Front Page Detective
A hushed stillness settled over the woodland as echoes of the shattering crash faded into the warm distance. For just a minute all life was transfixed. Not even Game Wardens William T. Cramer and Joseph S. Allen moved.
Then the chirping of birds, the flutter of wings and the rustle of dried leaves broke forth once more, restoring nature’s own animated silence to the dense underbrush. The two peace officers went into action, too, gliding noiselessly in the direction of the blast.
The air was motionless. Shimmering gold bars of sunlight in which clouds of gnats disported, slanted through the interlaced foliage overhead. It was an old game to the wardens. They were stalking poachers. And there was nothing to warn them on this Sunday morning, September 29, 1929, that violent, cold-blooded, mysterious death waited in ambush a few hundred feet ahead.
“Another good story to tell Al,” Cramer was thinking hopefully. Master woodsman, lecturer on woodcraft, the terror of poachers, forest guide for such notables as Ex-Governor Alfred E. Smith and millionair Clarence Mackay, Cramer was in the lead. “Shorty,” Ex-Governor Smith called him affectionately. He just topped five feet.
Allen, a stranger to this woodland, was tailing, silent, alert, watchful, listening. He was thinking “This is something like cowboy-Indian games when we were kids.”
Abruptly they eased through screening bushes into the presence of a startled, short, stocky, Italian. He was busy stuffing a slain bird into a pouch. Under his right arm nestled a single barrelled shotgun.
Sighting the officers, pistols holstered at their hips, the poacher whirled with a strangled cry of alarm and crashed blindly, frantically throug hte entangled underbrush.
Shorty Cramer dashed after him. A creeper curled around Shorty’s ankle. The ground shook when he hit, full length. Allen streaked after him, overtook the fleeing poacher, brought him back at gunpoint to Cramer.
The latter looked at the man quizzically for a moment. “Haven’t I seen you before?” he asked.
The poacher, his eyes wide, shook his head negatively. He seemed frightend but angry too. He gave his name as Josephy Lentini, of 191 Boerum Street, Brooklyn. He appeared to be about forty years old. He had no hunting license nor anything else to identify himself; worse, he’d obviously been hunting out of season.
“You’ll have to come with us,” said Shorty, with an air of bored resignation. The poacher faced only a ten dollar fine. Shorty had caused the state’s coffers to be enriched by more than $15,000 in fines, a thrilling story usually behind each one.
“No story for Al,” thought Shorty, disappointed. He started to lead the way out of the woods, avoiding impassable patches with unerring Indian-like accuracy. Allen brought up the rear. Their prisoner was between them.
Of a sudden Shorty froze in his tracks, his hand sliding to the rest on the butt of his revolver. Lentini and Allen grew rigid. A tall, gorilla-like creature with hairy arms had stepped in front of them from behind a bush. There was a threatening, metallic gleam in the stranger’s small, black eyes. A double-barrelled shotgun was raised menacingly half way to his shoulder.
There was a pause of bristling silence. Then Lentini shouted something in Italian. Instantly the gorilla-like creature replied in the same language. Allen felt a little shock of surprise at the clear, crisp, concise answer, phonetically available. And it was chilling in its hate-dripping tone.
Almost simultaneously, the stranger’s gun jerked up, his eyes gleaming with maniacal fury, and he fired both barrels full into Shorty’s face, ten feet distant. The blast tore off half of Shorty’s head and hurled him lifeless, sideways into the bushes.
Allen whipped out his revolver, fired from the hip. The gorilla-like creature’s right arm jerked up as the slug tore through it. His shotgun fell to the ground. With a bellow of pain he charged directly at Allen. The latter sprang to one side, tripped, sensed his revolver spinning off into the bushes, then felt a flaming flash of pain in as his head struck a boulder.
Snarling like an animal, the gorilla-creature sprang on top of him. Like steel traps the killer’s hands sunk into the semi-consious Allen’s throat. Of a sudden the killer’s fangs fastened on Allen’s nose. Instantly, Allen was snapped back to pain-wreacked consciousness. He wrenched his head to one side. The maniac’s teeth clamped on Allen’s ear.
