“You won’t get away with this,” fictional murderers are often told by their victims, and ultimately few of them do. In real life, however, the statistics are less reassuring. There were 20,510 homicides in the U.S. last year—as against some 16,000 in 1970—and more than 4,500 have not yet been solved. On these pages PEOPLE reports on six infamous cases in which murderers continue to elude the law.
The phantom killer of JFK’s friend
John F. Kennedy had been dead almost a year when his friend Mary Pinchot Meyer laid down her paintbrush in her garage studio in Georgetown, donned warm clothing and headed for a walk along the towpath of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. It was Oct. 12, 1964, two days short of her 44th birthday.
The aristocratic Mary was the niece of Gifford Pinchot, Teddy Roosevelt’s conservation-minded chief of the Forest Service and a Pennsylvania governor in the 1920s. She had once been married to the wealthy Cord Meyer Jr., who was a world-government crusader and CIA agent. On occasion Mary had walked that towpath with her chum Jacqueline Kennedy.
At 12:15 p.m. Henry Wiggins, an auto mechanic who was working nearby on a Rambler with a dead battery, heard Mary scream: “Someone help me! Someone help me!” As Wiggins ran to the stone wall above the canal, he heard two shots. When he looked over he saw Mary lying on the path and a black man in a light jacket, dark slacks and dark cap standing over her. As Wiggins watched, the man stuffed an object into his pocket and disappeared.
Wiggins phoned police and they sealed off the five exits from the tow-path to Georgetown streets. In the underbrush they found a short, wiry black man, soaking wet and plastered with twigs and grass. He said his name was Raymond Crump Jr. and that he had fallen into the canal while fishing. No gun was found on or near him.
“This is a classic textbook case of circumstantial evidence,” prosecutor Albert Hantman told the jury when Crump went to trial the next July. Hantman reconstructed in detail the movements of victim and slayer to prove that only they had been present at the scene of what he described as a sexual attack. He introduced as evidence a branch of an overhanging tree, claiming bloodstains on it supported his account of the death struggle.
Dovey Roundtree, an ordained minister of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and a crack homicide lawyer, defended Crump by tearing Hantman’s case to pieces. She kept the accused man off the stand and conjured up the possibility of a “phantom killer” who had escaped by an unmarked exit. The all-black jury found Crump not guilty.
Publicly unknown at the time of the trial, and indeed until the National Enquirer broke the story 12 years later, was Mary’s two-year love affair with JFK, which she chronicled in a diary. Some of her prominent friends, including CIA official James Angleton, hunted out the diary on her prior instructions and burned it before the trial. Angleton’s involvement touched off inevitable speculation that the CIA was involved in the death of the President’s mistress. There is no evidence whatsoever that it was anything more than a random murder.
The revelations about the White House romance surprised Dovey Roundtree. She still thinks Crump is innocent and that Mary’s murderer is at large. “Ray Crump was a patsy,” she says. “Any little black man walking down that path that morning would have been it. They needed a suspect.”
Valerie Percy, 14,000 interviews
“I don’t have a political machine,” Charles Percy, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate from Illinois, had joked at a rally one September evening in 1966, “but my daughter Valerie does, so I depend on her to get out the workers.” On Sept. 18, around 5 a.m., Percy was asleep in his suburban Kenilworth mansion when his wife, Loraine, heard moans. Investigating, she surprised a man bending over her stepdaughter’s bed. Mrs. Percy screamed and woke her husband. The intruder fled, but Valerie, brutally stabbed and bludgeoned, died before a doctor could reach her.
In the past 10 years police and FBI agents have interviewed some 14,000 people, tracked down more than 1,300 potential leads and administered no fewer than 58 lie detector tests in their effort to capture Valerie’s killer. But while at least two known criminals have been named as suspects in the case, no arrests have been made, and none appears imminent.
Authorities theorize that Valerie—the 21-year-old twin of Sharon Percy, wife of West Virginia gubernatorial candidate Jay Rockefeller—was murdered by a member of a housebreaking gang. Their principal clue is a record of a mysterious call, made four months before the crime, from a phone on the Percy estate to a South Side Chicago meat market. (Because of the political campaign, the Percy home was often accessible to the public Rugendorf, operator of the market and an accused crime-syndicate fence, denied ever receiving the call. Later Rugendorf testified that a cat burglar named Frank Hohimer—who had previously turned state’s evidence against Rugendorf—had privately admitted murdering Valerie. Rugendorf repeated the charge in a death-bed statement to a reporter. He was joined in his accusation by Hohimer’s brother, Harold Wayne, who tried to claim the $50,000 reward once offered by the Percys.
Hohimer, now serving a 30-year prison sentence for his part in a $200,000 Denver, Colo, jewel robbery, implicated another burglar, Frederick Mal-chow, in the Percy slaying. He told reporters in 1973 that Malchow and two partners had showed up at his Chicago apartment after the murder and that he had disposed of Malchow’s bloody clothing in the building’s incinerator. Later Hohimer recanted. Malchow was killed in 1967 when he fell from a bridge after a prison break in Norristown, Pa. Fellow escapee and former cellmate Harold Evans was recaptured two years later and told police that Malchow had confessed the murder to him.
