The Case of Alice Crimmins

While doing my research on this case I often saw references to the modern cases of Susan Smith and Casey Anthony.  Truthfully however, I saw few similarities in those cases when it came to this one.  In the Susan Smith case the only real similarity is that two children died.  As we know the theory in her case was based on the fact that she "got rid" of her children for a man who was not interested in having children.  There was never any such proof to this when it came to the Alice Crimmins case.  When it comes to the Anthony case one could attempt to argue that the behavior of Alice Crimmins following the deaths of her children was similar to Casey Anthony's behavior but again, the similarities end there, not to mention that Casey Anthony was acquitted in the death of her child while Alice Crimmins was found guilty, despite in my opinion, having less evidence than I believe the Anthony case had.  With that said... on with the story.

On the morning of July 14, 1965 in an apartment near Queens New York, 28 year old Alice Crimmins called her estranged husband, Edmund.  They had been separated and just the previous month Edmund had filed for custody of their two children, Eddie Jr., who was five and Alice Marie, known as Missy, who was four.  There was to be a hearing in a few weeks and also apparently a home inspection of some sort in the following week.  Alice had called Edmund that morning because when she went to get the children out of their beds they were not there.  She was convinced that Edmund had taken him during the night. Edmund denied taking them and went to Alice's apartment to help look for the children.  When they still could not find them the police were called.

The first detective on the scene was Gerald Piering.  It was said, at least over time, that Piering was a devout Catholic who had aspirations of moving up in the department.  Piering played a huge role in this case. It has been alleged, although I am sure that legend and time has not been contributing factors in this, that Piering was automatically put off by Alice Cummins and was convinced that she was involved in the disappearance of her children. Many of the things that he would later claim in court to observing were not in his initial reports, and/or were disputed.  One of his biggest things was that he did not think that Alice looked like a desperate mothering looking for her children.  He claimed then and in court that she did not seem distraught and that she was in fact dressed in a provocative way and had a lot of make up on.  Many disputed that the issue with the make up stemmed back to issues that Alice had with adolescent acne, that it had left scars and that is why she may have worn more than normal.  However, Piering also seemed to have issue with her wearing make up and being dressed at all.  Playing devil's advocate here I am going to point out the time period, which when it comes to crimes many people do not seem to want to take in account.  This was a time period where women were taught they were not to be seen, even many times by family remembers, without "putting their face on."  This was ingrained in women.  Two scenario's are possible besides Piering's which claimed her lack of grief and distress.  One, she could have simply gotten up, gotten dressed and put her make up on before ever checking on the children.  Maybe she did not hear any noise from their room and decided it gave her time to prepare for the day if they were already sleeping.  Secondly, after Edmund called the police to the apartment she could have prepared then, although that does seem unlikely as it appears that officers arrived very quickly after his call.  

Over the next several hours Piering took over the investigation and while interviewing Alice and Edmund also directed other officers at the scene.  Both Alice and Edmund gave him accounts of what they had done the previous day.  According to Alice she had taken the children to a picnic in early afternoon.  On the way home she had stopped at the store and had bought some frozen Veal for dinner.  There were signs of what she claimed she had for dinner the previous night supposedly found both in the trash and the refrigerator but were not taken for evidence or pictures taken. She stated they had had dinner around 7:30.  Alice claimed to have talked to her attorney discussing the upcoming home inspection and custody trial.  They discussed the issues raised by a woman named Evelyn Linder Atkins.  Evelyn had been a former maid of Alice's who made claims that Alice owed her $600. Her claims will be significant later. After that she claimed that she loaded the children up and they drove around looking for where Edmund had supposedly just moved to.  Her claims here were that he had bugged her phone and her home (which was obviously later proven) and she was hoping to find him with another woman in attempts to make her case look better. After looking unsuccessfully for Edmund residence she had returned home and put the children to bed around 9 pm.  According to Alice when she entered the room the window had been open but that she had first thought she would leave it open but seeing that the screen had a hole in it she eventually decided to shut it to prevent bugs from entering the room.  She then left the room, closing the door and latching an eye hook lock from the outside.  She claimed this lock was there to prevent Eddie from raiding the refrigerator at night. She then said she did some house cleaning, which including throwing away a bunch of liquor bottles (which were visible in the trash and apparently another thorn to Piering) because of the upcoming inspection.  After that she talked to a man named Joe Rorech, he was apparently another man she had been seeing.  She said around midnight she had woken up Eddie to take him to the bathroom but that Missy had continued to sleep.  She was pretty certain she relocked their door. Then she claimed to take their dog for a walk.  After returning from the walk Edmund had called her and had brought up Evelyn, the former maid and her claim. She said later she took the dog out again, took a bath and went to bed between 3:30 and 4. Surprisingly, in nothing that I read did I see where or what she did the next morning when she got up and realized the children were missing.  