Spasmodically, Allen’s knee jack-knifed. With a scream of mingled rage and pain the killer tore himself away, scrambled to his feet, and went thundering through the underbrush.
Groggily, his nose and ear almost torn from his head, Allen got up. Through a fog of pain he realized dimly that both the killer and Lentini had headed south. There was a man-trap in that direction, a quicksand-studded marshland. Allen staggered toward the north, broke out of the woodland, crossed a quarter mile stretch of marsh, clambered on the shoulder of a paved highway — Rockaway Boulevard.
Passing otorists sped by him, terrified by his appalling bloody sight.
Allan turned, looked back. The elliptical shaped woodland—Idlewild Woods, they called it—nestled in the center of a vast marshland stretching southward to Jamaica Bay in Queens, L.I.
To the west Allen saw a road —Idlewild Street—skirting the marshland a mile away. A half mile to the east, Pear Street poked a tentative finger for one block into the high grass of the marsh and came to a dead end.
There was not a sign of either Lentini or the killer. Were they hiding in the patch of woodland or in the tall grass? Or risking their lives trying to reach the bay south of the patch of woods?
A half hour later I arrived at the scene. Allen was being treated by an ambulance surgeon. Lieutenant Henry Flattery and Detectives Theodore Burger and Horace HYolden of the Jamaica Squad were just returning from a quick inspection of the patch of woodland and were carrying two shotguns and two revolvers they’d found near Allen’s body.
A police cordon was being thrown around the desolate wasteland and the emergency squad, equipped with hip-length rubber boots and rifles, was preparing to search for the killer in the seven-foot high swamp grass surrounding the woodland.
A screeching cavalcade of squad cars was tearing down the boulevard. Out stepped the dapper Police Commissioner himself, Grover Whalen, later to be widely known as director of the New York World’s Fair. With him were Inspectors Mulrooney, O’Brien and Gallagher, and acting Captain Herbert Graham.
Quietly we listened to game Warden Allen recount his amazing story, becoming more and more appalled by the enormity of the crime. For ferocious bestiality this murder was without parallel in the history of the county. But more confounding—there seemed to be no motive for it. For waht sort of man would slay a peace officer in cold blood simply to escape a ten dollar fine. It did not add up.
At my request Allen repeated phonetically the gorilla-killer’s ejaculation the moment before he fired point-blank into Cramer’s facce. I looked questioningly at Detective James Sabatino, now a lieutenant detailed to my office.
“Please repeat that,” Sabatino aksed, looking at Allen. Slowly, thoughtfully, Allen did.
Sabatino became solemn, his gaze shifted to me. “If Allen has it right, the killer shouted, “I’m going to let him have it!” just before he fired.”
Premeditation? Had the killer known Cramer? Did some sensational secret in Cramer’s life lurk behind the mystery of the tragedy?
Answering routine questions, Allen then told us something which at taht moment did not appear to be of particular importance but which was to loom large before we reached the end of the case.
The killer had a ruddy complexion and was wearing a brown pencil-striped suit, Allen said. Lentini, olive skinned, was wearing brown tweed pants and a black jacket with satin lapels and cloth buttons. “The elbow of the right sleeve was torn,” Allen added. “I noticed it when I was following him and Cramer through the woods.”
Allen knew little of Cramer’s past. “I’ve been working out in Nassau County,” he said. “I was detailed to help Cramer today because his partner is ill.” Cramer had a reputation for zealous enforcement of the game lawas, Allen concluded.
In Fascinated horror we were standing about Cramer’s body twenty minutes later when Medical Examiner Howard W. Neail appeared. In the distance we could hear the shouts of several hundred policemen as they beat through the marsh grass and the woods, their fingers on triggers in momentary expectancy of flushing their quarry—the killer.
“So they got poor Shorty at last,” said Dr. Neail sadly.
What was this! We crowded around him. Had someone attempted to kill Shorty before?
“Indeed they did,” said Dr. Neail succinctly. “Look!” He bent and lifted Cramer’s head. There was unmistakable evidence of an operation at the base of the game warden’s skull!
“A shotgun blast,” explained Dr. Neail succinctly.
“”It was touch and go for months. We thought we were going to lose him.”
“Who did it?”
