Thursday, June 30, 1977

Police Decoys Shield the Helpless

“Purse snatch! Throw your coffee out the window!” The car careens into action, chasing two young men as they run up the block.

“Freeze or I’ll blow your brains out!” Officer Monahan shouts. Officers DeStasio and Hurley jump from the car guns drawn and tackle one of the youths. Officer Monahan speeds into oncoming traffic, brakes his car on the sidewalk and leaps out, cornering the second youth and immediately handcuffing him. The two “perpetrators” as the police repeatedly call them, are shoved into the back seat panting as a crowd gathers. Small boys shoot toy guns into the air and an ashen-faced cab driver tells Officer Monahan “I made the sign of the cross when I saw you coming. You want me to call a back-up?”

“I’m 15,” one of the purse snatchers tells an onlooker. “Are they allowed to hit me?” What do you get for purse snatching? One to three?”

The suspects are taken to a nearby police station for booking. “We just needed money to get home.” “How would you like it if your mother was robbed?” “She has been,” he muttered, and adds a little grandly, “We had no alternative.”

Once they are in the police precinct house their pockets are emptied, the contents checked and noted and then returned. “There’s your ride home, by the way, Officer Hurley says, waving several dollar bills from one of their pockets.

I lose more sandwiches and pizzas out the window,” Officer Monahan says, “But street work is what I think of as being a cop.”

Dunning 6/30/77 NYT

Where the “Son of Sam” Struck, Young Women Walk in Fear

“Most of my friends are wearing their hair up,” Debby Pannullo said, as she slowed her car for a red light on Northern Blvd in Queens. “My boyfriend wanted me to dye mine, it’s so scary. If I have to go out, I try not to come home late.”

Deputy Inspector Timothy J Dowd heading the special homicide task force on the case said yesterday that the Charter Arms Bulldog revolver - relatively rare compared with .38 or .45 calibers - has a low muzzle velocity, meaning it is more likely to stay in a body than pass through. This makes it attractive to such legitimate users as sky marshals.

“Three women have had their hair cut to here because of the shootings,” said Andy Petrides, proprietor of the salon, pointing to a spot an inch below the hairline of the customer whose hair he was setting. “Even in the past four or five weeks people have come in and said, “Cut my hair. I’m afraid.” I’ve heard of a couple of women who have dyed their hair, and one woman I know went out and bought a wig.”

If women from the neighborhood are beating a path to Mr. Petride’s door, the whole world seems to be driving by the quiet residential corner where Sunday’s shooting took place. The Elephas, the discotheque on Northern Blvd and 211th Street where Miss Placido and Mr. Lupo met shortly before the attack, was closed as usual on Monday and Tuesday. But yesterday it reopened and instituted a safety first system of valet parking. “This place is becoming a national monument.”

Excerpt from June 30, 1977 New York Times

Friday, June 24, 1977

Loss to Thieves by “King of Ming” Put at $300,000

Oriental jades and bronzes were among the estimated $300,000 worth of art objects stolen last weekend from the Manhattan town house of Robert H Ellsworth. An expert in Chinese Ming dynasty antiques, the police reported yesterday.

Police officials and other art experts said Mr. Ellsworth - one expert called him “the king of Ming” - was the latest victim in a surge in thefts of Oriental art as the art has soared in value in recent years.

“The thieves took the most expensive small material, the stuff I lock up in the vault.”

A chain-smoking burglar used an acetylene torch to slice through the thick steel walls of the mansion’s double-doored six foot high vault. Mr. Ellsworth, a 47-year-old bachelor returned home Sunday afternoon for a evening out with Claudette Colbert and discovered the theft.

A well-placed police informant asserted that the alarm system had been switched off.

Two of the items stolen were Oriental pearl studs for his evening shirts. With the studs gone Mr Ellsworth had to wear a business suit when he went out with Miss Colbert instead of evening clothes as he had planned.

The police valued the coins at between $50,000 and $100,000, but the museum employee said last night that their value might be even higher. The robbery began at 1pm, the museum’s opening time.

In their apparent haste to depart, the gunmen overlooked a fifth case containing gold coins. They also left untouched an even more valuable collection of paper money. Other major collections were locked in vaults and were not disturbed.

During most of the robbery, an employee reported, the doorbell was being repeatedly rung by an indignant party of three visitors who were upset that the four men who came out had been allowed in while they had been forced to wait outside.

excerpt from NYT 6/24/77

Sunday, June 19, 1977

3 Killed in Brooklyn As Car Hits Elderly Sitting On Benches

Three persons were killed and eight others were injured when a stolen car (a gold-colored 1973 Buick) went out of control, smashed into a tree and then plowed into a group of elderly citizens who were enjoying the afternoon sunshine yesterday on benches between Avenues L and M on Ocean Pkwy in Brooklyn.

