The disappearance and presumed murder of Judge Curtis E. Chillingworth and his wife, Marjorie McKnight Chillingworth was the most shocking event of its time in
, both for who the victims were and why they were murdered. The Birth of an Imago was based on what is known about the true last moments of Marjorie Chillingworth’s life. Palm Beach County
One of my dad’s favorite routes north from Delray Beach to North Palm Beach after a Sunday afternoon at my grandparents, was to travel north next to the ocean along A1A as far as possible. There was no super highway I-95 through
in those days and although the drive was slow-going, the ocean was always to our right and it was beautiful to smell and see as we meandered home. Palm Beach County
At one point in Manalapan, a small town tucked up next to the ocean south of
, A1A takes a hard left turn away from the beach. As we approached the curve, a big house sat directly in front of us facing south. Even before I knew whose house it had been, the house and the beach beside it always felt surrounded by a feeling of melancholy even to me as a child. A beach is a hard thing to infuse with such a sad feeling, but there it was, dampening the sunshine. I don’t remember exactly when Dad told me about the Chillingworth murders, but I can tell you that from the moment he did, I understood that this place had earned its sadness. Palm Beach
When we approached the house, I’d stop my mindless chattering from the back seat and look out the window solemnly as we passed. I’d even go so far as to kneel silently on the back seat and stare out the back windshield as the car moved around the next curve and the house disappeared from sight.
On June 15, a carpenter showed up at the house to build some playground equipment for the Chillingworth grandchildren. He found the door open and realized the house was empty.
At 10:00 a.m., Court was ready to start in West Palm Beach, but Judge Chillingworth, habitually punctual, was nowhere in sight. No one answered the telephone at the Chillingworth home and his staff grew alarmed. The police were alerted and drove over to the house to investigate.
The was no sign of the Chillingworths but the beds had been slept in and it appeared that only pajamas and slippers were missing. Concerns heightened when two rolls of tape were found-one in the house and one on the beach. When drops of blood were spotted on the walkway from the house to the beach, the investigation accelerated.
At first, it was thought to be a kidnapping but no ransom note was ever found and the case grew cold.