Thursday, March 26, 2015

Who Murdered Mary Imelda Coyle?

“Officials argued while a murderer fled…”
by Robert A. Waters

Seventeen-year-old Mary Imelda Coyle desired nothing more than to be a nun.  Deeply religious, she attended several Catholic services each week.  Despite the attentions of male classmates, Mary followed her own path.

She lived with her mother and older sister on a shabby houseboat in New Rochelle, New York.  Her father, a drunkard of the worst sort, had deserted the family, although he made sporadic and unwanted visits.

On the evening of October 11, 1938, Mary walked over the nine-foot-plank that connected the houseboat to land, and started toward St. Gabriel’s Catholic Church.  “She left home at eight o’clock,” Mrs. Coyle later told police.  When Mary hadn’t returned by midnight, Mrs. Coyle began searching for her.  She found a neighbor who had a telephone, and began calling churches and friends of the girl.

Finally, when she was unable to determine the whereabouts of her daughter, Mrs. Coyle’s neighbor drove her to the New Rochelle Police Department.  A skeptical desk sergeant rolled his eyes when told that Mary had no boyfriends, didn’t go to parties, didn’t speak with strangers, and had no reason to run away. In fact, all of that was true.

At 8:30 on the morning of October 12, Mary’s body was found a mile from her home, just over the city line in Larchmont.  The site was near the path that led to Mary’s houseboat home.  Her blood-soaked coat was found underneath a tree a few hundred yards away in New Rochelle.  According to news reports, this ignited a firestorm between the two police agencies, each claiming that the other was responsible for investigating the case.  Finally, the Westchester County District Attorney called a conference of all police agencies in the county and attempted to nice-talk them into working together on the case. To help smooth the way, the county put up a $5,000 reward and loaned five of its best detectives to New Rochelle and Larchmont.

Still the friction existed.  When Mary’s beret and stepins were found in Larchmont, local police insisted that the girl must have been killed in New Rochelle because there was no blood underneath the items.  Therefore, according to the Larchmont police chief, New Rochelle should take the lead.

In-fighting between the two agencies continued throughout the investigation.

An autopsy confirmed that Mary had been “criminally assaulted.”  She had died when the killer drove a “metal wedge two inches into the girl’s skull.”  The Burlingame Times and Daily News Leader reported that “despite the brutality of the slaying the perpetrator arranged the body with extreme care.  He placed it in a spot where passersby would be sure to see it the next morning.  The coat, dress, and underclothes were carefully smoothed out.”

Investigators questioned 200 “sexual delinquents.”  They checked “thousands” of automobiles for bloodstains.  Detectives visited all laundry establishments in the area searching for someone who may have cleaned bloody clothes.  Nine men wanted for various crimes in other states were rounded up.  None, however, emerged as suspects in Mary’s murder.

Gossip swirled around the case.  An inebriated ship’s captain informed New Rochelle bar patrons that Mary had been the victim of a love triangle.  The captain stated that a wealthy lover became angry when Mary chose a pauper for her sweetheart and killed her in a blind rage.  Investigators jumped on the lead, but it quickly fizzled.  In truth, Mary had no lovers.

Within a few months, the case went cold.

Ten years after the unsolved murder, the Syracuse Post Standard summed up the case.  “Many who have studied the Mary Coyle case,” the editors wrote, “believe that Mary was stopped only a short distance from her home by a man she knew who induced her to get into his car. Eventually, so the theorists say, they drove east along Palmer Ave., for more than a mile, lined with wild brush and scrub without a single habitation.  Somewhere along Palmer Ave., so the prevailing theory runs, Mary was criminally attacked and then killed.  The slayer, acting coolly, deliberately wrapped Mary’s battered head in her own coat and loaded her body into his car.

“After taking the girl’s body to the Larchmont lot, the murderer drove south to the Boston Post Road, where he threw away her torn stepins, beret and rosary (never found.) Then, [thoroughly] familiar with the lay of the land, he swung on the heavily traveled present Post Road, turning into the quieter Old Boston Post Road and dropped the coat at Lispenard Ave.  It was but coincidence—or so it is conjectured—that he left the coat only a few hundred yards from Mary’s home.”

Mary’s wayward father died in 1946, eight years after her murder.  Her mother and sister soon moved away, disappearing into oblivion.

In 1948, the Post Standard reported that “the houseboat still stands, empty and silent, a crumbling monument to a girl who had no real chance in life and to officials who argued while a murderer fled.”

