Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Career Girls Murders

No Suspects

Tenants in the building told investigators that they heard nothing suspicious during the day. Other neighbors said that there was a series of burglaries that occurred along 88th Street recently. Detectives searched the girl's apartment for clues and other information. They recorded the names and phone numbers of friends and acquaintances and began contacting them for interviews. Within the first few days, there was speculation that the killer was someone that the girls knew and let into the apartment. There was no forced entry and 57 E. 88th Street had a doorman posted in the lobby of the building. Anyone who came in had to pass the doorman and he reported seeing no one unusual. But cops took notice of a second entrance to the building where there was access to a service elevator.

New York Daily News headlines
New York Daily News headlines

The murders were reported widely in the press and some of the gory details made their way into the newspapers, but not all. Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Milton Helpern, characterized the slayings as "the work of a maniac." He told reporters at the time that "both girls were stabbed repeatedly in the chest, abdomen and neck." The New York Daily News reported that "Emily had been the victim of multiple stab wounds and Janice had one huge slash across her abdomen."

But the bottom line was that cops still had no suspects. "We don't even know how he, or they, got into the apartment," said Chief of Detectives Lawrence McKearney. Newsweek magazine offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the murderer. The editor of the magazine, Osborn Elliot, said in a statement "we owe it to their families to do anything we can to keep our city a safe and respectable place for them to live."

The Wylie-Hoffert killings had shaken New York City to its core and speculation grew daily that there was a sex maniac on the loose in the streets and he was sure to strike again. For Manhattan's female work force, the case had special meaning. There were thousands of girls like Janice and Emily who had come to New York to find jobs and careers. They came from all over America to work as secretaries, actresses, dancers and to attend schools and universities. The killings threatened their whole way of life. How could they ever feel safe in such a climate? In March 1964, seven months after the slayings, the Herald Tribune published a story on page one with the dramatic headline: Our City's Number One Unsolved Murder: Who Killed the Career Girls? The police were under tremendous pressure to solve the crime.

Despite a hundred detectives assigned to the case, thousands of interviews, tips and leads, the months slipped by with no arrest.

 

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