A Crime to Remember (2013–…): Season 1, Episode 2 - The Career Girl Murders - full transcript

New York, NY, 1963. When two young women - just out of college, starting their first jobs in The Big City - wind up dead in their Upper East Side apartment, raped, mutilated, the victims of...

I'm going to tell you
the story of three young women

who once lived in New York City.

There was Pat...
that's her right there.

And she had two roommates,

Emily, who she'd met in college,

and Janice, a family friend.

Janice hadn't shown up
at work that day.

Now, I work with her
and I can tell you

Janice being unreliable
was hardly something new.

So, none of us
were that worried.

I can't believe
you didn't even make it in.

Charlie wasn't happy.
I can tell you that.

But, when Pat got home
to that apartment

and saw what had happened...


Nothing would ever be the same.

For her...


Or for any of us.

August 28, 1963.

It was hot and sticky
in New York City.

You may remember that day
because it was the day

of Martin Luther King's
famous march on Washington.

I remember it because it was
the day my friend was murdered.

Patricia Tolles
called Janice Wylie's parents,

Max and Isabel Wylie,
who lived nearby,

and she told Max Wylie

that something
was dreadfully amiss.

Max told the women to stay there

while he started looking around.

There's his daughter...
naked, eviscerated.

Her intestines were out.

She was naked and dead on
the floor, blood all over her.

And there was Emily
right next to her.

She was dressed,
but she was also clearly dead.

They seemed to be entwined
in some kind of wrappings.

It was hideous crime.

He walked back
into the living room

and explained to them,
as calmly as he could,

that both girls were dead.

They had been murdered.

He then went to the phone,
picked it up, dialed the police.

This place was swarming
with cops very, very quickly.

I knew within five, six,
seven minutes of being there,

that was going to be
a high-profile case.

Max, I just want to let you know

that we offer
our deepest sympathies to you.

I understand,
but it's most important

that you figure out
what happened.

Max is an advertising guy,

and he was also the creator
of "The Flying Nun."

He's a man of stature
in New York.

This was the Gold Coast,

where wealthy,
fashionable people lived.

If somebody lost their dog,

15 detectives are assigned
to the case immediately.

And here were these two
women, who were young, fragile.

And a murder like this was sure
to manifest huge headlines.

This was a crime
that was going to bring

the spotlight
on the police department.

The big shots soon arrived, too.

Deputy inspectors,
high-level police detectives.

On a case like this,

the police department
would not place

anybody other than
well-seasoned detectives.

Cavangah is one of the best
detectives we ever had.

Emily Hoffert's throat had been
slashed from end to end.

Janice was raped, but anally.

And they found noxzema
on her anus.

They would also find semen.

There was no DNA.

We didn't have
the scientific equipment

that we had today.

All we had was our gut.

Two knives were broken.

It takes a lot of strength
to break a knife.

You have to be really angry.

Both girls had been tied up with
ripped strips of the sheets,

and that took time to fashion.

This was indicative of someone
that had a particular agenda.

They looked around,

and there were valuables
around the apartment

and nothing was taken.

This didn't appear
to be a burglary.

Thanks a lot.
I appreciate it.

The window was open.

This was a third-floor window.

There's no way
you're gonna get up there.

There was no sign
of forced entry,

which automatically means

someone had gotten
into the apartment

through one of the doors.

Miss Tolles,
I'm Lieutenant Cavanagh.

I'd like to ask you
a few questions.

Tell me about Emily.

She was just moving out.

Emily Hoffert
was a school teacher.

She had been new to the city,

didn't know too many people,
hadn't dated much.

Emily came from Minnesota.

She was very plain.

People have described her
as less than plain.

And how about Janice?

She was the life of the party.

Right this way.
Watch your step.

Come on, come on.

And right there.

Yes, ma'am.

What do you think?

I like it there.

Janice was much more lively.

She was an actress.

She was a bit of a drama queen.