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Robert A. Waters’ Review of American Murder Houses

American Murder Houses: A Coast-to-Coast Tour of the Most Notorious Houses of Homicide
by Steve Lehto
Berkley Books, New York, NY

Conrad Aiken was one of those famous poets who wrote such obtuse verse that he won a Pulitzer Prize.  He was friends with all the major writers of the early Twentieth century, including T. S. Eliot.  What I never knew was that Aiken’s father murdered his mother, then committed suicide in their Savannah, Georgia home.  American Murder Houses, by Steve Lehto, recounts the tragic story that left Aiken an orphan.

Lehto describes 29 murder cases, some famous and some not so much.  The cases sweep across America, from Florida to California.  “Included here,” the author writes, “are the addresses and many other details of the houses.”

Still standing is the Villisca, Iowa home where an axe murderer slaughtered eight people, then vanished in the night.  Despite one of the most intense manhunts ever conducted in the mid-west, the killer was never found.  The home, believe it or not, is open to visitors, for a nominal fee.  In fact, you can even spend the night there, but remember—it has no electricity or running water.

Many of the homes are private, but still visible from the road.  There’s the small Pasadena, Texas cottage once lived in by the “Candyman,” serial murderer Dean Corll—absolutely horrific things went on in that house.  There’s the “Wonderland” murder home, where porn star John Holmes helped several cohorts murder four people in a dispute over drugs.  And there’s the Miami Beach home where Gianni Versace was gunned down by a psychopath named Andrew Cunanan.

What happens to a home after a gruesome murder or series of murders?  Many, like Joel Rifkin’s mother’s home in East Meadow, New York, end up going back on the market.  His mother traveled often, and while she was away, Rifkin would bring prostitutes to the residence where he murdered them.  He was arrested after two cops stopped him for having no license plate on his truck.  They smelled a foul odor and found a dead woman in the back.  Rifkin quickly confessed to 17 killings.  After he went to prison, Rifkin’s mother lived in the home until she died.  Then the home was listed for sale, where it was described as a “handyman’s special.”  The couple who bought it stated that they didn’t care about its history.  Lehto writes that one of the new owners said: “A house is a house.  People die all the time in houses.  We’re bringing all positive vibes.”

I highly recommend this intriguing book to the readers of my blog.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Slavery Revisited

New York: The capital of American slavery
by Robert A. Waters

Douglas Harper is a Pennsylvania historian and author.  His website about slavery in the northern states draws heavily on original source material.  While researching northern slavery, Harper writes: “I kept running into people, most of them born and raised in ‘free’ states, who had no idea there ever were slaves in the North.”  Much of the information in this story comes from Harper’s work, and from Mac Griswold’s book, The Manor: Three Centuries At a Slave Plantation on Long Island.

Yes, Virginia, northern slavery not only existed but flourished.  In fact, slavery still survived in some northern states long after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation called for freeing slaves in the South.

Dutch and English slavers brought Africans to America soon after its discovery.  Not to be denied, New England ship captains quickly began sailing to Africa where they purchased slaves from tribal leaders.  These Africans were shipped to northern ports and sold to the highest bidder.  By 1790, the population of America was four million, 19% of which were slaves, most in northern states.

In “The Hidden History of Slavery in New York,” Adele Oltman, writes: “On display [at the New-York Historical Society] is The Trading Book of the Sloop of Rhode Island, which left the Port of New York in 1748 for West Africa under the direction of Capt. Peter James…Early in the voyage, around Sierra Leone, James distributed two New World commodities that had come through the Port of New York: tobacco and rum…In return he loaded up on cloth, guns and other manufactured goods from Europe. Later, as he sailed along the Gold Coast (today’s Ghana), he traded those goods for slaves, a few at a time.

“James’s book registered the deaths of thirty-eight slaves on the journey home. But even with the loss, the trafficking in slaves was profitable. A table provides a graphic illustration of just how lucrative the business was. In 1675 the average selling price of a slave in dollars in Africa was $354.89, and in New York it was $3,792.66 (that's a 969 percent markup, for those econometricians keeping score). A hundred years later the trade was still profitable, although with a more modest return of 159 percent.”

Uncle Tom’s Cabin portrayed Southern slave-holders as brutal.  But brutality is where you find it, as these true stories show.

