The Career Girls Murders
The Crooked Places
"The rough places will be made plain and the crooked places will be made straight..." he said. His deep, vibrant voice, rich with passion, echoed over the vast crowd assembled on the Lincoln Memorial lawn on August 28, 1963. A relentless sun beat down on the hundreds of thousands of people gathered for the march on Washington D.C., the zenith of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.spoke of justice, equality and the promise of America in words that would reverberate far into the future. "I have a dream," he said, "I have a dream that all men..."
In the third floor apartment of 57 E. 88th Street, in New York City, Janice Wylie, 21, had just exited her shower, wrapped a towel around her slim waist and stood transfixed in front of the 19-inch black and white television screen. Dr. King was still on the podium while the camera panned out over the huge crowd, some who had removed their shoes and soaked their feet in the cool waters of the reflective pool. She watched the speech for several minutes as she rubbed the towel into her wet hair. Her roommate, Emily Hoffert, 23, was up in the Bronx running errands and due back soon. It was a hot, sultry morning and Janice had lots to do. She worked as a research assistant for Newsweek magazine and was scheduled to work later that day. She had just moved into the apartment only a few weeks ago, her very first home away from her parents.
Janice was five-foot, six-inches, blonde and quite attractive. She was a part-time actress and had appeared in several off-Broadway productions. Mostly, she liked dancing roles because she felt it was her strongest talent, but Janice enjoyed comedic roles as well. She adjusted the volume a little louder and went back into the bathroom. As she brushed through her hair, Janice heard a sudden noise in the living room.
"Emily? That you?" she called. There was no response. She continued to brush her hair. Within seconds, she heard another unexpected noise. "Emily?" she said as she walked out of the bathroom to investigate.
At about the same time as Janice stepped into her living room, a young black man sipped a Coke at the Ivy Hotel in the town of Wildwood, a small resort community on the south Jersey coast. It was a humid, lazy morning at the shore and not much to do. George Whitmore, Jr., 19, worked mostly in his father's junkyard helping to sort out the twisted metal and trying to keep the yard in order. Sometimes, he worked as a dishwasher at the hotel. He took some time out to watch Dr. King's speech and as he did, he wondered if things would really change in America for black men. George didn't understand a lot of what was being said, but he had the realization that whatever it was, it could be important. As he watched the man on TV, Ludie Montgomery, 15, a pretty girl he knew from Wildwood, came in. They decided to listen to some 45-RPM records on the jukebox. George put on one of his favorites, Down the Aisle, and together they idled away part of the afternoon.
As soon as Janice saw the intruder in her living room, she screamed. The man immediately smashed an empty soda bottle across her head knocking her unconscious. He found a razor blade in the bathroom and used it to cut up a bedspread to tie her wrists together. Then he dragged her into an empty bedroom that faced the street below. Janice was naked and, although he didn't come to the apartment for that purpose, the man tried to rape her. "I just wanted a few dollars to take care of my family, and I ran into this tragedy," he said later. During the sexual assault, Janice regained consciousness and struggled against her attacker. But the man, who was accustomed to violence, punched her in the face several times. Then he grabbed a knife from the kitchen and while Janice tried to break free, the man stabbed her viciously, slashing her about the face, neck and head. He cut the girl in the stomach and dragged the blade of the knife across her abdomen. At that moment, he heard a sound at the front door. Emily Hoffert had arrived home from her errands. Before she had a chance to react, the man grabbed another bottle and knocked Emily to the floor. He tied both girls together and pushed the bodies between a bed and a window. He ransacked the apartment and managed to locate only $30 from Emily's handbag.
"I'm going to remember you for the police," Emily said, "You're going to jail!" It was the wrong thing to say. "As soon as she said that, I went... I felt all kinds of nerves going off," the man said years later, "I killed. I don't remember really. I just stabbed. I don't remember how many times." The frenzied man clubbed the girl over the head until she passed out. And then, undisturbed, with methodical purpose and three large kitchen knives, he continued his butchery.