The driver of the car, Ingram Hensel attempted to flee the scene of the accident but was chased and captured by passersby. The area where the accident occurred, Parksville, has a large elderly population. The victims were Blanche Gershbaum, 60, Sarah Berkowitz, 67, and Ida Ribner, 66. Beatrice Rosenfeld, 66, suffered severe head injuries.

excerpt from NYT 6/19/77

Thursday, June 16, 1977

Police Fence Leaves Behind 73 Indictments

A corporation (UCC Corp - as in Under Cover Cop) established by New York Detectives last December as a fake fence has gone out of business leaving behind a bizarre story in which the police bought more than 1000 stolen Government checks - mostly Social Security payments - paying 10 cents on the dollar for checks with a face value of about $250,000.

In their one-story building in a quiet residential section of Queens, the detectives also bought such items as four brand new automobiles for $250 each.

The way the arrests were made was among the most comic aspects of the curious business career of the detectives. A few weeks ago the decision was made to wind up business so during the month thieves were paid for stolen property with IOUs instead of cash and were told to come with their slips of paper on Thursday night to get their money.

“Even on their way to jail,” said Capt Herron with a grin, “some of them were saying they ought to get cash for their IOUs.

The detectives had one rule that they found difficult but necessary. When customers arrived at the UCC Corp they had to turn over all their weapons with the understanding that the guns would be returned when they left. “We gave back the guns,” said Detective Gerald Lorig, “but it was a tough thing to give a loaded gun to these characters.”

“We intend to come down hard on these people because so many of them were stealing from the elderly.” Many of the victims thought the checks had been delayed or possibly lost. Four of those indicted were postal employees.

“They would come in and say they had something to sell. Then they would dicker about the price.”

excerpt from NYT 6/16/77

Sunday, June 12, 1977

Unbeaten Seattle Slew Takes Belmont for Triple Crown

Once upon a time, an ordinary looking horse was sold at public auction in Kentucky for the very ordinary price of $17,500.00. His owners named him Seattle Slew, dreamed of Triple Crown glory – and crossed their fingers. And yesterday the impossible dream came true when their horse became thoroughbred racing’s first undefeated Triple Crown champion.

At the finish of the one and one-half mile “test of the champion,” Seattle Slew was coasting along four lengths ahead of second place Run Dusty Run.

He was more than 5 seconds slower than Secretariat in that colt’s 31-length Belmont triumph in 1973. There were some questions too, about Slew’s late arrival in the paddock. His regular route was apparently blocked by cars, and he arrived 10 minutes late, forcing a delay of five minutes in the post time.
NYT Cady 6/12/77

Thursday, June 09, 1977

The Battle of Lexington

In the night, the long white frock coat and plantation hat of the tall man gave him a shepherd’s bearing as he stood in the light of a coffee shop and kept a proprietor’s eye on the women standing on the corners hawking themselves to motorized streams of men.

There were dozens of women at 4 am last Saturday in a 16-block Manhattan grid centering on Lexington Avenue and 26th Street, working the curbs with prancing invitation as cars passed slowly. They jammed the corners of what local residents call the all-night meat market.

A prostitute took a break to order fried eggs and she had to admire and green-and-white ring, ugly as a jungle insect, that was extended for inspection on the fist of one of the pimps.

The view from the driver’s seat of a passing innocent could be intimidating, as a creature in hot pants materialized at a red light like a fantasized hood ornament, blocking the way, actually rubbing against the fender. The car’s steel shell held and after a terrible stare through the windshield she yielded to a green light.

The sky softened to blue-black after 5:00 o’clock. A local resident lifted his window and his shade three stories above Eng’s laundry just north of 23rd Street. He looked down on the new day, his bald head all pink dome at the window, and there were a half dozen prostitutes all about his front stoop. To newly returned from transactions exchanged the hand-slap greeting of athletes. The man made no sound and watched.

Across the street, in the shadows of an armory, the uniform of the day appeared. Olive drab, it blended in better than the hot-pants parade. It was worn by weekend Army reservists arriving from a field trip. Four of them were quiet as scouts as they stood and watched the market across the street. “Damn!” one very young tropper said loudly and appreciatively toward the women. But the two groups kept their distance and when a beautiful blond prostitute in shorts turned the armory corner and walked past, her legs long and pastel in the first light, she looked down, passing the men in apparent shyness.

