Bookseller’s 1983 Murder Solved

CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago Police say they’ve closed the books on a brutal 27-year-old murder that until now, had gone unsolved.

As WBBM Newsradio 780’s Regine Schlesinger reports, it was back in December 1983 when Frieda Stein Fenster, 77, was found sexually assaulted and strangled in the back of Stein’s Books and Novelty, the book shop she owned at 526 S. State St.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Regine Schlesinger reports

Now, prosecutors say DNA evidence in the case has led to Joseph Walker, 59, who is already behind bars serving a life sentence at the Pontiac prison, for a separate 1985 rape conviction in Utah. He was moved to Illinois in 1995.

A cousin of Fenster, retired Cook County Judge Julian Frazin, says he is relieved. He tells the Chicago Tribune if and when Walker is convicted, the family will go to the cemetery to let Fenster know.

Stein’s Books and Novelty dated from 1885. It was founded by Fenster’s father, German immigrant Max Stein, who opened a publishing house and paperback bookstore, CJ Laity wrote on ChicagoPoetry.org.

The bookstore started out at 521 S. State St., but moved across the street in 1954, in a space previously occupied by a magician, Laity wrote. Stein bought the rights to the magician’s books, and turned part of the bookstore into a novelty shop, Laity wrote.

The novelty section featured magic tricks, masks, fortune-telling gear, and wooden nickels, the Tribune reported.

The bookstore was originally patronized by everyone from pre-World War I progressives to burlesque performers, the Tribune reported. Later, it was popular with students from nearby Columbia College students.

Fenster’s body was discovered in a rear storage room in the building on Dec. 16, 1983, the Tribune reported.

Walker denied any connection to the murder, saying he had never been to Stein’s Books and Novelties because “me and books never got along,” according to the Tribune.

But last year, detectives with the Chicago Police Cold Case Squad reopened the investigation into Fenster’s murder, sending evidence from the rape to the Illinois State Police crime lab for DNA testing. Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney Daniel Weiss says the DNA evidence matched Walker’s profile.

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS Radio and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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