10 Haunting Unsolved Cold Cases From New York
Home to perhaps the most famous megacity on Earth, New York State has played a dominant role in American history since the days of the Revolution. Many people from around the world have been drawn to the bustling hub of New York City and the surrounding areas. But things can get dangerous in the Empire State.
On March 9, 1929, Polish immigrant Isidor Fink finished delivering some laundry and returned to his small New York apartment. Only 15 minutes after Fink entered the apartment, terrible screams (but no gunshots) were heard coming from inside. The neighbors summoned a police officer, who arrived to find both doors locked from the inside and the windows nailed shut, also from the inside. The windows were also too narrow for an adult to climb through, forcing the police to gain entry by means of a small child, who unlocked the door after the cops lifted him through the transom.
Fink was discovered lifeless on the floor with three gunshot wounds to his chest and wrist. A search of the apartment failed to turn up a weapon. The only fingerprints belonged to the victim. Fink’s money had not been stolen and it would have been impossible for an intruder to lock the doors from the inside after leaving the apartment. But suicide also seemed impossible, since there was no obvious way for Fink to dispose of the weapon. It’s also unclear why a suicidal Fink would have shot himself in the wrist and chest. Increasingly puzzled, the cops went over the apartment in search of a hidden door or secret entrance. They found none.
As a classic case of a seemingly impossible crime, Fink’s murder has attracted considerable attention over the years. Crime buffs have suggested that a killer might have been able to bolt the door from the inside using a piece of string, but it’s not clear why anyone would develop such an elaborate plot to kill an ordinary laundry owner. Additionally, the neighbors called a police officer immediately after hearing screams, leaving a very narrow time frame for a killer to escape.
After all these years, the crime remains unsolved.
In January 2001, Anthony Urciuoli was at home in Poughkeepsie when he received a page and told his parents he was going out to play a round or two of pool with a friend. It was almost midnight and Anthony told his parents he wouldn’t be gone for more than two hours. When his mother looked into her son’s room the next morning, she realized he had never come home.
Anthony usually played at Shark’s pool hall, but nobody had seen him there the night he vanished. His car was discovered in a parking lot near Spratt Park. His wallet was still inside and police found no signs of a struggle. Investigators were unable to trace the page Anthony said he had received before he left the house.
As the years rolled on, Anthony’s parents exhausted all possible means of searching for their son, including offering a reward for information, appearing on talk shows, and even consulting with psychics. But no new evidence has emerged. The police can’t even be completely sure if he was murdered or decided to disappear for unclear reasons of his own.
8Richard Colvin Cox
The only cadet ever to disappear from New York’s famous West Point military academy was Richard Colvin Cox. On January 14, 1950, the 21-year-old Cox told two of his roommates that he had dinner plans with a friend named George at a hotel on the West Point grounds. He signed out of his barracks that evening, dressed in his full uniform. He was never seen again.
The army and FBI launched a huge search for Cox but failed to solve the mystery. This allowed a number of wild theories to emerge, including suggestions that he had been kidnapped by the Soviets or joined the CIA. The case hinged on the mysterious figure of “George.” Apparently, George and Cox had met while stationed in Germany and became good friends. When George pitched up in person at West Point, Cox appeared surprised and upset. This led investigators to speculate that Cox had been murdered because he knew about some shady dealings in Germany, perhaps including the unsolved murder of a pregnant woman.
Another theory emerged after investigators discovered that Cox was unhappy at West Point and had been in homosexual relationships in the past. In this version of events, Cox and George were lovers and decided to abscond together. A variation on this theory is supported by Marshall Jacobs, a hobbyist researcher who compiled an extensive collection on the case.
According to Jacobs, police investigating a murderer named Robert Frisbee received an anonymous tip that he was involved in Cox’s disappearance. Frisbee was stationed at West Point at the same time as Cox and matched the description of “George.” He was also known to sell forged IDs. Jacobs suspects that Cox bought a new identity from Frisbee and disappeared to start a new life.
Neither of the men have ever been found.
