Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Career Girls Murders


On October 9, 1964, a street-level drug dealer named Nathan "Jimmy" Delaney, 35, was arrested by Manhattan detectives for the murder of another drug dealer. He had already done time for other crimes and as a "three-time loser," he was sure to get life or even the chair. He knew he had to make a deal. Delaney told cops that they had the wrong man for the Wylie-Hoffert killings. He said the real killer was a junkie named Ricky Robles. Delaney said that Robles showed up at his apartment on the day of the murders and told him how he did it. Police were skeptical. Lots of those details were reported in the papers. Already burdened with the arrest of one man for crimes he may not have committed, the D.A.s office didn't want to leave anything to chance. Manhattan D.A. Frank Hogan authorized a wire on Delaney and his wife. The plan was for Robles to talk with Delaney and get him to make incriminating statements.

Richard Robles arraignment
Richard Robles arraignment

Richard "Ricky" Robles, 22, was born in Manhattan and lived his entire life on the Upper East Side in what is called the Yorkville section, the area from 80th Street to 96th Street and from the East River to Park Avenue. His parents divorced when he was a teenager. When he was 15-years-old, his older brother was killed in an accident in Kentucky. Although Richard was an intelligent child, he became withdrawn and moody when his brother died. He soon turned to drugs and, by the time he was 16, Richard was taking heroin regularly. He routinely needed about $30 to $50 a day to support his need for drugs. That meant he had to steal at least three or four times as much because stolen property doesn't sell at retail prices. At the age of 17, Robles was arrested for a series of burglaries in his own neighborhood. He received a one to five year sentence at Elmira State prison. While in jail, he earned his high school diploma. He was released after three years on June 3, 1963.

In October 1964, detectives wired up Delaney and his wife. They installed listening devices in the Delaney's apartment and also in the Robles apartment, all without their knowledge. For the next three months, hundreds of recordings were made of conversations between the three. Sometimes, Robles would seem to play a cat and mouse game with the Delaneys, skirting the important issues or making innocuous statements. Other times, he would simply be non-committal when the Delaneys brought up the Wylie-Hoffert killings. But in late January Robles, who was aware that he was under surveillance, finally talked openly about the killings.

He gave the Delaneys advice on how to beat a lie detector test and told them what to say when the police came around asking more questions. He described some of his actions inside the 88th Street apartment on the day of the killings and gave details about Emily Hoffert and Janice Wylie that only the murderer could have known. It was a gold mine of evidence. The Manhattan D.A.s office was elated and word leaked out to the press that an arrest was imminent.

"The investigation is continuing," Police Commissioner Murphy told reporters. "We don't give out the names of suspects." But in January 1965, The Daily News reported that a "22-year-old junkie ex-convict has emerged as the strong new suspect... he is reportedly under police surveillance." On January 26, 1965, Robles was arrested for the murders of Janice Wylie and Emily Hoffert and almost immediately, the firestorm began.