Edmund then recounted his day to Piering.  Basically he was in and out all day, golfing, watching a game, at a bar, and even admittedly sitting outside Alice's apartment at some point. He was even to have said to have watched a movie that supposedly was proven that it was on way earlier than Edmund had stated, than at the crucial time when the kids could have been taken as he stated.  

By the time Piering was done with the interviews and probably before, he was convinced that Alice was the guilty party.  Aside from the interviews he was leading or conduction the search and there had been a bag of some sort under her bed.  Inside were what was described as "party favors" from places she went with her boyfriend, or well known companion, Anthony  "Tony" Grace.  Grace was a 52 year old contractor who had many ties to Democratic politics. He had taken Alice places in which she met people like the Governor of New York and Senator Robert Kennedy. Alice had mentioned him in her interview when she mentioned the former maid, Evelyn Atkins.  She had stated that after she and Edmund had split up she had retained a babysitter one day and met Grace on his boat.  Her story was that the men on the boat "playfully" locked the women up while they set sail and it had ended up being a weekend to which on the surface looked as if she had all but abandoned her children.  Evelyn apparently informed Edmund, who obviously could have found out with his own surveillance and thus was the basis for him filing for custody.  In the meantime apparently Evelyn was fired and claimed that Alice owed her $600 to which Alice denied and claimed that this money was wanted to keep her quiet during the court proceedings. Officer's did not believe that Grace or Rorech were Alice's only male companions as they found her address book that they dubbed her "little black book" that they claimed had more men names than women. Combining all of these accusations, her obvious promiscuity, and mixing it with his Catholic faith did not sit well with Piering.  And then late in the afternoon something horrible happened.

Missy's body was found in an open lot about 8 blocks from Alice's apartment.  Her P.J. top had been knotted and wrapped around her neck.  The ME would later state there was no sexual assault and that the cause of death was strangulation.  Something else the ME would state would become controversial later.  According to him, there were contents or remains of some sort of macaroni in Missy's stomach.  He estimated her time of death as 6-12 hours prior to discovery (or said it could have been more, although this was also questioned) and that it had occurred approximately 2 hours after she ate the macaroni.  First, the macaroni did not match what Alice had claimed Missy had eaten for dinner, and although no pictures were taken, food found in the house matched what Alice stated.  Secondly, if it had matched what Alice stated they had it would have indicated that she had lied in her interview.  She had said that she fed the kids around 7:30 and had seen them both in their room around midnight when she took Eddie to the bathroom.  If her dinner at 7:30 was her last meal and those were the contents found then it would prove that Alice had not seen the children at midnight as she claimed.  It did not matter though.  By the time Missy's body was found Piering was already all but convinced Alice was involved and so he hatched a plan.  He loaded her up in a car and took her to where Missy's body lay without telling her their destination or why they were leaving.  Witnesses say, including Piering, that when Alice saw Missy's body she nearly fainted and had to be helped to the car.  On the way back to the apartment Piering claimed that Alice did not cry at all but that by the time they had returned the media was stammering outside and it was then that she began to cry.  Piering theorized that her near faint was "theatrical" and her crying was only because of the reporters. Eddie's body was not found until July 19th.  He was found about a mile away from the apartments but his body was in such decay, and had been attacked by insects and animals, when found that there was no way to determine his cause of death.