On February 14, 2005, 19-year-old Rashawn Brazell was planning to sort out his taxes before meeting his mom for lunch. He left his family home early that morning, heading for the Gates Avenue train station. Three days later, his torso, legs, and an arm were found wrapped in trash bags in a subway tunnel. His other arm was discovered at a nearby recycling plant. His head has never been found.
A decade later, New York police are no closer to finding out who murdered the teenager. They aren’t even sure what could have prompted such a vicious attack. What is certain is that the murderer had an extensive knowledge of the subway system. A tool bag of a type being tested by New York Transit Authority workers was found nearby with Brazell’s blood inside. However, the bag was also sold to the public and no further leads emerged.
To make matters even more mysterious, several people connected to Rashawn have received cryptic messages, evidently from the killer or someone pretending to be the killer. The messages usually arrive around Rashawn’s birthday. The investigation currently continues, with investigators and Rashawn’s family determined to find some answers.
6Shane Anthony Walker
Just three months after two-year-old Christopher Dansby disappeared in broad daylight from a New York City playground, Rosa Glover decided to take her 19-month-old son, Shane Walker, to the same park. It was a hot day in August 1989 and Rosa was sitting on a bench with Shane when she was approached by a 10-year-old girl and her five-year-old brother. The two children struck up a conversation with Rosa and then asked if Shane could play with them.
The children didn’t seem to mind that Shane was so much younger than them and Rosa agreed to let them take the toddler down the slide. She was watching them play when a man sat down next to her and began ranting about the high crime rate in the city. He said that children weren’t safe in the park and mentioned kidnapping. He also tried to show her some scars he said he had received in fights. According to Rosa, she turned her head for just a few seconds to look at the scars. When she looked back, Shane was gone. So were the children he had been playing with.
Rosa immediately started racing around the playground calling for her boy. Upon noticing the girl and her brother re-entering the park, she asked them where her child was, but they insisted that they had left him in the park. Police also questioned the two children but eventually had to release them. Oddly, Christopher Dansby was also seen playing with the unnamed boy and girl on the day he vanished. The two toddlers both lived in the same building and disappeared at roughly the same time on a Thursday afternoon.
Christopher and Shane have never been found.
In May 1997, 11-year-old Quin-Rong Wu left her family’s one-bedroom apartment for her elementary school in Henry Street. The little girl never made it to school that day. Two weeks later, her body was found in the East River. She had been strangled.
Quin-Rong had moved to America with her family just 18 months earlier. She loved living in the big city and having breakfast at her school with friends each morning. Living in New York was actually the first time she had lived in the same house as her family. In China, she had to live with a cousin because of her gender and the strict policies regarding population control. The school was only three blocks away from the family’s apartment, so it didn’t seem dangerous to let her walk over by herself.
The investigation into the murder indicated that Quin-Rong may have been sexually assaulted before she was strangled and thrown into the river. Her school bag and one of her shoes remain missing. A bearded man allegedly seen by a witness accompanying a young Asian girl on a subway in the Lower East Side became a focus point of the investigation, as did Quin-Rong’s parents when they told conflicting stories of how an earlier baby girl had died back in China.
Almost 19 years later, the truth surrounding the murder of Quin-Rong still eludes the police. The investigation is ongoing.
On September 11, 2001, the world watched in horror as the Twin Towers burned. So it’s unsurprising that a murder committed in New York on the same day attracted little attention.
Henryk Siwiak, a 46-year-old Polish immigrant, had come to New York almost a year before in the hope of making a better life for his family back home. Shortly before he was murdered, he had been given a job mopping floors at a supermarket in Brooklyn. His first night was scheduled for September 11.
Unsure exactly where the store was, Siwiak asked his landlady to help him find Albany Avenue on a map. Unfortunately, he ended up going to 1 Albany Avenue, several miles away from the supermarket at 1525 Albany Avenue. The area where he ended up was known as a dangerous location, where drug deals went down daily. It’s unclear what happened next, but Henryk was shot a few minutes before midnight. He managed to drag himself up some stairs to ring a doorbell, but the woman inside was too frightened by the gunshots to come to the door. Siwiak died moments later.
