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15-Year Old Kills 12-Year Old “Friend”

February 1933

Case Description

The body of a 12-year old Willie Bender was discovered brutally murdered two weeks after he was reported missing by his parents. He had been tied with a rope and stabbed in the heart by his 15-year old “friend,” Harry Murch.

Murch’s crime was horrendous. The bully lured the younger boy to an abandoned house and killed him as a horrified friend looked on. The tough guy murderer claimed the young victim’s father had badmouthed him.  

1. Harry Murch; 2. Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Bender, parents of murder victim Willie Bender; 3. Judge Thomas Downs; 4. Defense Attorney Dana Wallace; 5. Jury

The Crime

The killing was a result, as the confession revealed, of petty revenge – because the father of the Bender youngster accused Harry of robbing a woman and hitting her over the head with a monkey wrench. This story came after a no monkey business 6 hour interview with the detectives.

In his plan to get back at the boy’s father, Murch coerced Bender and another young friend, John Miller (10) to participate in a “rehearsal” robbery. As the boys unwittingly entered this ruse, the play quickly turned into a tragedy.  Murch made Miller tie Bender’s limbs with a rope as he gagged the victim until he couldn’t yell.  After Murch stabbed Bender through the heart with a potato knife, he enlisted Miller and Miller’s 13-year old sister to cover up the crime.

William Bender was found two weeks later, stuffed into the closet of an empty dwelling.


Bullet Points


Police questioned the boys for hours


Anonymous benefactor pays for funeral


DA says any person over 7 years old could be tried on a capital charge


Jurors considered "the chair"


Young witnesses testified


Jamaica Police Station

Harry Murch, 15 is shown with guard at Jamaica police station, arrested for killing Willie Bender, 12 (inset).

William Bender

Willie Bender, 12, found bound, gagged and stabbed.

Trial of Harry Murch

The accused at the center of a widely publicized trial.

Willie's Parents

Mr. and Mrs. Henry Bender, parents of the dead boy.

The Scene

The abandoned house where Willie was murdered.

2nd Degree Murder

Murch showed little emotion during the trial.


Harry and his attorney, Dana Wallace

Bullet Points


Sentenced 20 years to life


Released from Sing Sing on parole in October, 1953


Became a butcher's assistant


Suspected in 1955 sex-slaying of a crippled 39-year-old woman


Arrested and convicted of molesting a seven-year-old girl in 1956


Harry Murch died in 1986 at the age of 69

Hours to Confess

Days on Trial


Your Penance

In the name of Annah the Allmaziful, the Everliving, the Bringer of Plurabilities, haloed be her eve, her singtime sung, her rill be run, unhemmed as it is uneven!