Cleveland's Killer Celebrities, Part 1
Bonds and Bullets
On Saturday, July 7, 1963, the wife of financier Mervin L. Gold called police to report her husband missing.
Lily Gold hadn't seen him since 10 the previous night, when he put some papers in an envelope and said he was going to meet Shondor Birns.
Mervin L. Gold had a history of shady deals. At the time, he was free on bond on federal charges that he had used $55,000 in stolen Canadian bonds as collateral for two bank loans and had embezzled $42,000 by manipulating funds of the defunct Cosmopolitan Small Business Co. There was widespread speculation that he was being used as a scapegoat to protect prominent people.
On Sunday, Gold's car was found in a wooded area. His body was in the trunk. Coroner Samuel Gerber reported he had been beaten, strangled and shot three times. He estimated time of death as shortly before midnight Friday.
A pickup order went out for Birns, but he was nowhere to be found.
On Monday his car turned up outside a motel in Toledo. He was not around. The motel owner said he had checked in Saturday and sought treatment for an injured right hand. He told the doctor a firecracker caused the injury.
On Wednesday morning, Birns called John Kocevar, chief deputy Cuyahoga County
sheriff. He arranged to surrender at a meeting spot in suburban Garfield Heights.
He told Kocevar, "I would have surrendered yesterday, but it was a Jewish holiday."
Somebody also tipped off the Press; a reporter and photograph were waiting when he arrived. Birns told them, "Thanks for coming, fellows."
Birns was taken to Central Station for questioning by the head of the Homicide Unit, Lieutenant Carl Delau (pronounced De Law).
Reporters outside the office could hear Birns shouting, "I'd like to talk to you sometime when there are no witnesses around!"
Birns said he had an alibi: H was at home with a woman of "fine character." He did not name her, but said she was willing to testify for him.
His bail hearing drew the largest crowd in Criminal Courts since the Sheppard murder five years earlier. Bail was set at $50,000. Birns posted it.
Then, the Plain Dealer reported, "Birns cocked his summer straw hat, waved goodbye to reporters, walked out of the building and down the front steps to where his attorney, James R. Willis, was waiting."
Next: "The Pretty Brunette"