“Two poachers. They attacked him without warning, shot him three times. It was about eight years ago. He killed one of the poachers. The other’s in prison.”
It sounded incredible. Were poachers of a vicious breed apart? Could the killer have been arrested previously by Cramer?
All that morning and afternoon the manhunt in the marshland continued, with the officers beating slowly southward toward Jamaica Bay. Overhead, airplanes roared, directing the searchers. In the bay, speedboats, canoes and rowboats loaded with armed policemen nosed in and out of hundreds of inlets and kept the shoreline under observation.
Scores of officers were treated for injured eyes, ivy poisoning, cuts, and several were removed to hospitals. But no sign of the killer nor of Lentini was found. Somehow, they’d vanished as through into thin air.
How? It seemed impossible that they could have emerged from the wasteland without being seen. Allen had kept Rockaway Boulevard under observation until police came, summoned by a motorist. And residents on the two streets skirting the wasteland on the west and east said they’d seen no one come out of the swamp.rThe air was motionless. Shimmering gold bars of sunlight in which clouds of gnats disported, slanted through the interlaced foliage overhead. It was an olA middle – How? It seemed impossible that they could have emerged from the wasteland without being seen. Allen had dpet Rockaway Boulevard under observation until police came, summoned by a motorist. And residents ion the two streets skiring the wasteland on the west and east said they’d seen no one come out of the swamp.
On woman on Idlewild Street, to the west of the swamp, insisted she’d seen a man wearing a dark coat, torn at the right elbow., frantically beating his way southwest diagonally through the swamp toward the bay. This impressed us favorably because we’d given out no information on how Lentini and the killer were dressed.
Yet it would have been a physical impossibility for Lentini to have escaped by this route even if he’d had a boat cached in one of the inlets. The police had cut off that avenue of escape too soon.
Questioning the few residents living on the block-long road, Pear Street, a half-mile to the east of the patch of woodland, detectives came to two bungalows near the dead end of the street.
A middle-aged Italian was puttering around a well-kept garden in front of one of the cottages. His wife and 13-year-old daughter could be seen moving around inside. An ancient Nash coupe, a small dog asleep on the seat, was parked at the curb.
The hopes of the detectives oared. Here, they thought, they might get some information on Lentini and the murderer. There was no other Italian family in the neighborhood.
The Italian greeted them cordially. “Good morning,” he said. Then, pointing to the police beating their way through the high marsh greass in the distance, he asked,
“What’s the matter over there — all the police?”The officers explained and saw his eyes widen with mingled surprise, interest and incredulity. He identified himself as Pasquale Leonado. He’d brought his family out early that morning to enjoy their last weekend of the season in the country, he said.
He’d heard some shooting but had paid no attention. He’d seen no one come out of the swamp, and pointed out that if anyone had, he would have seen him because he had been puttering around the yard all morning. He knew of no one by the name of Lentini, he said.
Disappointed, the officers tried the bungalow next door. The place seemed deserted. The yard was unkempt.
“Nobody lives there,” called Leonado. He explained that the cottage had been vacant most of the season. He did not know the owner nor anyone who knew him.
Meanwhile the hospitals had been warned and were on the alert for any man with a wounded right arm. Detectives were scouring Brooklyn for Lentini and seeking to learn the identity of all of his friends and relatives.
And, as fast as we could dig up the necessary information, additional sleuths were being dispatched from Jamaica. Police Headquarters to round up all poachers who’d ever been arrested by the slain game warden. Although still suffering from his harrowing eperience, Allen volunteered to remain with us at headquarters and view the suspects as they were brought in.
Thus we started back-tracking on a dim trail which we were to follow for a week with melon rinds, clandestine love, speakeasies and a broken home as guide posts.
As we’d expected, no trace was found of Lentini but we were agreeabley surprised when Detectives George Knabe and Joseph Smythe of the homicide squad phoned that Lentini had not only given his right name to the slain game warden but had also given his right address in Brooklyn.
“There wasn’t a thing in his flat, however, to give us a line on his friends and relatives,” the officers reported. “Except a letter from a brother in Clinton Prison, Dannemora.”
