Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

THE CROTON LAKE MURDER

Captured

At about 10:00 a.m. on the morning of the murder, Sergeant Louis A. Smith of the New York City Aqueduct Police sat in his office, warmed by the fire of a potbelly stove. The headquarters for the Aqueduct Police (also called the Watershed Police) was located on the north side of Croton Lake, one of the most picturesque sites in the county and the envy of every beat cop in New York who had to work in the crowded, dirty streets of lower Manhattan. Smith heard what he thought were gunshots off in the distance but was not overly concerned. Within minutes, Sgt. Smith received the telephone call from Anna who said that she was just robbed.

Watershed Police car and motorcycle, Croton Lake area 1911 (Courtesy New York Department of Environmental Protection Police)
Watershed Police car and motorcycle,
Croton Lake area 1911
(Courtesy New York Department of
Environmental Protection Police)

Immediately, officers were dispatched up to the Griffin farm. Smith then rallied his other men and organized a search party for the suspects who were described as "a number of Italians." He jumped into an automobile, one of the very few police cars in the county at that time, and drove down the road that circled the Lake. As he came over a hill approaching Nelson's Bridge, Smith saw two men standing on the road some distance ahead. One of the men was carrying a bundle under his arm. Sgt. Smith pulled up to the men and the officers got out of the car. The men were Filippo DeMarco and Vincenzo Cona.

"Is that your package?" he said.

"No," said DeMarco. Cona said that it was his and his friend was carrying it for him. The police opened the package and found a loaded pistol. A few minutes later, the cops searched DeMarco and found a loaded .32 caliber pistol in his sock. Both men were taken into custody and brought over to headquarters.

In the meantime, a few miles away on the road north of the Griffin farm, George Purdy, a local grocery store owner, was walking over to his farm. He had received a phone call from the police who told him about the murder and he decided to check on his home. As he hurried down the road to his farm, he saw two young men walking towards him. Purdy imagined they were aqueduct laborers.

"Which way to the train station?" one of the men asked in broken English. They were Santo Zanza and Angelo Guista. Purdy gave them directions and then watched as the men walked off the wrong way. Suspecting something was amiss, Purdy followed the two men until they suddenly broke into a run and fled into the woods. He gave chase and tackled one to the ground. Purdy managed to reach into Zanza's pocket and came up with a .38 caliber revolver. He marched the two men at gunpoint over to his grocery store where he chained them up and called the Watershed Police.

A contingent of Watershed Police circa 1911 (Courtesy New York Department of Environmental Protection Police)
A contingent of Watershed Police circa
1911
(Courtesy New York Department of
Environmental Protection Police)

Despite every available police officer in the county searching the countryside near Croton Lake, Salvatore DeMarco and Lorenzo Cali had managed to escape. By the afternoon of the murder, they were already on the train back to the streets of Brooklyn.

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