Cook County State’s Attorney Bernard Carey has concluded that Hohimer and Malchow represent the “best solution” to the Percy mystery. Hohimer’s memoirs, The Home Invaders—Confessions of a Cat Burglar, were published last year. He insisted he was innocent of Valerie Percy’s murder.
The feds are moving in on Hoffa’s killers
It has been more than 15 months since the disappearance—and presumed execution—of ex-Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa. Despite the delay, federal investigators believe they know most of the details of the gangland-style killing and remain confident that arrests will be made. Robert Ozer of the Justice Department Strike Force has named three alleged suspects, all with Teamster and underworld ties: Thomas Andretta, Gabriel Briguglio and his brother Salvatore Briguglio. All are from New Jersey, and Justice Department officials say all are connected with Anthony Provenzano. Tony Pro is a reputed Mafioso and a onetime Teamster ally of Hoffa’s who reportedly vowed, after a falling out, to “rip Hoffa’s guts out.”
Federal investigators think the motive for the killing was Hoffa’s vow to regain the Teamsters’ presidency. He had been forced to relinquish it in 1971 after his conviction for jury tampering. Hoffa had reportedly agreed to cooperate in an investigation into the misuse of Teamster pension funds in return for the possible lifting of a Justice Department ban against his participation in union affairs.
Investigators believe three Mafia hit men flew from New Jersey to Pontiac, Mich, before intercepting Hoffa at the suburban Machus Red Fox restaurant. Hoffa is said to have been killed a short time later, and his body stuffed in a 55-gallon drum that was disposed of in Jersey City, N.J. So far nearly 100 persons have been questioned by a Detroit grand jury. Reluctant witnesses are being pressured to testify under grants of immunity from prosecutors. And, in a case federal officials say is unrelated, Provenzano and Salvatore Briguglio are under indictment in connection with the 1961 murder of a New Jersey Teamster official. The reputed fall guy in the Hoffa case, Charles “Chuckie” O’Brien, his foster son, is believed to have been duped into driving the abduction car. O’Brien denies it. At present he is awaiting sentencing for a labor law violation.
FBI and Justice Department spokesmen say they expect to crack the Hoffa case within a year. They may do so without ever turning up the body. “It would be nice to have the corpse,” says U.S. Attorney Philip Van Dam, “but as proof of murder it isn’t required.” Under Michigan law, the biggest losers if no body is found will be Hoffa’s family. His wife, Josephine, son James and daughter Barbara will have to wait seven years to inherit his $1.4 million estate.
Serge Rubinstein: The butler didn’t do it
The New York police did not lack for clues or suspects when they found the body of millionaire Serge Rubinstein in the third-floor bedroom of his Fifth Avenue mansion the morning of Jan. 27, 1955. The pajama-clad body was sprawled near a photograph of Rubinstein as Napoleon, a favorite costume-party role. His hands and feet were tied with venetian-blind cord and his mouth sealed with a wide band of adhesive tape. He had been strangled. In the room were a dozen fingerprints that weren’t Rubinstein’s, a woman’s white dress glove and a handbag. Rubinstein, a womanizing stock manipulator, knew so many people—many of them enemies—that he kept six thick notebooks containing their names. His police dossier indicated that he was a cad only a mother could love, and the police weren’t entirely sure about her. (She lived on the floors above him.) Rubinstein even had a butler, who found the body.
Serge Manuel Rubinstein was the son of a financial adviser to czarist Russia’s maniacal monk Rasputin. At the age of 10 he fled the Bolshevik revolution carrying a fortune in jewels in his knickers. Cambridge-educated, he became the managing director of a small French bank at 24, and a year later launched a Franco-Asian stock-rigging scheme that netted him millions and eventual expulsion from France for imperiling the franc. In 1938, at age 30, he came to the U.S., and to avoid the draft he got married and fathered two children. Nonetheless, he was sent to prison for two years for draft evasion. Once out, he divorced his wife, shamelessly manipulated both stocks and beautiful women and, with the aid of a battery of expensive lawyers, fended off U.S. efforts to deport him.
The very abundance of suspects was the cops’ undoing. In the 21 years since the murder, they have interviewed thousands of persons—one of the most extensive investigations in the New York homicide squad’s history. The department still has not closed the book on Rubinstein. “His background left a lot of openings,” says retired detective Raymond Seiler, who worked full-time on the case for three years. “Every turn you took, there was other speculation.” Detectives never could match up the fingerprints with suspects, who included a Canadian financier, a Japanese banker, Rubinstein’s sex partners and a Queens chauffeur who had once planned to kidnap him. The glove and bag belonged to a woman who dated him well before his death. Mother Rubinstein was ruled out—”She even held a seance to find out who killed him,” Seiler recalls. The butler proved to be one of the few admirers Rubinstein had in the world.
