Career Girls Murders
|Date||August 28, 1963|
|Location||New York City, NY|
|Suspect(s)||George Whitmore Jr.|
The "Career Girls Murders" was the name given by the media to the killings of Emily Hoffert and Janice Wylie in their apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, New York City, United States on August 28, 1963. George Whitmore, Jr., was accused of this and other crimes but later cleared.
The actions of the police department led Whitmore to be improperly accused of this and other crimes, including the murder of Minnie Edmonds and the attempted rape and assault of Elba Borrero. Whitmore was wrongfully incarcerated for 1,216 days—from his arrest on April 24, 1964 until his release on bond on July 13, 1966, and from the revocation of his bond on February 28, 1972 until his exoneration on April 10, 1973.
On August 28, 1963, Patricia Tolles, 23, who worked at the book division at Time-Life, returned to her apartment on the third floor of 57 East 88th Street. There she found the apartment ransacked and covered in blood. In a bedroom were the bodies of her roommates, Newsweek researcher Janice Wylie, 21, and schoolteacher Emily Hoffert, 23. Both had been stabbed over 60 times with knives from their own kitchen, and there was evidence that Wylie, who was wearing only a towel, had been sexually assaulted.
The case was dubbed the "Career Girls Murders" by the media because Wylie, the daughter of advertising executive and novelist Max Wylie and niece of novelist Philip Wylie, and Hoffert were representative of the thousands of young women who had come from all over America to New York to seek jobs and careers. Others like them now felt unsafe and the police were under pressure to solve the case. Hundreds of detectives were assigned to the investigation and thousands of people were interviewed, but as the weeks went by no arrests were made.
Initially police believed that the victims knew their killer. The level of violence found is usually an indication of a personal relationship with the victim. There were no signs of forced entry and the apartment, which was on the third floor of a nine-story building, was also guarded by a doorman. Though the apartment was in disarray, nothing appeared to be stolen so robbery was not believed to be a motive. The victims' hands and feet were bound, then they were tied back-to-back to each other, Wylie nude, Hoffert dressed. Two bloody 10- to 12-inch carving knives were found next to the bodies and an additional knife in one of the two bathrooms.
Police theorized that the women were attacked and murdered in the bedroom where their bodies were discovered. They did not immediately release information regarding the rape of Wylie. In fact, they told the press that it did not appear that either were raped, but allowed that an autopsy may reveal otherwise. They did say that the women were slashed repeatedly in the neck and abdomen.
In April the following year, Elba Borrero identified George Whitmore, Jr., a nineteen-year-old day laborer, as a man who attacked her a few days before. When he was arrested for that crime, a photo of a white blonde woman was found in his possession and was identified as that of Janice Wylie. The photo was, however, that of Arlene Franco, a woman living in New Jersey. Borrero produced a button which she claimed she ripped from the attacker's coat. The FBI later concluded that it could not have come from Whitmore's coat.
Brooklyn police announced that Whitmore had confessed to the Wylie-Hoffert and Minnie Edmonds murders (an unrelated murder) and the attempted assault of Borrero. At a news conference, it was announced that Whitmore had given details of the Wylie-Hoffert murders that only the killer could have known. It was stated he had drawn a detailed diagram of the apartment and had in his wallet a photo of Janice Wylie that had been stolen from the flat.
Whitmore repudiated his confessions, claiming that he had been beaten during the interrogations; that counsel had not been present (which was not a right of law at the time); and that his request for a lie detector test had been denied.
Witnesses were then found claiming that Whitmore was in Wildwood at the time of the Career Girl murders: he had been watching a live TV broadcast speech of Martin Luther King Jr. at the March on Washington, miles away from the crime scene. The Brooklyn detectives had claimed that Whitmore had given details of the Wylie-Hoffert killings which only the murderer could have known, but Manhattan prosecutors noticed that every detail in the Whitmore confession was known to the police beforehand. Whitmore's discredited confession did not prompt Manhattan District Attorney Frank Hogan to dismiss the indictment against him.
Borrero would later acknowledge that Whitmore was the only suspect police had shown her. She also spoke about her discussion with a lawyer regarding the reward offered for the conviction of Janice Wylie's killer. Authorities speculated she may have been after the money, rather than justice.
No other evidence could be found linking him to the Manhattan murders and it was ten years before he was completely cleared of any involvement in the incidents.
On October 9, 1964, Nathan Delaney, 35, was arrested for the murder of rival drug dealer, Adam McAuley. Facing the death penalty, Delaney offered to make a deal: in return for leniency he would give police the name of the real "career girls" killer, and he claimed it was not Whitmore.
Delaney explained to police that on the day of the killings he had met an old acquaintance, Richard "Ricky" Robles, who had told him that he had committed the murders. Robles, a twenty-two-year-old burglar, had a long record of drug use and had been released from prison just two months prior to the murders. Delaney told detectives that Robles had turned up at his apartment on the day of the killings, his hands and clothes covered in blood, and demanding drugs.
He and his wife were wired with listening devices, which were also installed in their and Robles' apartments. Over time, Robles talked about details of the murders that convinced investigators he was the real killer; he was arrested and charged on January 26, 1965.