She was smart,

she was full of laughter,
and she was fun.

Yes, Mary sunshine.

Put this on for me, dear?

Thank you.

She liked to create a
tornado as she walked in the door

and liked
to exit as a hurricane.

She had dated a lot.
She was an attractive blonde.

I met Janice
my first day at newsweek.

We were both assigned
to the clip desk.

I wore a hot-pink shirt
with white polka-dots.

Of course you did.
And a poofy white skirt.

Nude heels, and I got the job.

We all showed up
at the clip desk.

We got into our smocks.
We wore smocks.

And sat down
with our rip sticks.

We ripped out these articles.

We stamped the date on them, and
we labeled them for the writers.

Most of us
had moved to New York City

from somewhere else.

Janice had grown up here,
and it showed.

If you've ever met someone
who grew up in Manhattan,

you know what I'm talking about.

They're different.
They're exciting.

Now, we came from good schools,

and we had a certain amount

of training, I suppose,
behind us,

about manners
and that kind of stuff.

I guess you'd say it was
an upper-middle-class place.

The girls in that room
were from all over,

but we all had
one thing in common.

We wanted to work.

We wanted families...
sure, someday...

but first we wanted to really
do something on our own.

Career girls were very suspect.

They didn't want
to marry the boy next door.

They wanted something more.

And ambition was something
that you may have had,

but you shouldn't show.

Can you walk me
through this again?

Pat told them what she'd told
Janice's boss earlier that day.

Emily, we're never gonna
see you again, I swear.

You'll see me again.
Will I?

I'm just moving.
I don't trust it.

The queen has risen.

Leave me alone.

Janice had overslept...

but had gotten up just in time
to say goodbye to Emily,

who was actually
moving out that day.

Emily had gotten a new
cheaper apartment on Murray Hill.

And she was moving her things

from that apartment
to the Murray Hill apartment,

and she'd used her friend's car.

Bye, Janice.

I'm leaving now, too,

but I'll be back
in an hour or so.

See you soon. Bye.
Bye, honey.

She came back and apparently
stumbled into the insane scene.

Based on the crime scene
and the timeline of the day,

they established
that Janice Wylie

was the primary victim.

And so the investigation
would have to focus on Janice.

There's an intimacy
that's linked with stabbing.

People who stab are people
who are inflamed to the point

where they don't just inflict
death, they inflict pain.

It had to be somebody she knew,
'cause it was too much hate

for it to be a random act
of impersonal violence.

Who might have had
the intent or the motive

to kill her so viciously?

We found out about the
murders the next day at work.

None of us could believe it.

The story got
almost as much coverage

as the march on Washington,
which we'd all been watching

in the office the day before...

Maybe at the exact moment
Janice was being killed.

It was awful to think about.

The newspapers
in New York at that time

labeled the case
"The Career Girl Murders."

Hey, did you see this?

It became
this iconic murder case

all about how dangerous it is

for young women to live alone
in New York City.

Young women in the '60s

were really
coming into their own.

We were right on the
cusp of getting past the era

when women were not considered
safe out on their own.

You lived at home until
you got married kind of thing.

But I'll tell you,
for us around that table,

for the so-called
"Career Girls"...

the only thing we were thinking

was how much
we missed our friend.

The public was horrified.

These were two young girls
struck down

in the very beginning
of their careers...

the prime of their lives.

There was a lot of
pressure on the police department

to solve this case.

The more attention that the news
gives to it, the more attention

the police department
has to give to it.

They immediately
start assembling

150 homicide detectives

from the Bronx, from Queens,
from Brooklyn.


Ed Bulger, Brooklyn homicide.

And everybody was going
to the 23rd precinct.

That became the headquarters
for the investigation.

The main focus was Janice Wylie.

And I don't want to sound
flippant, but the thing was,

Janice would have
wanted it that way.

She had to be the center
of attention... always.

Janice exploded with ambition.

She bubbled.