After a New York City slave uprising in 1712, Harper writes that “a special court convened by the governor made short work of the rebels. Of the twenty-seven slaves brought to trial for complicity in the plot, twenty-one were convicted and put to death. Since the law authorized any degree of punishment in such cases, some unlucky slaves were executed with all the refinements of calculated barbarity. New Yorkers were treated to a round of grisly spectacles as Negroes were burned alive, racked and broken on the wheel, and gibbeted alive in chains.”

The following example could come straight from the files of ISIS: “As in other Northern colonies, blacks in New York faced special, severe penalties for certain crimes. An example from Poughkeepsie illustrates one of them: A young slave, about twenty years of age...[burned] his master’s barn and outbuildings, and thus destroyed much grain, together with live-stock. He was detected by the smoke issuing from his pocket, (into which he had thrust some combustibles,) imprisoned, tried, and on his confession, condemned to be burned to death. He was fastened to a stake, and when the pile was fired, the dense crowd excluded the air, so that the flames kindled but slowly, and the dreadful screams of the victim were heard at a distance of three miles. His master, who had been fond of him, wept aloud, and called to the Sheriff to put him out of his misery. This officer then drew his sword; but the master, still crying like a child, exclaimed, ‘Oh, don’t run him through!’ The Sheriff then caused the crowd to separate, so as to cause a current of air; and when the flame burst out fiercely he called to the sufferer to ‘swallow the blaze;’ which he did, and immediately he sunk dead.”

In the early-to-mid 1800s, most northern states abolished slavery, but not all.

After Lincoln’s armies invaded the Confederacy, the U. S. president issued the Emancipation Proclamation.  Intended for the South, the Proclamation was never intended for the northern states.  For example, even though the War Between the States ended in April, 1865, slave-owners in Delaware kept slaves until the 13th Amendment was ratified in December, 1865.  That was three full years after the Proclamation.  

One thorny question remains: if ending slavery was truly the major motive for the war, why did Northerners continue to own slaves while demanding that the South relinquish theirs?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

“Let Nothing Tear Us Apart”

The Internet’s original cybersleuth, Todd Matthews, is to be featured in a documentary film that will publicize missing persons and the unidentified dead, but the project needs $40,000 for completion.  This website explains how you can help.

Todd, who now works for the Department of Justice, has been featured on national television, in People Magazine, and in books about the unidentified dead.

He has been my friend for many years, since I visited him in his hometown of Livingston, Tennessee.  Todd is a champion of the underdog whose life has been dedicated to helping others.  He learned early on that publicity and an online army of volunteers can do as much or more than law enforcement to find identities of those sad remains that no longer have names.

The first person who emails me and tells me they’ve made a contribution to the documentary film fund will receive a free copy of my latest book, The Kidnapping and Murder of Little Skeegie Cash: J. Edgar Hoover and Florida’s Lindbergh Case.  The book will be signed by both me and my co-author, Zack C. Waters. (NOTE: WE HAVE A WINNER.  THANKS, KAREN.)

“Let Nothing Tear Us Apart” will bring much-needed publicity to the cause.   

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Day Reason Died

“A bloody spectacle…”
by Robert A. Waters

At the Boston terror trial, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s attorney admitted his client set off the pressure cooker bombs that killed three people and injured hundreds more.  But just wait, the lawyer said, my client had a reason.  

Before we get an explanation, however, a parade of victims file into court to recount the horror of that afternoon.

One fine spring day, while people are having fun in arguably the country’s most iconic city, a deafening blast rocks the landscape.  Then another.  In the courtroom, photos and videos show excruciating scenes of mutilation, blood (real blood, not movie blood), evisceration.  Jurors gasp when they hear the explosions, but after the smoke clears, there’s more—whimpers drifting into the sad sky mixed with shrieks that must confound the heavens.

In court, wounded souls drag prosthetic limbs to the stand and tell their stories, trying to make sense of the senseless.  A father describes how he had to make a decision: should he tend to his mangled son whose light was already flickering, or should he help his daughter whose leg had been blown to smithereens?

There’s the cop who administered CPR to a woman whose lower body had been blown off.  “From the waist down,” he said, “it’s really tough to describe.  It was complete mutilation.” As strangers worked to save her life, the woman mouthed to a friend that her legs hurt.  Seconds later, her hand went limp.

Then there was the graduate student who traveled seven thousand miles only to die on a bloody foreign street.

While viewing destruction on an unimaginable scale, the gallery of spectators wept.  But somewhere out there, in the midst of death, the lawyer says there’s a reason.  After jurors hear Tsarnaev’s motive, they’ll want to let him live out his life.