In the autumn of 1965, Robles was tried for the Wylie-Hoffert murders. His attorneys attempted to buoy the credibility of Whitmore's Wylie-Hoffert confession to create a reasonable doubt that their own client had committed the crime. However, prosecutor John F. Keenan replied by summoning Whitmore and the detectives who had arrested him. Robles' attorneys were unable to translate doubts about police interrogation methods to their own client's advantage, despite testimony that Robles had confessed to the Wylie-Hoffert murders while suffering from heroin withdrawal and without his attorney present.
Delaney testified that Robles told him the motive for the murders was because Hoffert told him that she could identify him to police. It was pointed out by Robles' attorney that Delaney was given immunity in exchange for his testimony.
On December 1, 1965, Richard Robles was found guilty of the murders of Emily Hoffert and Janice Wylie and sentenced to life in prison, the New York Legislature having, just months before, abolished the death penalty, except in the cases of the killing of police officers, prison guards, and murders committed while escaping jail. He was found guilty, largely on the basis of secretly tape-recorded conversations about the murders.
Despite the conviction of Robles, numerous questions regarding the police conduct in this case were left unanswered. "Police detectives, who may have been motivated by their sense of justice, resorted to highly questionable means to extract a confession from a suspect who was too weak to resist. Their colossal blunders in the career girls murder case almost put George Whitmore Jr. on death row for a crime he certainly did not commit. No formal charges were ever brought against Detectives Bulger and DiPrima who consistently denied any wrongdoing in the case. But exactly how Whitmore was able to supply a 61-page confession to a double murder he never committed was never explained."
Robles, who had himself protested his innocence over the original double-murders, finally admitted his guilt to a parole board hearing in November 1986. He had broken into the apartment in order to obtain money for drugs and had assumed at first it was empty. When Wylie, who had been taking a shower, appeared, he attacked and raped her. Hoffert had turned up shortly afterwards and he attacked her as well. Defiantly, she told him that she would remember his face and report him to the police, whereupon he murdered both her and Wylie. Robles remained in prison. No charges were pressed against the police officers who had obtained Whitmore's "confessions".
The case of George Whitmore, Jr. and his treatment by the police was one of many examples used by the US Supreme Court when it issued the guidelines known as the Miranda rights in June 1966 by which, when a defendant is taken into custody and accused of a crime, he must be advised of his constitutional rights. The court acknowledged that coercive interrogations could produce false confessions, and in a footnote stated: "[t]he most conspicuous example occurred in New York in 1964 when a Negro of limited intelligence confessed to two brutal murders and a rape which he had not committed. When this was discovered, the prosecutor was reported as saying: 'Call it what you want — brain-washing, hypnosis, fright. The only thing I don't believe is that Whitmore was beaten.'" Whitmore died on October 8, 2012 at age 68.
In popular culture
- The case was the basis of the 1973 television movie The Marcus-Nelson Murders.
- A 1973 novel entitled The Killings, by Edgar-winning author Clark Howard, also fictionalized the case.
- News reports about the Career Girls murders are heard in the Mad Men Season 3 episode "Wee Small Hours", along with those about the Birmingham church bombing and the little girls' funerals.
- "George A. Whitmore: A plethora of false confessions". Northwestern Law Bluhm Legal Clinic: Center on Wrongful Convictions. Retrieved March 2013.
- trutv.com – The Career Girls Murders by Mark Gado, page 2
- "The Career Girl Murders". A Crime to Remember. Season 1.02. 19 Nov 2013. Investigation Discovery.
- "One Niece of Philip Wylie: Two Girls Found Slain in N.Y. Flat". Tucson Daily Citizen. UPI. 1963-08-29. p. 19. Retrieved 2015-01-14. (subscription required (. ))
- "Philip Wylie's Niece, Another Woman Slain in N.Y. Apartment". The Hammond Times. AP. 1963-08-29. p. A2. Retrieved 2015-01-14. (subscription required (. ))
- T.J English (March 15, 2011). "3". The Savage City: Race, Murder, and a Generation on the Edge. HarperCollins. p. 2. ISBN 0061824550.
- "March On Washington, Coinciding Murders Redefined Liberties". KOSU. 26 August 2013. Retrieved 28 August 2013.
- The Whitmore Confessions and Richard Robles Trial: 1965 – Confessions Discredited
- Gado, Mark. trutv.com "The Career Girls Murders" Check
|url=value (help). TruTV.com. p. 6.
- "Jobless Youth Confesses, Brutal Slaying Of Girls Solved". The Charleston Daily Mail. AP. 1964-04-25. p. A2. Retrieved 2015-01-14. (subscription required (. ))
- Mark Gado. "The Career Girls Murders". CrimeLibrary.com (formerly TruTV).
- trutv.com – The Career Girls Murders by Mark Gado, page 9
- The Whitmore Confessions and Richard Robles Trial: 1965 – Richard Robles Arrested
- "Career Girl Defied Killer, Court Is Told". The Des Moines Register. AP. 1965-10-26. p. A2. Retrieved 2015-01-14. (subscription required (. ))
- "THE CAREER GIRLS MURDERS — 'I Was Like a Ghost!' — Crime Library on". Trutv.com. Retrieved 2012-02-09.
- trutv.com – The Career Girls Murders by Mark Gado, page 15
- supreme.justia.com – Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966)
- The Whitmore Confessions and Richard Robles Trial: 1965 – Whitmore Retried In Assault Case
- The Marcus-Nelson Murders (1973) at imdb.com
- Alan Sepinwall. "mad Men, Wee Small Hours". What's Alan Watching.