She knew hundreds of people.

There were parties and dinners
and meeting for drinks.

And people... so many people.

And when Janice was hosting,
which was all the time,

everyone was invited.

She was a party girl.

She had a lot
of relationships and dates.

She had a lot of crushes

for all kinds of men
at the magazine.

And she would flatter guys.

She would send cute notes

to the chief editors
at newsweek.

It doesn't take a genius

to come to that
this is a crime of passion.

They were convinced

that somebody she knew
was the perpetrator.

The police started with Janice's
little green address book.

So, what was your
relationship like with Miss Wylie?

We went on a couple of dates.
That's it.

They started
looking for old boyfriends.

They started
looking for current flames.

Anybody who might be

sexually or romantically
interested in Janice,

and somebody who had a history
of some sort of violence

or an indication
of a short temper.

So, you got a record here?

There were some
questionable people in her past.

There was a family friend

who had some sexual crimes
in his past.

And that, of course, would
fit the bill pretty closely.

We were just friends.

Can you explain
why telephone records

show a call from your home
on Long Island

to Janice's apartment
on July 12th?

There was also a very famous
foreign correspondent.

He had an affair with Janice,

and he was married
and he had a tremendous career.

And he bristled
at the police's interest in him.

I mean, he thought he was
too grand to be questioned.

And anyone who knew Janice knew

that she loved
all kinds of attention,

not just attention from men.

I hope this isn't going
to take too long.

Janice lived for a while
in the village

with this woman, Pearl,
who was a lesbian.

What exactly was your
relationship with Miss Wylie?

Did I fall
madly in love with her

and kill her
in a hysterical sapphic rage?

Their heads were swimming.

It's a great example of cops
plunging into a lifestyle

that they were just
way over their heads.

But, they all had alibis...
all the people at work,

all the boyfriends,
all the girlfriends.

Can your girlfriends
corroborate that?


Every name in that address book
led to nothing.

So, the police
had to keep looking.

All right, so, first
and Lexington, here to 89th.

At this point, they were looking
at the unusual suspects.

So they went
through their files and said,

"Who had been convicted
for crimes against women?"

There was at least 40 to 50
who fitted that profile.

I was assigned to canvass.

Going up and down,
back and forth,

getting all the doors,
getting the statements.

Hello, ma'am, we'd like to ask
you a few questions, please.

They Isolate a block,

and they have everybody
go door to door.

They're asking,
"Did you see anybody?"

"Do you know anybody?"

Nobody else here
hear anything else about it?

In the papers.
That's it.

They checked taxicab
drivers, storekeepers, bars.

They also reached out

to their squealers...
their informants.

That included bartenders,
doormen, bookies,

other people in the neighborhood
who might know something.

I told you,
we haven't heard anything.

You're sure, now?

During the investigation,

one of those
who had been brought in

was detective Edward Bulger,

whose regular assignment
was in Brooklyn.

Why don't you ladies
step out here?

Eddie Bulger
was a first-grade detective,

but he was a blunt, brutal man.

He had this belief

that when
he questioned black people,

he could tell
when they were lying.

He told other detectives
that he could always tell

because he could see
their stomachs rotate.

He told that
to a couple of D.A.'s,

so he got kicked off the case.

He was sent back to his
home precinct in Brooklyn

by more subtle detectives

who didn't want
to poison the case

with that kind of tactic.

Months went by,

and yet nobody came up
with the slightest clue.

And it looked
like a hopeless case.

It happening is bad enough,

but it happening and not
being solved is terrible.

Two young, beautiful women
from good families

were murdered
in the middle of the day

in a safe neighborhood.

It was terrifying,
and people wouldn't let it go.

Oz Elliott,
the great editor of newsweek,

put up a reward for $10,000.

If you transport
yourself back to 1964,

$10,000 is probably worth
$100,000 today.

They had to bring in
other detectives

to help handle the phone calls.