For the next two years the media and the police kept the story in the news.  Edmund and Alice apparently reconciled, if briefly, or for appearances and moved into a new place together.  Taking a cue from Edmund the police bugged their phone and home just waiting for the opportune time to hear Alice confess to her crime.  What they really got was Alice having sex with apparently several different men. Their tactics were two fold.  First they would called Edmund, as they were apparently watching him too and try to get him to go home and catch her in the act, or if they knew who the man was, and some were married they would contact the man's wife.  All of this was to pressure Alice into confessing to what they already "knew" she had done.  They also knew that Alice was working in various places under her maiden name of Burke.  They would contact the employer and let them know who she was.  Her reputation had exceeded her thanks to the media so she would be fired not long after.  

In their at least attempts to look as if they were investigating more than Alice they seemingly went through the "little black book" and interviewed every man.  Of course Joe Rorech was one of them.  He had claimed that he had called Alice twice on the important night.  The first time she declined his invitation to meet him at a bar due to not having a babysitter and he said the second time he called there was no answer.  This in and of itself proved nothing.  First, he claimed the second call was around 2 am which could have been when she walked the dog the second time or secondly, he later admitted that he had been drinking for many hours and it was quite possible that he dialed the wrong number.  They gave Rorech "truth tests" or sodium pentothal twice and said they were satisfied with the results.  However, most cite that Rorech had low self esteem and some wonder some possible legal issues that cause him to agree to all but be a spy for the police.  Several times he was wired as well as the motel in which he took Alice to would be bugged in attempts to record her saying something incriminating.  Nothing ever came of these, despite claims that Rorech would later make.

Over this time the outgoing prosecutor had taken the case to two separate grand juries and failed to get an indictment against Alice.  Then after the new prosecutor entered the office they suddenly (and supposedly I may add) found an anonymous letter sent to the previous prosecutor claiming to be happy the grand jury was hearing the case and relating what they claimed to have seen on the night in question.  Investigators had no idea who this was other than a woman as she had indicated in the letter.  Their only resource apparently was to interview the area, find out who lived where and when and would have had the vantage point this letter writer claimed.  Finally they found Sophie Earomirski.  After she talked to investigators she next told her story to the third grand jury to hear the case. Sophie claimed (in her first few stories) that she saw a man, a woman (carrying what looked like blankets under her arm), and a little boy holding on to the woman's hand.  She claimed the woman was a few feet back from the man and that the man had scoffed at her to hurry up.  Just after they reached a car (that she could not describe) and the man took what appeared to look like blankets from the woman, tossed them in the car and the three drove off.  When she was shown a picture of Alice she claimed that she resembled the woman although my research never clarified if there was a definite identification, especially in the beginning.  Based on this evidence apparently the prosecutors were able to convince the grand jury that this was Alice, Eddie, and an unknown man.  They also claimed that the bundle that the woman had carried and the man tossed in the car was likely Missy covered up in blankets.  With this indictment Alice Crimmins was arrested on September 11, 1967, charged with the manslaughter of her daughter.  