By 6:00am Captain Witherell’s men outnumbered the prostitutes . Hungry, the captain eyed the coffee shop and stepped out with an aide, crossing over, his boots shiny in the street. The man in the white frock coat and white plantation hat stood outside the coffee shop, judging what was left of his night. He looked the captain over and stepped aside, two men of natty rank passing in a dawn of shifting bodies.

NYT Clines 6/9/77

28 Indicted In A Plot to Take Contraband Into Brooklyn Jail

In what may be the largest corruption scandal ever to rattle the city’s prison system, 21 current and former Department of Correction employees and seven alleged confederates were indicted and arrested yesterday on charges of taking bribes to smuggle narcotics, guns and ammunition, liquor and restaurant food into the Brooklyn House of Detention for use by inmates.

The District Attorney’s investigators used a hot-dog van parked outside of the prison in downtown Brooklyn at Atlantic Avenue as a meeting place where corrupt guards and employees passed along to undercover agents cocaine, heroin, marijuana and LSD in exchange for cash.

According to the indictments voted by a grand jury the corruption and other criminal operations inside the prison included these activities:

A civilian aide distributed cocaine in chewing gum wrappers while he walked around the 10-story building passing out anti-drug leaflets to inmates.

A guard smuggled a guitar string into the institution for a prisoner who wanted to use it to strangle another inmate. The guard asked for a $75 bribe plus $2 for the string.

In the ground floor lobby of the prison a guard sold a .25 caliber Beretta and 50 rounds of ammunition for $90 to a man who turned out to be an undercover agent.

Three officers arranged to have cars stolen so they could collect more than $5000 in false insurance claims.

While inside the prison the fake inmate described himself as an organized crime figure who was in the hot-dog vending business.

Excerpt from Selwyn Raab 6/9/77 NYT

Wednesday, June 08, 1977

Stakeout for .44-Caliber Killer Becomes a TV Show

For an undercover operation meant to trap a killer, the cover seemed about as secret as the 11 o’clock news.

Two plainclothes officers were waiting in an unmarked yellow Chevrolet to see who was watching a brown-haired 14-year-old girl leaving the Richmond Hill High School on 114th Street in Queens.

And not far down the block, a television news team in a car with New York press license plates was watching the two police officers. At one point two camera men, a producer and a TV reporter got out and interviewed the undercover men.

The story began the night before, when the girl and her father walked into the station house of the 102nd Precinct in Queens. “The father was worried because some guy was following his daughter, “ said Capt. Louis Fortunato. And he was particularly worried because his daughter had brown hair.”

“When we showed the girl a composite drawing of the .44-caliber killer, she said, that’s him, that’s the man following me.” One a wall upstairs in the 102d Precinct station house are four composite drawings of the killer - a different drawing for each murder. In one sketch the killer has a crew cut. In another his hair is long and straight, parted on the right. Another sketch shows his hair parted on the left. And in still another the killer wears a stocking cap.

So the next day the two officers waited across from Richmond High School Annex in the yellow Chevy. And the TV crew waited, watching them. A crowd of students followed the camera man who was following the reporter who was following the two officers. “I’m going to be on the news! I’m going to be on the news!” a young boy shouted as he darted in front of the camera filming the undercover officers. Luciano Ascerra, the assistant principal came out “to see what all the commotion is about.”

“The .44-caliber killer here at Richmond?” he asked. “That can’t be.” But minutes later he changed his mind. “Maybe I’m paranoid but there’s something I should tell the cops,” he said.

Except he could not find the police. They had gone off with the television cameramen.

Excerpt from Howard Blum June 8, 1977

Tuesday, June 07, 1977

Second Letter From .44 Slayer Has Police Chasing 4 Nicknames

The special police unit investigating the killer who calls himself Son of Sam was striving yesterday to find the source of four bizarre nicknames the killer used in a second letter.

The letter from Son of Sam, who has killed five people and wounded three others, all with the same .44-caliber pistol, urged the police to check on “The Duke of Death,” “The Wicked King Wicker,” “The Twenty-Two Disciples of Hell,” and John Weaties’ - rapist and suffocator of little girls.” The killer suggested in his letter, sent to the columnist Jimmy Breslin that the names be forwarded to the inspector (presumably Timothy Dowd) who is in charge of the investigation for use by the NCIC.

Addressing himself to Mr. Breslin, the killer continued: “J.B. I’m just dropping you a line to let you know that I appreciate your interest in those recent and horrendous .44 killings. I also want to tell you that I read your column daily and find it quite informative.”

