Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Joseph Kallinger, the Enigmatic Cobbler

Disturbing the Peace

Sketch: Local map, Leonia marked
Sketch: Local map, Leonia marked

When the police were called to a house on Glenwood Avenue  in Leonia, New Jersey, on the afternoon of January 8, 1975, they believed they were responding to a report that a woman was having a breakdown.  A neighbor, Lucy Bevacqua, told police that her neighbor was outside screaming and would not stop. 

The house in Leonia, NJ
The house in Leonia, NJ
 

Edwinna Romaine had come hopping out of her house, screaming at the top of her voice words like "gun" and "basement."   She had then collapsed, and Mrs. Bevacqua had seen that her feet were bound.  Edwinna had not stopped screaming the whole time, but had offered nothing coherent, so Mrs. Bevacqua had run to call the police.

Sergeant Robert MacDougall went closer to see if he could get information from her.   When she saw him, Mrs. Romaine cried, "My God!  They're killing my family!"  While hyperventilating in panic, she managed to explain that two armed men had entered her home and taken her friends and relatives prisoner.  They had guns and knives.  She thought someone was being murdered. 

Livingroom with cords and irons on floor
Livingroom with cords and irons on floor
 

MacDougall freed her bound feet and called for backup, then cautiously approached a back door of the house, which stood open.   He went inside.  Through a hallway, he entered the kitchen and then approached the living room.  It was easy to see that someone had turned over things over and cut cords off of lamps and the vacuum.  That made the officer even more cautious.  He surmised that those cords may have been used to tie people up.  He was about to take the stairs to the upper floor when he saw someone's hand come up from behind a couch.  He readied his revolver and demanded that the person come out into the open.

Slowly, a woman showed herself to him.   She was crying and heaving so hard she was unable to speak.  He wanted her to tell him what was going on, but she couldn't.  Her feet were tied as well and all she could get out was, "Upstairs."

Sketch: Second Floor plan
Sketch: Second Floor plan
 

MacDougall helped her from her bonds and instructed her to leave the house.

According toThe Door-to-Door Killerby Thomas Downs, the officer heard what sounded like someone was in pain or great fear.  He had no idea what to expect, so he kept his revolver ready.   It wasn't safe to go without backup, but if there was a murder in progress, he felt he had to stop it.

Second bedroom where victims found
Second bedroom where victims found
 

When he ascertained that someone was in a specific bedroom, he carefully entered.   Then he put down his gun.  The three people in the room, two women and a young boy, were victims, not perpetrators.  All of them were naked.  One young woman was on the floor, her hands bound and with a lot of adhesive tape over her face.  He wondered how she could breathe.  The other woman lay on the bed, also bound, with the boy lying against her. 

MacDougall freed them and asked what was happening.   They told him that a man had come into their home and threatened them with a knife and pistol.  He had tied them up and he had an adolescent boy with him.

MacDougall's backup arrived and he went to meet them, and they learned from the two women waiting outside that more people were in the basement.   The officers went down the stairs, revolvers ready, into complete darkness.  Detective Richard Quinton called out to anyone who might be there.

Sketch: Basement floor plan
Sketch: Basement floor plan
 

No one replied.

They flipped on a light switch.   At once they saw a young woman in a white dress and shoes lying on her back near a wall.  Her hands were bound together and her clothes were heavily stained with blood.  As they came closer, it was clear to them that she was dead.  Someone had slashed open her throat from one side to the other. 

Then they heard a man groaning nearby and tensed.   This could be their killer.  With caution, they looked for the source.  But this person, too, was a victim.

Basement furnace and Mr. Welby
Basement furnace and Mr. Welby
 

He was on the floor near the furnace, his hands bound behind his back, his feet bound together, and his pants and underwear pulled down to his feet.   Adhesive tape had been wound over his head, covering his mouth, nose, and eyes, but he appeared to be otherwise unharmed.  The officers freed him and he immediately asked about the others.  There had been eight of them in the home, he said, including him, and he learned that everyone but a young woman were free and unharmed.  The police led the man, whose name was Frank Welby, out past the young woman's body.  He was horrified that she had been murdered so close to where he had been.  He'd heard nothing because of the furnace.

A search of the house indicated that the perpetrators had left.   No one in the home knew who they were.  The officers called in to alert the rest of the town's police force to be on the lookout.  They then tended to the victims and started asking questions.  Flora Rheta Schreiber (The Shoe-Maker) and Thomas Downs both provide details, with some from The Philadelphia Inquirer.

 

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