A canvass of the neighborhood in which Lentini lived developed little additional information. Most of Lentini’s neighbors were immigrants to whom the law was an impresonal, remote, terrifying agency. Fear sealed their lips when the questioning sleuths appeared among them.
It was late in the afternoon when Detectives Theodore Burger and Horace HOlden phoned and gave us our first stunning shock.
“We just ran into a funny one.” Burger said. “We learned that Lentini works for the Greenfield Candy Company on Lorimer Street. The factory is closed today but we routed out the manager. He told us that Lentini is one of their steady workmen and he gave us the name and address of a fellow on Stag Street who is supposed to be Lentini’s best friend. But this fellow denies knowing Lentini. We think he’s lying. His name’s Leonado.”
“Pasquale Leonado!” Inspector Gallagher exploded. “Bring him in! Bring in his whole family!”
Leonado proved to be the same one who’d been questioned during the morning in front of the bungalow on Pear Street. To our amazement, however, he was not in the least perturbed. Instead, he was indignant and wrathful at the ignominy of being brought to Jamaica Police Headquarters.
Gesticulating wildly, he protested he didn’t know why Lentini had named him as his best friend. “I don’t know him! I don’t know him! Why do you bring me here? What’s the idea?”
It developed that he’d quit the bungalow and returned to Brooklyn an hour after he’d been questioned by detectives in the morning.
“Why did you run away?” I asked.
“I didn’t run away!” he flared. “Why do you say that?”
Was the finger of suspicion being pointed at Leonado by an error or by a mere coincidence?
His wife and his daughter were questioned in separate rooms. They told identical stories. Neither knew Lentini, and Mrs. Leonado volunteered the information that they’d returned to Brooklyn early because they had not brought along enough food for all day.
Mrs. Leonado was stolidly calm. Her daughter was pertly interested. But their stories were too pat. The slight discrepancies which my suspicions could seize. Nothing, that is, until I asked the girl a casual question.
“How did you go home?” I inquired.
“By bus,” she smiled brightly.
“What happened to your dad’s automobile?”
“We haven’t any!”
We went back to the room in which Leonado was being detained.
“Who owns the green coup that was parked in front of your bungalow this morning?” I asked him.
Leonado shrugged shoulders. “I dunno,” he said smugly.
Taking Leonado with them, Lieutenant Flattery and Detectives Burger, Holden and Smyth raced to the bungalows.
The coupe was still parked a thte curb! Whining miserably, the little dog begged pitifully with its eyes to be let out. Lieutenant Flattery opened the door. With a joyful yelp the dog sprang out and then playfully, affectionately, jumped around Leonado as though he’d known him a long time.
“I suppose you ‘dunno’ this dog, either,” Flattery taunted. Leonado’s complacent was unshaken. “I dunno,” he said.
Leonado’s two-room bungalow was searched. Enough food, including perishables, to last his family a week was found in the kitchen! And the bungalow bore unmistakable evidence of having been abandoned by people in sudden flight!
The officers circled the vacant adjoining bungalow looking for footprints leading from the swamp or any other evidence which would indicate the bungalow had been occupied that day. With nothing but their own growing suspicions to justify it, they didn’t dare break into the structure.
“There’s the evidence!” Flattery exclaimed suddenly. He was pointing at a pail in the rear of the bungalow.
The detectives bent forward for a close inspection.
Melon rinds and egg shells!
Fresh garbage in the bottom of the pail. Someone had occupied the bungalow that morning!
Detective Burger hurled his weight against the rear door. Dirty-looking utensils and dishes filled the kitchen sink inside. Packages of foodstuffs cluttered a table.
But what brought the officers up short was something in the corner. A crimson-stained handkerchief on top of a the small pile of clothes. They picked up the garments. A tuxedo coat with satin lapels, its right sleeve torn at the elbow. And a brown jacket, pencil-striped, a hole in the right sleeve near the wrist.
Flattery whirled on Leonado. “So no one was here this morning!” he snapped.
Leonado hunched his shoulders indifferently. “I dunno,” he said. “I didn’t see anybody.”
Flattery was thoughtful for a moment. The brown coat was palpably part of the killer’s suit. Was he fleeing in a blood-stained shirt? Hardly. He must have borrowed a coat from either Lentini or Leonado.