The prosecutor informed jurors that the bomb was “designed to tear people apart and create a bloody spectacle.”  That’s obvious.

But why?

I can’t wait to hear Tsarnaev’s explanation.

Friday, March 6, 2015

True Quotes

“History is the version of past events that people have decided to agree upon.”  Napoleon Bonaparte.

“Every man must do two things alone; he must do his own believing and his own dying.”  Martin Luther.

“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”  George Orwell.

“People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” George Orwell.

“How can you expect a man who’s warm to understand one who’s cold?” Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

“[We] made a great mistake in the beginning of our struggle, and I fear, in spite of all we can do, it will prove to be a fatal mistake. We appointed all our worst generals to command our armies, and all our best generals to edit the newspapers.” Robert E. Lee.

“Anyone who clings to the historically untrue — and — thoroughly immoral doctrine that violence never solves anything I would advise to conjure up the ghosts of Napoleon Bonaparte and the Duke of Wellington and let them debate it. The ghost of Hitler would referee. Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor; and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its worst. Breeds that forget this basic truth have always paid for it with their lives and their freedoms.” Robert A. Heinlein.

“If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” George Washington.

“By gnawing through a dike, even a rat may drown a nation.” Edmund Burke.

“Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.” P. J. O’Rourke.

“History is written by the winners.” Alex Haley.

“I think that there are certain crimes which the law cannot touch, and which therefore, to some extent, justify private revenge.” Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes quote from “The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton.”)

“Political correctness is tyranny with manners.” Charlton Heston.

“Be wary of strong drink. It can make you shoot at tax collectors... and miss.” Robert A. Heinlein.  

Sunday, March 1, 2015

How Long Before California Executes Multiple Murderer?

Kermit Alexander Seeks Justice
“In the past 29 years, I’ve missed my mother everyday…”
by Robert A. Waters

It has long been my opinion that capital punishment is a social contract between a nation’s populace and government.  Throughout much of history, families of murder victims took their own revenge.  When civilized societies formed, governments took the role of avenger.  Today it’s called justice, but it’s the same thing.  When states do not administer justice, what recourse do families have?  Recently, Kermit Alexander, a former NFL star, sued the state of California, demanding that his mother’s killer be executed.  This lawsuit is long overdue.

At 5:30 A.M., on August 31, 1984, Ebora Alexander, still wearing her nightgown and slippers, was making coffee in her kitchen.  Within seconds, she lay dead.  Ebora had been shot three times in the head.

Her daughter, Dietra, 23, screamed when she heard the commotion.  Ebora’s killer then ran into her bedroom and shot her between the eyes.

Two of Ebora’s grandchildren, Damon Bonner, 8, and Damani Garner, 10, died in their beds, brutally slaughtered by the same gunman.

The murdered members of the family were innocent victims of a botched hit—the killers had mistaken Ebora’s home for that of their intended target.

Ebora Alexander lived in Watts, always a powder-keg ruled by drugs and gangs.  Her son, Kermit Alexander, who had played for ten years in the NFL, begged her to move out.  But Ebora wanted to be near her friends, so she remained in her long-time home.

Kermit’s first impulse was to find the murderers and kill them.  He bought a gun and, like the police, searched for the killers.  NBC News reported that “the ex-athlete—who was a first-round draft pick in 1963 and spent 10 years in the pros—says the only reason he didn’t become a killer himself is because then-Mayor Tom Bradley made him promise to give up his hunt and let the legal process run its course.”

When the shooter, Tiequon Cox, a member of the Rollin 60 Crips Gang, was identified by police, Alexander assumed that justice would be served.  Cox was tried and convicted, and sentenced to death.  His cohort, who did not pull the trigger, received a life sentence.

For 31 years, Alexander has waited.  “It galls me,” he said. “The people of California have said over and over again that they want this kind of punishment for the worst criminals.”

Two years ago, Kermit wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle that “on Aug. 31, 1984, Cox murdered my mother, sister and two nephews during an early morning home invasion. Cox, a for-hire killer, went to the wrong address and mistakenly killed my family—four acts of murder committed on an innocent family in exchange for $3,500.

“In the past 29 years, I have missed my mother every day. Yet my family’s murderer continues to live, even though the jury found him guilty and then unanimously recommended the death penalty.”

I’d like to see a parade of other families of victims join Aexander’s lawsuit.  Maybe that would convince California’s anti-capital punishment governor, Jerry Brown, that justice should finally be served.