Elderly woman with stories of break-ins found dead

CHICAGO -- The nearly blind and deaf spinster had frantically called the police for weeks complaining that intruders were breaking into her home, terrorizing her and bugging the telephone.

Authorities were skeptical. But police later discovered her phone had been tampered with and the locks in her South Side home were changed.


Last month, Sigrid Barginde, 87, who lived alone, was found dead -- face down in her bed -- her hands tied in front of her.

The Cook County Medical Examiner's office has not determined the cause of her death and is investigating the case.

Miss Barginde's first complaint came early in April. She said she had fallen asleep on her couch and awoke to find shadowy figures moving about her.

She started screaming and they threw a bed sheet over her, hit her on the head and put her in a closet while they continued to search the house for valuables.

The terrified woman remained in the closet until the voices went away.

Police officers Bill Melmine and Larry Viles investigated the break-in, and Miss Barginde, who is nearly blind and deaf, told them the house was bugged and the telephones were tapped. The officers, skeptical at first because they found no sign of forced entry, took the phone in for repair and were told that pieces in the voice transmitter had been ripped out.


The phone was fixed, but the pieces were gone the next week. Viles tightened the receiver screw and glued it shut. The next week, they discovered the receiver and cord had been pulled out of the phone.

Spring turned to summer and Miss Barginde's complained of another break-in. The officers determined the only access to the house could be in a bedroom window that could be opened only 8 to 10 inches.

'We figured it must have been a kid getting in there,' said Viles. 'Nobody else could fit. 'The problem was, she couldn't describe who it was.'

Miss Barginde's alderman, Robert Shaw, sent two men to her house to inspect security. A local locksmith changed the locks for a $10 fee. Neighbors cut down some weeds obsecuring the house. And a social worker urged her to move away.

'She said the only way she would leave is if she sold her property,' said Lorel Pfaff, a United Charities social worker. 'And she felt she had to tell the buyer that the reason she was selling was because there had been burglaries.'

On June 26, a friend stopped at her house to check on her. He called police when she did not answer the door. That's when Miss Barginde's body was discovered -- her hand's tied.


And again, the telephone cord had been ripped out.

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