Daisy and Floyd Zick — 1940’s
January, with its biting cold and bleak white snows, always somehow takes me mentally back to Michigan. Every below-zero windy day makes me think of January 14, 1963 and the death of Daisy Zick. As this week approaches the anniversary of her murder, I thought it well worth revisiting. Needless to say if you want more on this – please check out my book, Murder in Battle Creek – the Mysterious Death of Daisy Zick.
Daisy worked the afternoon at the Kelloggs Company in Battle Creek Michigan (specifically Wattles Park), my hometown. Her house is a mile from where I was raised. The day of her death in 1963 was a bitterly cold one, temperatures below zero, a gusting wind making the cold even more stinging – and snowing. In the morning, she prepared her lunch to take to work, spoke to her husband, her boyfriend, and others on the phone, and prepared to go meet her friend for coffee before work.
At around 10:00am her neighbor saw someone at the Zick’s porch/mudroom door. That individual was likely allowed in by Daisy, and also was her murderer. The physical evidence allowed investigators to recreate much of what happened in the tiny ranch house that morning. Daisy confronted her attacker in the kitchen area. At some point she tried to use the phone, likely to call for help (no small task in the pre-9-1-1 days). Her attacker severed the phone line with a knife, most likely the murder weapon, believed to be a Spoilage knife from Kelloggs.
At some point Daisy fled to the bedroom and was struck about the head and stunned. Her assailant went to her closet and got a sash from her robe to tie her hands up. The killer stabbed her several times on her bed, but Daisy reawakened and struggled. She got up and ran to the spare bedroom. Her murderer began to stab her viciously in the torso. Daisy sank along the wall, pulling the Hi-Fi unit. Based on the stab wounds, her killer sat astride her body and brutally stabbed at her body.
The murderer dumped out her purse and took the little cash she had and her car keys, then drove off with her 1959 White Pontiac Bonneville, abandoning the car on one of Calhoun County’s busiest roads – Michigan Avenue. The murderer was seen by several people, driving the car and walking along the road. Her killer walked off and disappeared in the wind swept snow.
Daisy’s car. Notice the marks on the side of the car where someone brushed up against it? There is also a blood stain visible.
For over a half-century his murder has remained unsolved. The officers that worked this case were determined to find the killer, but it was more complicated than it seemed. Daisy had several affairs – so the thinking was that it had may have been a jilted lover or an angry wife/girlfriend. This was the initial focus of the investigation, and indeed many people at Kelloggs were interviewed and polygraphed. The killer left evidence – fibers from his/her gloves and a single fingerprint which may or may not have been left by them in the car. This was not a random killing – whoever did it overkilled Daisy, which pointed to them having a connection to her. Her husband was cleared by alibi and by polygraph.
Daisy’s demise became part of Battle Creek lore. People tended to focus on the brutality of the crime and the rumors of her affairs. Having crawled through the police files, witnesses did come forward that saw her killer – by most accounts male, in her car. By the time the investigators, principally Michigan State Police investigator Leroy Steinbacher, arrived at a possible suspect – years had passed.
The man Steinbacher believed murdered Daisy was William Newman Daily – her postman. His description of the Zick garage door the morning of the murder was inconsistent with the evidence. He was known to have commented as to seeing Daisy nude. He had a violent temper as well. He claimed to have seen a man walking on Michigan Avenue near the Chuck Wagon restaurant/bar around the time that Daisy’s car was abandoned, but then changed his story to say that it was a woman. His rather unique hair style matched one eyewitness who saw the man driving Daisy’s car leaving her street after the murder. When Daily attacked his daughter-in-law, he threatened her that he knew who had killed Daisy Zick. Daily owned a coat that matched the eyewitness who saw someone at Daisy’s door that day — and stopped wearing it after the murder.
What was missing was the motive for Daily. While not necessary in a murder case in Michigan, motive certainly helps jury’s understand why a crime happened. Perhaps Daily had an affair with Daisy. He may have been a stalker that had been spurned by her. We simply don’t know – and Daily himself passed away several years ago. Until his death, he refused to take a polygraph.
One of the things that makes this case compelling is that it happened during the daytime hours, with eyewitnesses to the crime. The killer would have had to be dropped off or walked to the crime scene – either way he/she would have been seen (and in 1963, offered a him/her a ride if they were walking on such a cold day.) The killer abandoned the car on a busy highway – so someone had to have given this person a ride or his/her vehicle was nearby. This person would have had blood on their clothing and gloves as well which should have attracted attention of someone.
Then again, who could be more invisible in any neighborhood than a postman?
In writing the book I got to know Daisy’s son. This crime left a void in his life, and the lives of his family. Cold cases do that by their very nature. These are good people and they deserve to know the truth of what happened – they deserve closure. Daisy didn’t deserve this fate, nor does her family deserve the burden of the unknown.
Having written the book on the subject, I never forget Daisy when January comes though. I think about it and wonder if someone out there might hold an important bit of information or a clue that can bring this family justice once and for all.
So, as we hit the anniversary of this crime – I encourage anyone with knowledge to come forward with their tips. This is still an open murder investigation – so if you have any tips or leads – please contact the Michigan State Police and let them know. Someone out there knows something that may help complete the puzzle of this crime.