Her trial began on May 9, 1968.  At the trial Joe Rorech testified for the prosecution.  He would claim in his testimony that Alice had said to him she would rather see the children dead than lost custody of them to Edmund.  He also claimed that she confessed to him during one of the many motel visits in which were supposedly recorded.  There is no record of this.  Alice's lawyer did not cross examine Rorech well and the following day actually tried to withdraw from the case claiming that he had once also represented Rorech.  The judge denied this.  Then Sophie Earomirski testified.  This time she added that the woman also had a pregnant dog with her and that when the man had scoffed for her to hurry up he had asked her why she brought the dog.  Once again the defense could not break her but then again, the defense had been hindered by the judge.  They had records from a doctor claiming that Sophie had suffered a head injury right around the time of the murders and had sustained significant brain damage.  They also had proof that Sophie had made two suicide attempts. The judge would not let the jury hear either of these claims and when she left the stand it is said that Sophie raised her arms as if to indicate she was triumphant.  Alice had testified at her trial but aside from denying all claims it does not seem that anything of significant occurred. Probably one of the most significant witnesses in the trial was Gerald Piering.  On the stand he claimed that he had not believed Alice's story because based on the pictures taken at the apartment there was dust on a dresser that apparently sat right in front of the window and would have been disturbed if the kids, or anyone else had gone through the window.  He also claimed to have moved a lamp on that same dresser and there had been a ring underneath indicating nothing had been disturbed.  It was later pointed out that the pictures were not taken until after the investigators had dusted for fingerprints, nor had he openly disputed Edmund's claim of leaning out the window looking for the children when he arrived.  Witnesses who had been in the home also testified that the lamp Piering claimed to have moved had tri-pod legs, hence could not have left a ring as Piering claimed.  Defense pointed out that much of what Piering testified to on the stand was not in his written reports of the scene.

While the defense had been hindered in many ways the prosecution did not share in that. The judge had allowed the prosecution to bring up several different men in which, at least they claimed, Alice had been involved in.  They spoke a lot about her "sexual conquests." I am not sure it mattered much in court however considering this had been the strategy since practically the murders had occurred.  The investigators and prosecutors had let the press know these things since practically day one so by the time the trial started it was known as the "Sexpot Trial." 

On May 28, 1968 Alice was convicted for 1st degree manslaughter and was eventually sentenced to a term of 5-20 years. The defense of course appealed and in December of 1969 the courts ordered a new trial in part because they learned that three of the jurors had visited the spot in which Sophie Earomirski claimed to have seen the woman she thought to be Alice.   Alice was released until her new trial that began March 15, 1971.  This time the prosecutors decided to charge her with 1st degree murder pertaining to Eddie and remained with the manslaughter charges for Missy based on the fact that due to Double Jeopardy laws and this being a new trial from the first one they could not up the charges.  This time Joe Rorech got on the stand and changed a few more things to be more fitting to the prosecution theory.  A new prosecution witness was a woman by the name of Tina DeVita.  Apparently prosecutors knew that Earomirski's testimony was questionable so they "found" DeVita, who had also lived in the apartments at the time of the murders and collaborated Earomirski's story, who seemingly was very dramatic on the stand this time as she claimed "the voices of the children from the grave" were telling her to tell the story. This time however the defense had a man by the name of Marvin Weinstein.  He  claimed that he walked near the window in which Earomirski claimed to be looking out with his wife, his son, a dog and with his daughter under his arm.  The defense also put on the stand a man by the name of Vincent Colabella.  Colabella was a known gangster.  He had supposedly confessed to a fellow prisoner that he had killed Eddie but when the police talked to him he denied it.  He continued to deny this claim on the stand so I am left uncertain as to why he was called in the first place. Alice's lawyers decided not to put her on the stand this time and when it came to closing arguments the prosecution jumped on it.  First they told the jury that they could come to the decision of murder for Eddie based on the inference of the death of Missy.  Then the prosecutor when on about how she did not testify in her own behalf to even get on the stand and deny the charges.  Once again she was ultimately found guilty, but this time on both charges and was sentenced to prison (I did not find a specific sentence given but presumably she was sentenced to a longer term than the first time with the now murder conviction).

In May of 1973 the appellate court threw out the murder charge and ordered a new trial on the manslaughter case once again.  Among the many errors they found they cited many of the things from the prosecutor's closing argument as being among the errors.  Once again Alice was freed, awaiting trial.  In the meantime the prosecutors appealed this decision and while the murder charge was not reinstated they did in fact reverse the order for a new trial and sent it back to the lower court who, this time agreed, and said that while the prosecutions statements were not exactly kosher per se they were not "overly damaging" and by the middle of May 1975 Alice was back in prison to serve her 5-20 year sentence.  By January of 1976 she became eligible for a work release program and worked as a secretary.  With this program Alice also received every other weekend free.  In July of 1977 while still serving on the work release program she married Anthony Grace. This sent the media back into a frenzy!  A few months later, in September of 1977 she was granted parole.  Apparently she has remained living a secluded life and little is known about her since that time.