“Perhaps we shall meet face to face some day or perhaps I will be blown away by the cops with smoking .38s. Whatever, if I shall be fortunate enough to meet you I will tell you all about Sam if you like and I will introduce you to him. His name is “Sam the Terrible.”

PS JB, please inform all the detectives working on the case that I wish them the best of luck, “Keep ‘em digging, drive on, think positive, get off your butts, knock on coffins, etc.

Upon my capture I promise to buy all the guys working on the case a new pair of shoes if I can get up the money. “Son of Sam.”

Excerpt from Molly Ivins June 7, 1977 New York Times

Monday, June 06, 1977

A Cincinnati Basketball Star is Held In the Robbery of Decoy Policeman

A freshman star guard for the nationally ranked University of Cincinnati basketball team was arraigned in Queens yesterday on charges of robbing a decoy policeman who was disguised as an old man. The basketball player, Eddie Lee, 18 years old, of Jamaica Queens and 5 other youths allegedly approached the decoy at 160th St near Liberty Ave in J. Saturday night after the C. Bearcats had lost to Rutgers at MSG- a game in which Mr Lee had scored 15 points.

According to Mrs. Lee, her son and four friends had just left a subway and were returning home when they saw the decoy, thought that he was ill and asked if they could help. A sixth person, who they did not know and whom they had noticed walking behind them-the youth who was not caught-was “the person that did it,” Mrs Lee asserted.

Excerpt from New York Times

Looting, Vandalism Follow Chicago Riot

Sporadic looting and vandalism continued today in the Humbolt Park section of Chicago, which was rocked by rioting that left two men dead last night (Saturday night).

The riot erupted yesterday at a Puerto Rican Day celebration in the park. The police said that fighting broke out between two gangs, the Latin Kings and the Spanish Cobras. The violence lasted for about six hours, from 6 pm to midnight, and spread to included fights between residents and police, looting of stores and shops on Division Street and two major fires that left 15 families homeless.

For a while, rioting, looting and burning went unhampered by the outnumbered policemen. Many officers were on duty at Soldier Field where between 70,000 and 80,000 youths attended a rock concert.

Earlier yesterday, a bomb rocked the Cook County Building near the fifth floor office of acting mayor Michael Bilendic. The FALN said it was responsible for yesterday’s blast. There were similar explosions in 1976 and 1975 during celebrations of Puerto Rican Day.

The street had its share of problems and boarded up businesses before last night’s violence. As in slums across the city and the country, many lots are vacant. Rock throwing youths prevented fire fighters from reaching burning buildings last night. Many of the stores which were not hit by looters, who appeared to be selective in their targets, displayed the Puerto Rican flag in their windows.

On many streets just outside the Humboldt Park section, life was normal. Children skipped to Sunday school and their parents later went to and from church seemingly unaware of the activity a few blocks away.

excerpt from Paul Delaney 6/6/77 NYT

Saturday, June 04, 1977

Brooklyn Man, 34, Held In the Murder of Another Over a Traffic Accident

A 34-year-old Brooklynite was charged with homicide last night in the shooting of a man with who he had become involved in a minor traffic accident.

Detectives said the suspect, George Smurra of Starrett City was a few blocks from his home when his car collided with another on Penn. Ave in East NY.

Both drivers got out of their cars and there was an argument. Mr. Smurra pulled a gun and shot the other driver in the chest, the police said. Three corrections officers in civilian clothing were driving by on their way to work at Rikers Island. Seeing Mr. Smurra getting back in his car and driving off, they gave chase and cornered him, the police said.

excerpt from NYT 6/4/77

Friday, June 03, 1977

Beating Victim Questions Justice As Court Frees Alleged Assailant

“Crime does pay, if you’re the criminal,” Salvador Reale said sadly as he stood in front of the Manhattan Criminal Court of 100 Centre Street yesterday with a cast on his right leg and hand and watched as Pablo Gonzales the man who had allegedly caused his injuries walked down the street.

Only minutes before Mr. Reale testified at a preliminary hearing that he had suffered a concussion, torn ligaments of the right leg and hand and a partial loss of hearing in the left ear earlier last month when he came to aid of a police officer who was attempting to arrest Mr. Gonzales.

The incident involving Mr. Reale, Mr. Gonzales, and Police Officer Luis A Troche of the 13th Precinct, occurred on May 5 outside a jewelry store at 14th Street and 3rd Avenue. According to Officer Troche who is in his late 40s, Mr. G and a woman identified as his mother were standing in the doorway of the jewelry store and were asked by the officer to move because they were blocking the entrance.