Given the events of the day, the Crime Scene Unit couldn’t make it to the crime scene. Instead, the area was swept by a team usually tasked with investigating burglaries. Siwiak still had his money in his pockets, so robbery wasn’t the motive. It’s possible that Siwiak’s outfit of camouflage pants and a military-style jacket were perceived as threatening, but the truth is that nobody really knows why he was killed.
Almost 15 years later, the mystery of Henryk Siwiak’s death remains unsolved.
Patrick Alford didn’t have the idyllic childhood some are lucky enough to experience. He had been taken away from his mother, Jennifer Rodriguez, after she was arrested for shoplifting and found to be dependent on drugs. He was then placed with a foster mother, Librada Moran, in Brooklyn’s Starrett City. Three weeks after moving in with Moran, the seven-year-old Alford was helping her carry heavy trash bags downstairs when her cell phone rang. Moran briefly left the boy downstairs while she went to take the call. Upon returning, she found that he had vanished
Fully convinced that his biological mother had abducted him, the authorities arrested Jennifer Rodriguez and only released her after she had spent time in a prison cell and passed a polygraph test.
In the years that followed, the police followed up on every lead they could find and searched thousands of apartments in the Starrett City area. A search of a nearby creek and interviews with Patrick’s teachers and bus drivers proved fruitless. Jennifer Rodriguez has since brought a lawsuit against Moran and Children’s Services on the grounds that they failed to protect Patrick.
In January 2015, a renewed search began, with police combing Brooklyn and Staten Island in search of clues. They still haven’t found any answers.
On November 2, 1974, 17-year-old Kathleen Kolodziej left a Cobleskill bar and headed back to the SUNY Cobleskill campus. She had earlier declined a lift offered by her roommate, saying that she would catch a ride with someone else. The teenager’s mother reported her missing the next day.
The tragic truth came to light when police found Kathleen’s half-naked body in Richmondville nearly a month later. She had been stabbed multiple times with two different weapons. The only credible lead was a report of a girl resembling Kathleen getting into a yellow Volkswagen on the morning of her disappearance. The report was never substantiated.
Over four decades later, investigators are no closer to finding Kathleen’s murderer. Despite interviewing more than 3,000 people and chasing down over 1,000 potential leads, the police were never able to identify a suspect. According to Schoharie County Sheriff Tony Desmond, the best hope now may be that the aging murderer feels the need to come clean before his own death.
In September 1980, 19-year-old Lorraine Snell was in the middle of planning her engagement party when she arrived at the Midwood Terrace restaurant, where the party was to be held. As she left, the barmaid noticed that she was accompanied by James Burrus, the estranged husband of her cousin Barbara. It was raining and Burrus was holding an umbrella for Snell.
That was the last time Lorraine Snell was seen alive. She was later found strangled in the backseat of a station wagon, a cable still wrapped around her neck. The car had been parked behind a supermarket where James Burrus was once employed. Detectives were unable to conclusively link Burrus to the murder, but he did serve time for robbing a cab driver that same night. He has since become a pastor and denies any involvement in Snell’s death.
Oddly, Lorraine’s mother, Pearl, was visited by district attorney investigator Wayne Tennent, who assured her that the police were doing everything they could to find her daughter’s killer. Tennent stayed in touch, and Pearl was grateful for his frequent calls about the case. However, it later emerged that Tennent had never been assigned to the Snell case and that an important case file had gone missing from the NYPD. It was also alleged that Tennent had tried to gain access to the case files even after his retirement.
Lorraine’s family are particularly suspicious of how Tennent insisted that Barbara Burrus had been cleared of involvement in the case, using language similar to that used by Barbara herself. However, Tennent insists that he did nothing wrong and merely took an interest in the case because he had known Lorraine Snell before her death. The case remains unsolved.
Estelle lives in Gauteng, South Africa. She wishes there were more happy endings in the world.