home between 11: 00 and 11: 30 a.m. He told investigators that he didn’t see a car or person on Jono road. He did remember seeing Mrs. DeFrance walking toward her mailbox. It stood out in his mind because her dog barked and chased his truck when he left. Mr. Eakins was a little confused why the police asked what kind of gloves he had been wearing that day. When he pumped oil, he usually wore red cloth gloves for heat and pulled on a pair of black rubber gloves over them.

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The De France Home

Eakins’s story matched up with that of Mrs. DeFrance, who provided the police with a description of the man she had seen across the street at the Zick home that morning. When pressed for details of the man she saw, she could only offer a generic description. The alleged killer stood about five feet seven inches and weighed about 135 pounds. From what she could tell from across the street and from behind, he was probably in his late twenties or early thirties. The man had been wearing a blue denim–type jacket with lighter blue pants and had black or dark hair but no hat. From what Mrs. DeFrance could see, he was a white man.

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Daisy Zick in better Days

The murder to this day has never been solved. However, there is great speculation. Could the person been a woman dressed as a man? A jealous wife of the many men she had been entertaining in the mornings? Or perhaps a scorned man that she had dumped?  A robber? No one knows.

Betty Habenicht came over to our home on Beaumont drive later and told my mom and dad what had happened. It was unbelievable that something like this could happen in our quiet neighborhood. And right in the home that we had once owned! It struck terror in the hearts of all the people that lived in the area. Fear entered our lives.  No one ever locked their doors back then.  No one felt the need to. This changed overnight as doors all over the community were slammed shut and locked. This act of pure savagery rocked not only the community but also the Kellogg Company, where Daisy worked.  It was the end of innocence for the community.

Acknowledgements:

Much of the information in this post was gleaned from the book Murder in Battle Creek. The mysterious death of Daisy Zick. Written by Blaine L. Pardoe. The book is available at Amazon Kindle.

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