Because of the prominence
of everybody involved,

the pressure was enormous
to come up with an answer

because people just can't live
with uncertainty.

With the amount of
pressure that was on there...

there was gonna be
an arrest here.

There's a kind
of desperation that happens.

A few of them will become

to deliver the answer,

because they know
whoever delivers the answer

is gonna be a king for a while.

It was all over
the news for months.

You couldn't get away from it.

My friend Janice and her
roommate Emily had been killed

in their apartment
on the Upper East Side.

And they were calling it
"The Career Girls Murder."

They said every detective
in the city was on the case,

but they still
couldn't figure out

who wanted to kill
these two bright young women.

Most of the viable leads
had been exhausted.

You only can work with leads,

and once you start
exhausting your leads,

then it's just sit and wait.

Well, as it turns out,

the development
came out of Brooklyn...

out of a totally unrelated case.

If East 88th Street
was the Gold Coast,

Brownsville, Brooklyn,
was the dust bowl.

Just a few miles away,
but worlds apart.

Brownsville was poor and black,

and let's just say when
a crime was committed there,

it didn't get
a whole lot of attention...

Until now.

One April night in 1964,

a patrolman
by the name of Frank Isola

was on his beat
when he heard a scream.

As he got to the alleyway,
he found a woman.

Here's another book for you,
Ms. Borrero.

Her name was Elba Borrero.

She had been a practical nurse,

and she told him
as she walked home,

someone grabbed her from behind

and told her he was gonna
kill her or rape her.

She had one clue.

She had ripped a button
off of his raincoat.

The description
of that assailant

was a young black man
in his early 20s,

about 5'6 ", 5'7"... lean build.

Isola stopped George Whitmore

near the scene
of the attempted rape.

Miss Borrero?

There's someone here we'd like
you to take a look at.

Right now?
This way.

The police asked Miss Borrero
to look through a peep hole.

I wish I could
hear him say something.

Do me one more favor.
Say, "I'm gonna kill you."

I'm gonna kill you.


That's him.

Also, she identified his coat...

And the button.

She had ripped
the button off the coat,

which became very crucial.

Whitmore was under arrest.

I brought someone in
for Borrero...

George Whitmore.

The stuff is over there.
All right, thanks.

One of the other detectives
at the 73rd precinct

was Edward Bulger.

Bulger was going through
Whitmore's possessions,

and there were photos
of a young blond woman.

Eddie Bulger, who was kicked off
the Manhattan investigation,

takes a look at the picture,

and he says,
"That's Janice Wylie."

As soon as he saw that picture,

Bulger, of course,
picked up the interrogation.

Hey, Jim.

I just need to ask him
a couple of questions.

You got a second?

Hello, George.

Who's the girl?

Now, Whitmore said

that he had found the photos
in the junkyard.

To impress his friends
that he had white girlfriends,

he would show them these photos.

But the cops didn't believe him.

They spent 17 hours

questioning him
about Wylie-Hoffert.

Bulger said
he began giving details...

only the killer could know.

The word gets singing
through the wires

that they got a guy
for the Wylie-Hoffert case.

The district attorney's offices

in Manhattan and in Brooklyn
were called in.

He had given
them a 61-page confession

for the massacres

of Emily Hoffert
and Janice Wylie.

They had solved
this seemingly insoluble case.

There were
these explosive headlines,

and Brooklyn detectives
got an award

from one of the newspapers
at that time.

There was nothing but praise
for the Brooklyn detectives.



But while
the Brooklyn detectives

were celebrating and patting
each other on the backs,

there were some
who stayed skeptical.

That confession
was almost too good

because there's some details
about where certain things were,

made no sense
that he would know.

Manhattan never closed the case.

Regardless of how far it went
in Brooklyn with Whitmore,

they just
did not close the case.

I would see Cavanagh

and he would
simply say to me, "No."



But we didn't know
all that then.

All we knew was
that the Career Girls killer

had been found.