Leonado, the dog and the coupe were brought back to headquarters.
For hours we grilled Leonado but his armor of smug dumbness could not be pierced. Infuriatingly stolid, he “dunnoed” us to the point of exhaustion.
The confidence of Leonado’s daughter was being gained, meantime, by Detective Burger, who was entertaining her with jokes and anecdotes of police work. on our signal he now interpolated a casual remark.
“By the way,” he inquired, “What kind of coat did that fellow borrow from your dad this morning?”
“You mean a shirt!” she corrected.
There it was! The missing link in the evidence. Carefully, jokingly, Burger drew the girl’s story from her. She was helping her mother clean the front room of their bungalow, she said, when her father called her from the rear yard and told her to fetch him one of his shirts.
When she complied she found him tending a small brush fire he’d built and talking to “a man in a funny coat.” Before she turned her back into the house she saw her father give the man a shirt. She did not see the stranger again.
Had Leonado burned the killer’s bloody shirt? He favored us with a mere look of pity for our ignorance when we confronted him with his daughter’s revalation. “Sure, what’s the matter with that?” he demanded. “He was a tramp. I gave him a shirt. He was happy and walked down the street.”
I ordered that Leonado be held as a material witness; there was not enough evidence to charge him with being an accessory after the fact. His wife and his daughter were permitted to go home.
It was now near midnight. During all this time Warden Allen had been looking over the suspects that were brought in. Aiding him was the little dog. We had hopes that the mutt might single out his master. But neither the dog nor Allen signified that they recognized any of the poachers who were brought in.
Lieutenant Flattery joined us, his eyes gleaming with a discovery of some kind. Through the Bureau of Identification in Manhattan Police Headquarters he’d been tracing the ownership of the coupe through its license and motor numbers.
“A fellow by the name of Frank Aldino, of 2016 Fulton Street, Brooklyn, owns teh coupe,’ the lieutenant announced. He then went on to explain that an application for a chauffeur’s license had been filed with the bureau by a fellow iwth the same name and address. As required by police regulations a photograph of the applicant had been attached to the application.
“They’re making copies of his photo right now,” Flattery added. “They’ll have ’em out here in an hour.”
It might mean much or nothing. The owner of the coupe could be an innocent person. It would depend upon wheter Warden Allen recognized Aldino’s photo.
We held our breaths when the copies of Aldino’s photo arrived and one of them was handed to Allen. Without an instant’s hesitation he cried excitedly, “That’s him! That’s him! That’s the murderer!”
On his application Aldino had represented himself as being thirty-three years of age, married and the father of one daughter. It was two o’clock in the morning when, whith guns drawn, several squads of detectives surrounded the Fulton Street address he’d given as his home. But it wasn’t Aldino’s address. It was his sister’s.
“I haven’t seen him for several months,” she said when she finally answered the officers’ repeated knocks on her door. She went on to explain that when she’d last heard from him he was living somewhere on Fresh Pond Road, in Queens. She didn’t know why he’d given her home as his address for the purpose of getting a license.
Through the Post Office, Detectives Knab and Smyth traced the Aldino family to 745 Fresh Pond Road, an hour later. This building also was surrounded. But again the detectives were disapponted.
“You’ll find him in Family Court tomorrow morning,” declared his wife, grimly. “He deserted us two months ago. I had him arrested last week for assault and non-support. He’s out on bail now.”
But Aldino didn’t appear when his case was called next morning in Family Court. And Lentini failed to report for work at the candy factory. He made no effort to claim the wages due him.
Aldino’s bail, which had been put up by his uncle, was forfeited.
His wife was requestioned but she proved of little help. She didn’t know where Aldino was working nor where he was living.
“I thought he was living with his sister,” she said. However two flimsy leads were obtained from her. She said her husband had been working as a bouncer in a dance hall in the Ridgewood section of Brooklyn. Discussing her husband’s habits, she said he had a great fondness for Turkish baths.
“At least that’s where he always said he was when he didn’t come home at night,” she added icily.
Detectives were assigned to scour all the Turkish baths in the city and investigate the dance hall. Other men were detailed to the arduous task of tracing relatives and friends of the two fugitives, with orders to keep under obseration the homes and mail of each one they turned up.
