The St. Albans Bank Heist

The St. Albans Bank Heist

Cops and Robbers

St. Albans Bank Heist
Captain's Blog

– Case Description

As the rain began to fall on an early autumn day in Queens, people on their lunch break opened umbrellas and ducked into doorways.  Three men stepped out of a car and took cover in the St. Albans branch of the Manhattan Bank. Once inside, it was clear that the men weren’t there just to get out of the rain.  Brandishing weapons with movements that meant business, the bandits proceeded to steal cash from the tellers and ordered the bank manager to the vault. 

They weren’t aware of the young clerk cowered in the back, surreptitiously reaching for the phone to call the police. The police arrived within five minutes but the bandits had already executed their plan and made off with thousands of dollars in cash. 

The case led to “Cowboy Pete’s” cache: a .45 calibre machine gun, a sawed off shotgun, a Winchester rifle, a 12 gauge automatic shotgun, four .45 Colt automatics, and 27 other revolvers in addition to large stores of ammunition, cartridge clips, blackjacks and burglars’ tools.

Crime Summary

The well-planned crime netted at least $7900 for the gang.  Nearly half of the loot was in rolled coins, which was used to pay an accomplice $1000 in dimes.

Charred coin wrappers in a chimney flue and a matchbook in the backseat of the getaway vehicle provided a trail of clues in the case.  Detectives were led across county lines to Manhattan, and over state lines from Pennsylvania, Dallas, Los Angeles and back.  Ultimately,  it was the leader’s penmanship that brought the case together.  By dotting his “i’s” with circles instead of dots,  he helped detectives make the necessary connections to the crime.

The bandits were captured within weeks of the robbery.  They all pled guilty at the trial and were each sentenced to varying prison terms of up to 25 years.

“Cowboy Pete” Colavecchio, a fugitive and gunman with an impressive arsenal was arrested in Manhattan two years later.

 

Final Result

Detective Gordon Hill and Captain Henry Flattery were commended by Commissioner Valentine for excellent police work in breaking the case.

Dollars Stolen

Bandits

Fences

Let’s Work Together

Former ADA Robbed in Office

Former ADA Robbed in Office

New York Times February 5, 1936

Ex-Queens Prosecutor, Bound and Office Looted
Captain's Blog

Five armed men held up Charles Froessel, former First Assistant District Attorney of Queens County, in his law office on the seventh floor of a building at 161-19 Jamaica Avenue, Jamaica, and after binding him and a watchman in the basement, they methodically ransacked four offices in the building.

I was called to the District Attorney’s Office. I wasn’t surprised. I knew just what he had to say; that Charles Froessel’s name as a robbery victim had made headlines and alerted the public; that three more robberies inside of two weeks had made the police department look foolish; that he wanted action.

Captain Henry Flattery

Charles W. Froessel

While an assistant district attorney, Charles Froessel tried several capital murder cases. The most famous was that of Ruth Snyder, a Queens housewife, and her lover, Judd Gray, who were accused, convicted and executed in Sing Sing Prison for the murder of Mrs. Snyder’s husband, Albert, in a scheme to collect on his life insurance.

Froessel was elected to the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, in 1949. In his final year on the bench, he voted with the majority in the court’s decision to clear the way for construction of the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

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March 13, 1940

Teen Kills 12-Year Old Boy

Teen Kills 12-Year Old Boy

 Murder

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

W

Police questioned the boys for hours

W

Anonymous benefactor pays for funeral

W

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

W

Jurors considered "the chair"

W

Young witnesses testified

Photos

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.

Defense

Harry and his attorney, Dana Wallace

Bullet Points

W

Sentenced 20 years to life

W

Released from Sing Sing on parole in October, 1953

W

Became a butcher's assistant

W

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

W

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

W

Harry Murch died in 1986 at the age of 69

Hours to Confess

Days on Trial

Media

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!

The Dumbbell Murder

The Dumbbell Murder

FAMOUS CRIMES

The Dumbbell Murder
Media CoverageCaptain's Blog

Crime Scene

In 1927, Ruth Snyder plotted with her lover, Judd Gray, to murder her husband for his insurance policy. This crime of passion and greed became a tabloid sensation that led to the first photo of an electrocution. 

This simple story ignited passions at a time when everyone was thirsty for something. With a taste for flesh, blood and eyeballs, the tabloids ate it up. Damon Runyan had a field day with the murder and trial, and the NY Daily News swiped right into the annals of journalism with a shot that shocked the nation.

ALBERT SNYDER

Magazine Editor

RUTH SNYDER

Housewife and Mother

HENRY “JUDD” GRAY

Corset Salesman

Something Under the Bed is Jewelry

After several sloppy attempts which included poisoning and strangulation, Ruth Snyder and her lover Judd Gray killed Albert Snyder. The inept adulterers used a 4-pound window sash weight and a picture frame wire to bludgeon him to death. They had hoped to cash in on Albert’s life insurance policy.  When Sgt. Flattery arrived at the scene, it didn’t take long for the lovers to give each other up.

The Snyders met when Albert was an art editor and Ruth a secretary at Hearst-owned Motorboat magazine. When they married, Ruth left her position to become a full-time housewife and mother. After years of feeling bored and ignored, Ruth entered into an extramarital affair with Judd Gray, a corset salesman.

The morning after the murder, Ruth Snyder told police that “two giant Italian men” had broken into her Queens, New York home and knocked her out. They then proceeded to tie her up in the hallway, steal her jewelry and kill her husband. The couple’s daughter, eight year old Lorraine, found her parents the next morning. Her father was brutally bludgeoned and garroted. Her mother was hogtied, but not tongue tied.

Leafing through Ruth’s checkbook, the detective asked the woman a simple question: “What about Judd Gray?”

Snyder gasped, “Why? Has he confessed?”

He hadn’t. But Ruth might as well have. Her description of the attack and the cheap jewelry found under the mattress confirmed that her story was a little over the top. Further questioning led to quick confessions from both suspects – each blaming the other for the crime.

This real-life “Dumbbell Murder” is indemnified in Hollywood history.  With a steamy plot of sex, money, greed and stupidity, it was the story of the century for reporters like Damon Runyon, James M. Cain and the dame who was Rudy Valentino’s widow. It was also the big case that led to a successful career for Detective Henry Flattery.

Cameramen line up outside the Queens County Courthouse in Long Island City where the murder trial for Ruth Snyder and Henry Judd Gray was held.

The Trial

The subsequent trial, in which the conspirators turned on each other, brought with it a media frenzy. Both Ruth and Judd were found guilty and faced the electric chair on January 12, 1928.

Officials at Sing Sing made it clear that no photographers were to be present at the execution. But the public wanted to see, and the Daily News obliged.

The Daily News hired Tom Howard for the task. Tom wouldn’t be recognized; he was from the Chicago Tribune. He was able to get past the guards and into the execution chamber with a camera strapped to his leg.

Ruth Snyder’s execution made history by being “the first known image of a execution at Sing Sing and the first photograph of an electrocution;” the NY Daily News dubbed the now-iconic, secretly-obtained photo “the most famous sneak shot photo in tabloid history.” 

Media

Photos

Frequencies Licensed

Kodak Exposures

Minutes Deliberated

Volts Used

Let’s Work Together