Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Francis "Two Gun" Crowley

The Hand of Death

At about 10 a.m., on April 27, 1931, a young man who was making a meat delivery in Yonkers drove down Valentine Street. As he passed St. Joseph's Catholic Seminary, he noticed something odd sticking out from behind a three-foot stonewall. The deliveryman parked his truck and got out for a closer look. He saw a small human hand projecting above the wall.

When police arrived, they discovered the body of a woman who had been shot in the heart. She had been dead only an hour or so. Powder burns on her clothes indicated that she was shot at close range. Investigators determined that she was killed somewhere else and dumped behind the wall after she was dead. Tire tracks were found close by, and a trail of blood led from the tracks to the location where the body was found. Later in the day, detectives were able to identify the victim through her personal papers as Virginia Brannen, 28, who lived in Bangor, Maine. She had moved to New York City just 10 days before. She got a job on West 125th Street in Manhattan at a dance hall called the Primrose Club. Detectives paid a visit to the club and located two people who were in a car with Brannen shortly before she was killed.

Rudolph Duringer shows detectives the site of Virginia Brannen's body after his capture
Rudolph Duringer shows detectives
the site of Virginia Brannen's body
after his capture

A witness named Robert LeClair told cops he was at the Primrose Club partying most of the night with friends including Virginia Brannen. He said that after they left the Primrose they went barhopping, including to some speak-easy clubs in the Bronx. LeClair, one of his friends was a man named Rudolph "Fat" Duringer who had a romantic interest in Virginia. But Duringer seemed upset by something and rarely talked during the night. He said Duringer's buddy, a young man named Frank, drove the car all night because he was the only one who was sober. LeClair claimed he fell asleep and was awakened by two gunshots a short time later. He said he heard Virginia cry out: "My God! Take me to a hospital!" When LeClair turned around, he saw Duringer with a pistol in his hand and Virginia bleeding badly. Then, Frank pulled the car over and threw LeClair and his girlfriend into the street and sped off. Some time later, Frank and Duringer came back with the car, but Virginia was gone.

Detectives obtained a home address for Duringer in Ossining, a small town in Westchester County, only 15 minutes from Yonkers. When cops raced to Duringer's boarding house, they discovered he had left his room the day before and never returned. But through interviews in the neighborhood, cops ascertained that "Frank" had visited Duringer many times and had even stored a car in his garage over the winter. Soon, "Frank" was identified through mug shots which were shown to LeClair and other people from the Primrose. Frank was "Two-Gun" Crowley. In the meantime, Bronx cops found Duringer's bullet-scarred sedan abandoned on East 155th Street. In the back seat lay a blood-saturated blanket and four discharged .38 cartridges.

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