I was just leaving Jamaica Police Headquarters when Detective Thomas Coote of the homicide squad came out of the adjoining police garage. He’d been making a minute inspection of the murderer’s abandoned coupe. In his grimy hand he held a sales slip dated the previous year, of an auto supply company in Newark, New Jersey.
“I found it in the tool chest,” Coote said. “It may lead to something.” An hour later Coote set out for Newark, accompanied by Detective Dinan and Grottono.
By this time, morning papers were on teh street, carrying spectacular stories of the murder.
According to the newspaper accounts, we had six clues:
1. – a mongeral dog alleged to be a beagle hound.
2. –A dilapidated Nash car.
3.–Two coats, one bloodstained.
4. – Two shotguns, one the murder weapon.
5. _Fingerprints found in the car, supposedly the murderer’s.
6. – The name of the murderer’s companion.
We were thankful that nothing had leaked out about the name of the urderer. At this point we were hoping we could lull Aldino into a sense of security and lure him back to his old haunts.
As a result we clamped a censorship on our activities. there was one quaint result. The afternoon newspapers switched to feature artiles on the “arrest” of the beagle hound.”
It set the age old power of suggestion to work. A parolman, speculating on how the murderer had escaped, spotted a stray dog, similar in appearance to our beagle hound, moping around the Jamaica station of the Long Ilsand Railroad.
Jumping to the conclusion that the murderer had walked from teh scene of the crime to the railroad station, followed by the dog, the officer placed the stray animal under arrest, and when it was brought to Jamaica Police Headquarters it acted as if it had known the other dog all its life.
The newspapers jumped at the story and for several days the two beagle hounds lived off the fat of the land in the police headquarters while the newspapers vied with each other in publishing their pictures and concoction fabulous expectations of the dogs.
There was some justifcation for the newspaper stories, because we were frankly puzzled about how Lentini and Aldino had escaped.
For some reaosn we couldn’t fathom, they’d abandoned Aldino’s auto but they hadn’t taken a bus to Jamaica. Our thorough checkup of bus drivers had established this much and the reporters knew it, having done some sleuthing themselves.
What the reporters did not know was that our suspicions had settled on a certain cab driver. We were keeping him under constant surveillance but saying nothing about it.
It was Detective Coote who turned up the clue that was to lead to amazing developments. On his way to Newark he stopped a tthe New York Motor Vehicle Bureau and checked its records to see what license number had been mentioned by Aldino when he applied for his 1929 New York license plates.
Coote was playing a hunch that Aldino had purchase the auto in New Jersey. His hunch proved correct. On his application for New York License plates, Aldino had given a New Jersey license number for the car for ht eprevious year. But the first two figures or letters were undecipherable. Coote could make out only the numbers, 99-22.
With the Newark sales slip in mind he phoned the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Bureau and learned that license numbers beginning with 3E usually were assigned to Newark residents. It was a matter of only a few minutes for him to then ascertain that the number 3E 90-22 had been assigned the previous year to an ancient Nash coupe owned by a James Dawson, speakeasy proprietor on Springfield Avenue in Newark.
The motor number of Aldino’s dilapidated Nash and the speakeasy proprietor’s Nash were the same!
At Newark Police Headquarters Coote soon unearthed an officer who kmew Dawson.
“Detective Weckster is your man,” said the Lieutenant on duty. Weckster was sent for and he agreed to approach the seeakeasy proprietor and learn what he could about Aldino.
Coote and his colleaagues, Detetives Dinan and Grottono, waited in an auto a block from the sepakeasy while Weckster went to have a confidential chat with Dawson. It was a long chat —almost an hour. But when Weckster returned he was beaming.
“I got plenty,” he said. “Aldino did more than buy Dawson’s car. He stole Dawson’s girl! Her name’s Mabel Johnson. She’s a blonde and she lives about a mile from here. Dawson seems to think we’ll find Aldino in her apartment. In fact, he hopes we do find him. Dawson didn’t know that Aldino is married and he says Mabel doesn’t know it. I think Dawson has an idea he may get Mabel back when she hears that Aldino has a family. I let Dawson think that Aldino was wanted in New York just for desertion of his family.”