Sal Mineo liked things candlelit
Sal Mineo, an actor from the Bronx, had a choirboy face that rocketed him to screen popularity and then held him captive, typecast forever as a kid. But at 37 Mineo was convinced that he had turned his sagging career around. The two-time Oscar nominee (for Rebel Without a Cause in 1955 and Exodus in 1960) was preparing for the Los Angeles opening of P.S. Your Cat Is Dead, a play in which he had triumphed in San Francisco.
Around 10 p.m. last Feb. 12, he returned from a rehearsal to his modest one-bedroom apartment in a Hollywood neighborhood popular with transients. Moments later residents heard screams from the basement garage and saw a man running away. Mineo lay crumpled near his rented blue Chevelle, his keys beside him. A neighbor tried mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, but within minutes the actor was dead of stab wounds, at least one of which had pierced his heart.
The police could establish no clear motive. “We can make a logical argument for a variety of motives,” Phil Bullington, the lieutenant in charge of the investigation, said, “with suspects ranging from friend to robber.”
Mineo’s wallet was still on his body. Street gossip had it that Mineo was a homosexual and the killing the result of a lovers’ quarrel. Those who had known and worked with the actor, though, refused to believe it. The late ex-gangster Mickey Cohen, recalling Mineo’s visits to the Beverly Hills ice cream parlor Cohen ran, said, “He was a fine little man, a gentlemen all the way.”
Mineo’s early young-punk roles gave him a misleading image. “All his life, no matter what Sal did, people drummed up stories,” says his brother and former manager, Michael. “He was an innocent, straight person. All he was doing was fighting to be an artist.”
“He spent a lot of time in bed, reading,” says Los Angeles radio and TV interviewer Elliott Mintz, a close friend for 13 years. “He had lots of books, mostly about motion pictures and plays. He liked everything soft and candlelit.”
Mineo never lived extravagantly in Hollywood, but his money did trickle away on dinners, parties and travel. It also went for a $200,000 house for his mother and brother outside New York City. “When you score a success as early as Sal did,” says Elliott Mintz, “you either develop a healthy respect for money or you don’t. Sal was reckless.”
Irony abounds. The last three months of the actor’s life were among his happiest, Mintz believes. Mineo had signed a deal with producer William Belasco to direct a film, a love story yet untitled. After Sal’s murder, his friends planned a memorial service at Belasco’s home. It was never held. “The night before,” says Mintz, “Belasco was killed in an auto accident.”
A fledgling actress left her own prints
In the living room of his Chicago lake-front apartment, newspaper columnist and TV host Irv Kupcinet keeps a leather-bound album inscribed simply “Karyn.” It is among the few tangible reminders of the Kupcinets’ only daughter, who was found strangled to death 13 years ago after a brief career as a starlet in Hollywood. Police believe that Karyn, 23, knew her murderer. Their investigation was hampered by the fact that her nude body lay in her apartment three days before being discovered. They also have been unable to establish a motive. “We have a good idea who did it,” says Kupcinet, “but nothing we could ever prove. We still hope the Los Angeles sheriff’s police won’t give up on the case, but the longer it goes on with no real answers, the harder it is to have any hope.”
A bright, high-strung girl, stagestruck from childhood, Karyn dropped out of junior college after one year to study acting in New York with Lee Strasberg. She moved to Hollywood in 1960 after Jerry Lewis, a family friend, offered her a role in his movie The Ladies Man. Later she landed bit parts in Surfside 6, Hawaiian Eye and Perry Mason, but her career was becalmed at the time of her death. “I have confidence in my ability as an actress, but confidence in myself—well, that’s another matter,” she once said.
Her behavior was sometimes wildly impulsive. She was convicted of shoplifting in 1962 for taking two books, a sweater and a pair of slacks, perhaps on a lark. Several months later, apparently upset over breaking up with her boyfriend, actor Andrew Prine, she reportedly broke into Prine’s apartment to wait for him. When he showed up with a date, she hid in the attic.
On the night she was killed, Karyn dined out with actor Mark Goddard and his wife, then returned to her apartment where she entertained a few friends. She was murdered shortly after they left. Prine, then appearing on NBC’s Wide Country, agreed to a lie detector test after his torn T-shirt was found in Karyn’s apartment. Three other friends also took the test, and the results for all four were inconclusive. The most promising lead fizzled when police examined a packet of threatening letters that Karyn and Prine had received. The threats were spelled out in words clipped from magazines and pasted on sheets of paper. Removing the words, a detective found Karyn’s fingerprints underneath, indicating that she had sent the letters herself.
Though there is no statute of limitations on murder, and police have promised to notify Karyn’s father if there are any developments, Kupcinet has not spoken with them in more than three years. “We offered to hire a private detective,” says his wife, Essee. “We even tried mystics. When you’re desperate, and your own daughter is involved, you’ll do anything.” Embittered by uncertainty and the knowledge that Karyn’s murderer may never be punished, Essee Kupcinet has been unable to bury her memories. “We were good friends,” the mother explains sorrowfully. “She called me sis. I can’t believe it happened so long ago. Oh God, how I miss her.”