“Mr. Gonzales said he was having a watched repaired,” Officer Troche said. “When I attempted to go inside the store and check on the defendant’s story,” he punched me in the shoulder.”

During a struggle with the defendant, Officer Troche said, he lost his nightstick and was having a difficult time handcuffing Mr. Gonzales because the defendant’s mother was grabbing his neck. Mr. Reale pushed through the crowd that had gathered and asked the officer if he needed help. “He said yes,” said Mr. Reale. “When I tried to grab Mr. Gonzales, he hit me on the right side of my ear and kicked me repeatedly while I was on the ground.” Mr. Gonzales and his mother, Andrea Jiminez were charged with malicious assault and resisting arrest. Judge Bernard Muldow said the defendant was known to the court because of a prior arrest record but he extended Mr. Gonzales’ parole without bail because he said the defendant had been present during all previous court proceedings and had shown no indication that he would become a fugitive.

excerpt from Lena Williams NYT 6/3/77

Thursday, June 02, 1977

Joe Torre’s Appointment Is Not the Mets’ Answer

In changing managers, the New York Mets produced one giant leap for Joe Torre, but only one small step for the organization. Many other steps, some not so small are necessary. The ideal step would be for M. Donald Grant to abdicate as chairman of the board and for his puppet Joe McDonald to be replaced as general manager. They created the chaos that Joe Torre has been hired to clear. As long as Grant remains in charge Joe McDonald will remain in office, all of which leaves Joe Torre in jeopardy if the Mets are not a contender. Not now. And probably not next season but in 1979, the final year of his contract, Joe Torre will be in jeopardy.
But for the Mets to be a contender the front office must supply Joe Torre with some hitters, some speed and some trust. They front office must negotiate an armistice with Tom Seaver, Jon Matlack and Dave Kingman.

“The guys seem to be trying like hell for me,” Joe Torre said. “After they do it for me, I hope they do it for themselves.”

“If it were up to you, would you trade Seaver?”
“Trade him ofr who? I’m not going to trade Seaver for nobody. But if you buy a house for $50,000 and someone offers you $200,000 you’ve got to consider it.”

Since there are only two weeks left until the June 15 deadline, trading Tom Seaver won’t be easy. To justify trading the pitcher who has been described as “The Franchise” for nearly a decade the Mets should bet a performer of the same magnitude.

“The players will have respect for Joe the way they had respect for Gil Hodges,” says Seaver.

NYT Anderson 6/2/77

Wednesday, June 01, 1977

Panel Told of Parent Involvement in Child-Sex Trade

A Congressional subcommittee was told yesterday that child pornography was one of the fastest growing and most lucrative components of the commercial sex industry and involved more than 300,000 children below 16 years of age. The panel, the House Select Ed. Subcommittee held a sparsely attended hearing at Covenant House on Eight Avenue between 43rd and 44th streets in the heart of Manhattan’s commercial sex district.

The members were told that organized crime and sometimes parents were involved in sexual exploitation of children. They were shown books, magazines and films in which pre-teen-aged children engaged in sexual activities. Representative Edward I Koch of Manhattan testified that he had gone to several sex establishments in the Times Square area and that at one 17 of 50 peep shows showed children engaged in sex, some with animals.

“If we stop them here they crop up there and if we stop them there they move around the corner,” Mayor Beame said.
NYT N. Sheppard Jr 6/1/77

The strange looks began when he walked into Texaco’s Touring Center in New York City several months ago and asked the man behind the desk to plot a jo

The students told of being robbed and of being solicited for prostitution. They also told of looking out their windows and seeing prostitutes “doing their business,” sometimes “on the tops of cars.”

Crystal Sepulveda, who is 12 years old and in the seventh grade, said she and her friends were approached “lots of times” by men “making nasty remarks.”

“I was at the festival on Ninth Avenue and saw this little old nasty guy trying to touch all the little girls who passed by him, Crystal recalled. “I just started screaming, “Get out of here you pervert,” He just turned red and put his hands up to face and started running away.”

“I yell back at them,” interjected 12-year-old Laura Williamson, a brown-eyed freckle faced girl with shoulder length brown hair. When asked by a reporter what she said, she and the group broke into typical 12-year-old giggles. “I don’t think you want to write that down.”

Many of the Holy Cross students who range in age from kindergarten to eighth grade believe much of the problem of adults’ approaching them is the result of the pornographic movies in the area, many of which feature children their age and younger performing explicit sexual acts with adults and sometimes with animals.

Charlayne Hunter Gault NYT 6/1/77