While their squad car raced to blond Mabel’s apartment, Weckster told the trhee New York detectives what else he’d learned.
The hunted slayer, he said, had eased his way into various bootlegging ventures between Brooklyn and Newark during the previous year and that was how Dawson had met him.
“Dawson also warned me to be careful of Mabel’s dog,” Weckster added. “He says it’s a vicious mutt.”
The warning proved of value because Mabel wasn’t home when the detectives closed in on her apartment. And while waiting for her to return the officers questioned her neighbors, pretending that they were simply investigating complaints to the effect that she had allowed her dog to run loose and that it had bitten several children in the neighborhood.
Mabel’s neighbors knew nothign about the dog-biting incidents but even Mabel would have blushed if she’d herd what they knew about her personal affairs. Although decidedly unsympathetic toward Mabel’s mod of life, it developed that her female neighbors had been possessed of, and had excercised, a lively curiousity regarding Mabel’s boudoir trysts.
So it was no surprise to the detectives when Mabel did not return home that night. But when she failed to return home the following day and still shunned her apartment as though it were aplague all the following night we became convinced that Mabel knew we had a trap laid for her, in the hope of bagging Aldino.
In New York we gegan to fear that Mabel and Aldino and Lentini had all skipped. Constant day and night surveillance of the friends and relatives of both men had proved futile.
We decided that it was time we made a public announcement to this effect that Aldino was the fugitive murderer.
The announcement was made–no mention being made of Mabel, of course—and the afternoon papers blazoned the story throughout the country, together with an announcement by Acting Governor Herbert Lehman to the effect that a reward of $500 would be paid by the State of New York for information leading to Aldino’s arrest.
Working on the theory that Lentini and Aldino were in hiding together we also announced that Lentini would be granted immunity if he gave himself up. We hoped thus to cause the pair to split up and gain a lead to Aldino’s whereabouts.
Fearing that Aldino might attempt to escape to Italy, we also caused every outgoing boat on the Atlantic seaboard to be searched and cabled to the authories in Italy to be on the watch for the slayer. Simultaneously all detectives were withdrawn from the neighborhood where Mabel lived.
The first result of our multiple maneuvers left us breathless. A New York City policeman came forward and announced that Aldino was his cousin.
“Our family honor demands that I help you track him down,” he said. Then he gave us the names of a score of Aldino’s relatives and friends concerning whom we hadn’t had the faintest inkling. The officer was appointed a detective for five days so he could circulate with freedom among all his relatives and ascertain if any of them was shielding the murderer.
The second development came two nights later, and it proved to us that Mabel was aware that we had been keeping a watchful eye on her apartment. At five o’clock in the morning she drove up to her apartment [missing ..use] in a moving truck, accompanied by two men. At eight o’clock in the morning the janitor of the building found her apartment stripped clean.
Long before then, however, we knew what had happened and where she had moved. before withdrawing from the neighborhood, Detectives Coote and Weckster had taken the precaution of enlisting the services of two youths who lived near Mabel and knew her by sight. The reward that Governor Lehman had offered was of material assistance to the officers in arousing the interests of the young men.
Subsequently the two youths had split up the watch, one keeping an eye on Mabel’s apartment during the day, the other during the night.
The flat to which Mabel moved proved to be in the tawdry tenement section of Newark. No official effort was made to close in on it at once, however. We were not interested in Mabel. we were interested only in Aldino and Lentini. We know it was quite improbable that she was still sheltering the fugitives, if she ever had. Our only hope was that she would lead us to them.
We fulfilled part of this hope that evening.
Aldino was picked up as he came out of an Italian restaurant at 14th Avenue and Prospect Place, Newark.
A few minutes later Detective Knab phoned me the news and by six o’clock that evening I was streaking across the Jersey meadows with Inspector Gallagher, Lieutenant Flattery, Lieutenant Fogarty and Detectives Burger, Holden and Sabatino. Detectives Knab, Coote and Smyth were at Newark Police Headquarters when we arrived.
Aldino was in the squad room on the second floor. He was a powerful looking man and he proved to be more obstinate than had Leonado. For the most part he simply ignored our questions and glowered at us with a certain supercilious contempt that some men seem to drain from sheer animal courage.
