Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Alice Crimmins Case

Genesis of a Sensation

The Alice Crimmins case broke in 1965 and grabbed headlines for the next twelve years. Like Joey Buttafuco in the 1990s, the name of Alice Crimmins became, in the latter half of the 1960s and most of the 1970s, synonymous with tabloid sensation.

Alice Crimmins with her two children
Alice Crimmins with her two children
This odd real-life mystery has been dealt with in several works. It was the subject of two true-crime books, Kenneth Gross The Alice Crimmins Case and George Capozi, Jr.s Ordeal By Trial. It also inspired two best-selling novels. Both The Investigation by Dorothy Uhnak and Where Are the Children? by Mary Higgins Clark are thinly veiled fictionalizations of the case. Where Are the Children? was Clarks first published mystery (she had previously authored a biography of George Washington) and launched her prolific career in that genre. It was made into a movie of the same title that was released in 1986. A made-for-TV movie called A Question of Guilt based on the Crimmins affair was aired in 1978. It starred Tuesday Weld at both her most glamorous and most vulnerable. John Guare, author of the theatrical hits Six Degrees of Separation and The House of Blue Leaves, wrote a Crimmins inspired played called Landscape of the Body that opened in 1977. Neal Bell authored a play called Two Small Bodies that also opened in 1977. It was made into a film by Beth B. in 1994.

The incident that would transfix the public for over a decade involved a previously obscure family with a sad but in many respects, all-too-familiar family history. That family lived in the Queens borough of New York City and consisted of airline mechanic Edmund Crimmins, homemaker Alice Crimmins and their children, Eddie, Jr., aged five, and Alice Marie, always called Missy, four. Edmund Crimmins was a six-foot-tall, sandy-haired and ruggedly handsome man who was starting to get a paunch and double chin. He towered over his wife Alice, a blue-eyed redhead with delicate features who was both slim and buxom. As couples usually are, the two had been very happy during the early years of their marriage. However, that marriage had crumbled, in large part, because Eddie spent very little time at home with his family; he preferred working overtime or drinking with the boys. Lonely and frustrated, Alice had found solace in a series of extra-marital affairs.

Their children have been described as well-behaved and cheerful youngsters. The two sometimes sat on the windowsill of their room, waving and saying hi to passersby. Unlike many children who are born so close together, they did not seem much afflicted by sibling rivalry. Missy was a girly girl and her chubby older brother had adopted a protective attitude toward her, calling her my Missy. One time another little boy pulled some hair from one of Missys dolls. In a typically childlike way, Eddie interpreted an offense against one of his sisters toys as an attack on her and he charged at the larger boy, shouting, Dont you ever touch my Missy! Dont you ever touch my Missy!

Eddie and Missy Crimmins
Eddie and
Missy Crimmins

After they separated, Alice, who had previously been a full-time homemaker, had gotten a job as a cocktail waitress. Also during their separation, she had attended a bon voyage party one that led to her husbands custody suit.

The party was held on a boat and Alice had attended it with Anthony Grace, one of her major boyfriends. He was a fifty-two-year old wealthy building contractor who sported a pencil thin mustache and was given to silk suits and a diamond pinky ring. Short and thickset, he had many friends amongst prominent New York City politicians and was rumored to have a few amongst its hoodlums.

Grace and the other men had playfully locked the women in a washroom. Then the boat set sail. Unable to get off it, Alice Crimmins found herself on the way to the Bahamas at the very time when she should have been going home to relieve her childrens babysitter.

That babysitter called Edmund Crimmins who immediately came to pick his kids up. He took them to the residence of his mother-in-law, Alice Burke, and decided that he would file a suit for their custody. Youre not fit to bring up those kids! he angrily told their mother.

The trial for that suit was only a week away. Her attorney had told her to expect a court agency inspection in connection with it, so Alice had spent much of the previous evening doing a lot of housecleaning and fixing up.

However, on that hot, sunshiny morning of July 14, 1965 she found little Eddie and Missy were not in their rooms. She made a frantic phone call to Edmund who strongly denied taking them, then went over to her place to help her look. Unable to find them, he called police to report that his children were missing.

 

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