Fifty years later however, there is still the debate on whether Alice Crimmins killed her children.  Just like many crimes there seem to be a lot of theories.  Joe Rorech even helped perpetuate one of them. He claimed to a reporter that gangsters were involved, with Alice's consent so that her affairs with high politicians and others would not make it into the upcoming custody trial.  This makes little sense to anyone.  Why would someone think that it would be easier to get rid of two children to avoid a custody trial than to simply get rid of one of the other parties... Alice or Edmund? If someone was worried that word of an affair would come out in a custody hearing, why would they think it would not come out in a murder trial? Besides, the murder of children always makes more headlines and has the potential to have more publicity than that of an adult.  Then there's the issue of the contents of the stomach.  If we are to believe the medical examiner Missy had food in her stomach that did not go with the food in which Alice said she had eaten, nor was there evidence of in her home.  Were the children kidnapped and then fed a meal?

It does not seem that Edmund was ever considered a suspect despite some things that just did not seem right.  First, as I pointed out earlier his time line seemed to be off, but he had admitted to being outside the apartment at some particular time in the night.  He also admitted that he sometimes entered the apartment during times in which Alice and the children were gone so that he could be near her "personal things."  He freely apparently admitted to bugging her phone and her bedroom.  Apparently the microphone in her bedroom somehow led into a basement area of the apartment building.  Rumor is that there was a time in which he was listening from the basement and heard Alice having sex with another man to which he then ran upstairs, bursts into the room and confronted Alice and the man.  Alice also claimed that Edmund told her after they separated that he had exposed himself to young girls at a park.  Some say that this was just from Alice but there are other reports that say Edmund admits that he said this to her only in attempts to make her think that he was as bad as she and also responsible for the marriage problems.  This makes absolutely no sense.  Why would Edmund admit exposing himself to girls at all unless of course he had been caught and his excuse for doing so just seems wrong.  The marriage had failed for a multitude of reasons, apparently Edmund was rarely home. He was either working or out at the bars drinking with friends. Alice for her part could hardly deny being unfaithful.   If he wanted to reconcile with Alice why in the world would this be what he told her instead of just owning up to the truth?  

There's absolutely no evidence that Alice had any sort of motive to have the children killed or do it herself.  If we are to believe the prosecution theory there was obviously a man who helped her but there never seemed to be any attempts in finding out who this man was in any way.  Was she a little loose in her moral?  Sure.  Aside from the one incident in which apparently others confirm that she was all but  trapped on the boat for the weekend there is little to say she in any way put her kids in danger or neglected them.  Even in that situation if we believe the story told she had a sitter for the children but due to the circumstances was unable to relieve her.  It is pretty widely accepted that Alice Crimmins was convicted because she was a divorced, loose woman who had multiple affairs.  Prosecutors made sure that her lifestyle was on trial because there was no evidence.  They focus on Alice and did little to look elsewhere.  There were supposed rumors that things were dusted for fingerprints but I found nothing that even indicated anything was found, let alone processed. I am sure there are those who would argue that her connections through some of the men prevented there being evidence.  Well if that is the case then would not those same men prevented there from being a trial or at the very least made sure she had excellent representation?  

I would love to hear other's and their comments about their thoughts on this case.

Comments

  1. After reading the transcripts of this case, I'm quite certain Alice killed her children. The motive seems obvious: She wanted her husband out of her life, with the children dead that would end all contact with him. She would also be able to entertain the numerous men she wanted to hang with. There is no other reasonable explination as to why anyone, but Alice, would have killed her children. Nobody abducts 2 children and carry them blocks away to a park and than kill them, they would have just killed the children in their room and left their bodies there. If they had been taken by a "stranger", they would have either blackmailed them or kept/sold them. It seems clear the children were killed in their home and transported by Alice to the park where she dumped them. Once you rule out all the unlikely scenarios, you are left with occam's razor. Alice Crimmins killed her children.

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