“I’m not dumb,” he sneered. “I wouldn’t be here if I had killed that fellow. I would be a thousand miles away, maybe.”
“then how did you get wounded in the right arm?” Inspector Gallagher shot at him.
“Ha, that.” With a flip of his hand Aldino whipped off the bandage and displayed a wound that could have been made by a bullet burning its way over the back of his arm just above the wrist. “A scratch,” he remarked flippantly. “No bullet!”
Asked how and where he had been injured, he favored us with a taunting gaze from his small black eyes, said nothing.
Accused of having been hiding out in Newark he grinned at us mockingly. “Sure,” he said. “What of it? I had some trouble with my wife.”
Shown a newspaper with a screaming headline and a story on its front page reporting the countrywide search for him, Aldino tossed the paper on the floor with a bored gesture. “I can’t read,” he yawned.
For two hours it went on like that. Patiently we detailed the overwhelming, daming evidence we had amassed against him for first degree murder. Carefully, we pointed out that we were interested only in knowing why he’d shot down Cramer in cold blood.
“If you have any reason at all, tell us,” Aldino was told. “It is your only hope of escaping the electric chair.”
For answer Aldino stod up, stretched and flexed his muscles as if to show us what a powerful man he was. “I tell you I didn’t do it, huh? Don’t you tell me I’m going to the chair!”
It was then that it happened. Fearing that Aldino was about to become violent, two officers closed in and grabbed him by the arms. Instantly Aldino hurled them aside as though they were children. Then he whirled to glower down at the rest of us with insolent contempt.
Languidly, Sergeant Fogarty got up from his chair, a glow of anticipation lighting up his Irish face. A massive man, one of the veteran members of Manhattan’s bygone strong-arm squad, he’d been sitting by most of the evening, annoyed by the killer’s attitude.
Now, as though performing a simple little chore, he approached Aldino had never before come into forceful contact with a man more powerful than himself. The change that came over him in that brief moment was an astounding thing to see. A look of stunned surprise and amazement had swept his face when Fogarty seized him. Now as full realization of what had happened penetrated his conceit and settled in his mind, he wilted before our eyes.
It was a simple thing thereafter to get his story. He said he’d never seen either Cramer or Allen before and that he didn’t know they were game wardens. All he knew was that he came upon them suddenly while they were leading Lentini out of the woods.
Lentini had then shouted, “Run! Run! just as Cramer put his hand on his pistol. “I got excited and I shot,” Aldino explained. “I didn’t mean to kill him. Maybe I thought they were robbers. I dunno.”
According to Aldino’s story he reacted simply like a fear stricken animal when he jumped on
allen and bit him. He did not seem to know that he, himself, had shouted something at Lentini just before he fired at Cramer.
“That just about saves him from the electric chair,” remarked Inspector Gallagher.
It did. Aldino was convincted of second degree murder and was sentenced on November 27, 1929, by County Judge Frank Adel, to serve twenty years to life in Sing Sing prison.
Lentini was not prosecuted. A week after Aldino was arrested a lawyer phoned me that Lentini wanted to surrender. I told him to bring Lentini in. He did. For an hour I questioned Lentinia and then, being satisfied that Lentini had gone into hiding only because of fear, I released him.
Leonado was released the same day. By this time he was no longer trying to pretend that he didn’t knwoLentini and Aldino. He was related to Lentin by marriage.
It was established that the cab driver, whom we’d suspected, had helped Lentin and Aldino to escape. The cab driver was Leonado’s friend. He lost his hacking license. The celebrities of the case, the two beagle hounds, won good homes for themselves as a result of the publicity they received.
An anti-climax came three months later when Game Warden Allen suddenly remembered he had some unfinished business on hand. He went to Brooklyn and rearrested Lentini on the original poaching charge. Subsequently, Lentini was fined $50 for possession of a shotgun because he was an alien. The poaching charge against him was dismissed.
The names James Dawson, Pasquale Leonado and Mabel Johnson are fictitious and are used inthis story to protect the identity of innocent persons.
Once more, fearless and untiring detective had tracked down a murder monster, the “Gorilla Man,” and brought him before a court of law. The guilty man paid for his dreadful crime.