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April 24th, 2006

Oldest Unsolved Murders

When my book went to press, 25,062 murders had been committed since 1985. Roughly a third of those murders are still unsolved. (I say roughly, because that figure is a moving target.)

For better or worse, I’m curious about the oldest unsolved murders.

The NYPD’s Central Records Division has a warehouse in Brooklyn where they store, among other things, 187 boxes full of case records for unsolved homicides spanning the years 1921 to 1973. Some boxes have a few cases, some have thirty or more. They may be falling apart from age, but there are probably 4,000 to 7,000 case files there. The box marked “1921” has several cases from the early twenties including the following four cold cases: Cecil E. Landon, a 19 year old from Portland who was murdered just after returning from military service in France, 12-year-old Virginia Walker who was murdered on her way to buy cream, 17-year-old Ream Constance Hoxsie who was hit in the head with a hammer eight times, then posed on a bed, and the severed head of an unknown Italian man that was found in Bronx Zoological Park by two boys looking for fresh water crabs. Several days later, two women searching the same area for mushrooms found the torso.

Ream Constance Hoxsie was murdered on February 2, 1920. The last mention I can find of her was on August 4th that year, in a New York Times article about all the unsolved murders in New York. They say that there’s been a murder in Manhattan every four days for the last seven months, most unsolved. Topping the list are Ream Constance Hoxsie’s murder, and the murder or a gambler/bridge player named Joseph B. Elwood. As far as I can tell, his murder was never solved either, although they got a number of false confessions.

This is from the movie, “The Murder of Marie Roget,” which was based on a Edgar Allan Poe story, which was based on the real murder of Mary Cecilia Roger. Her 1841 murder has never been solved. She was very beautiful and the case got enormous attention. (That reminds me, the Municipal Archives has notebooks of photographs made from glass plate negatives of crime scenes taken around 1905. There’s one picture of a man so horribly deformed he doesn’t even look human. He looks more like a monkey. I am haunted by that photograph. He was so awful looking, and he lived in a shack with a dirt floor — you have to see it. It was one of the most miserable existences I have ever seen in a photograph. And then, the final insult to life and humanity, he was murdered. It’s a sad, sad, picture and I wish I had never seen it.)


→ 3 CommentsTags: Homicide Facts · Old Murder Cases ·

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Lisa // May 15, 2006 at 7:21 pm

    I just finished reading the book — very interesting. And haunting. Have there been any updates to the Jean Sanseverino and/or Christine Diefenbach cases? It seems as though they know who murdered Christine Diefenbach but are unabke to prove it, but my money was on Bill Moore for thr murder of Jean Sanseverino.

  • 2 Lisa // May 15, 2006 at 7:23 pm

    Ooops… I meant Bill MILLER is the one I thought had murdered Jean Sanseverino.

  • 3 Stacy Horn // May 17, 2006 at 3:28 pm

    Hi Lisa! Sadly, no updates, although someone posted here that they had a lead on the Christine Diefenbach case. I’m going to try to put them in touch with Tommy Wray.

    And yeah, Bill Miller. I keep changing my mind about who I think did it!