They convicted him
on another charge

while they were building
the case against him

for the murders.

And for a while, at least,

girls living unchaperoned
in the city

could sleep soundly again.

He knew
something smelled wrong here.

He took the picture.
He showed it to Max Wylie.

Max said it wasn't his daughter.

And there was something else.

George's mother,
Bernadine Whitmore,

was convinced
that he was innocent

of the Wylie-Hoffert case

because it was
on August 28, 1963.

And like I said
at the beginning,

that was a day
that everyone remembered.

And that was the thing

that would
turn this case around.

As far as we all knew,
a man named George Whitmore

had committed
the "Career Girl Murders",

but behind the scenes,
the story was changing.

I have the pleasure to present
to you Dr. Martin Luther King.



So, I drove down to New Jersey,

and everybody could place
George Whitmore in Wildwood

from virtually
8:00 in the morning

to late at night.

The day of the murder,

he's watching
the Martin Luther King speech

in New Jersey.

So, I went back to New York,
of course.

I called up Whitmore's lawyer,

and the New York
Police Department

went down
to Wildwood, New Jersey,

and very easily established
his alibi.

But rather than announce

that they might have
gotten the wrong man,

they kept quiet.

They didn't want
the media and the community

to see them look incompetent,

like we had the wrong guy
and now we had nothing.

And so George Whitmore
from Wildwood New Jersey,

who had come to New York City
to find work,

sat in prison
with everyone in the city

still thinking
he killed the Career Girls

because all the detectives knew
that you can't have

the murder of two young,
affluent women go unsolved,

even if you know the real
killer is still out there.

For the most part,
crimes are solved by luck.

You stumble into something
that you weren't supposed to see

or somebody gives you up.

In the early '60s,
the main drug,

in terms of serious narcotics,
was heroin.

Drugs were rampant.

At one point,

we had to arrest well over
250,000 heroin addicts.

The Upper East Side
was sort of like

what was called the border line.

Below 96th street,
the junkies looking to get money

came down to do their crimes,

but they went back up
to buy their drugs.

And in spite
of what everyone had assumed

about Emily and Janice
and why they had been killed,

despite all the names
in Janice's little green book,

the lucky break
the detectives needed

came courtesy of a junkie
in the back of a paddy wagon.

A man by the name
of Nathan Delaney

was picked up in East Harlem
for a murder.

He was a three-time loser,

and a fourth conviction meant
an automatic life sentence.

Too bad you had the wrong guy
for those murders.

That was just
up the street, right?


Too bad you got the wrong guy.

And I know you did.

They literally
turned this truck around

and brought him
back to the police station.

What do you got?

You want to know
who killed those white girls?

Let's hear it.

You got to take care of me.

Delaney said he knew.

He had evidence
against the real killer,

but he wanted a deal.

This murder is so big,

and information about
this murder is so valuable,

that Delaney gets
everything he wants.

And he told them
the following story...

that on the day of the murders

of Janice Wylie
and Emily Hoffert,

he was at his own apartment
in East Harlem

when suddenly,
one of his pals showed up.

He has all this blood
on his shirt and on his hands,

and he's, like, sweating,
frantically moving around,

and then he just...

What does he say?

He says,
"I killed some girls."

Give me a name.

Ricky Robles.

And it turned out that
Robles was a familiar face,

not just
to the narcotics division,

but to the detectives working
the Career Girls case, too.

In fact,
they questioned him early on

in the Wylie-Hoffert

and his mother had given them

what they had considered
an iron-clad alibi...

that he had been sleeping
that morning

and spent the whole day
in her apartment.

And they had dropped
any interest in Robles.

The guy was a career burglar,

and everyone
in the neighborhood knew it.

So, they picked him up.

Ricky Robles
was a known drug addict.

He had served three years
for burglaries.

He also tied up a woman
in one case.

Where were you on August 28th?

And the story
Ricky Robles told the police

was as violent and disturbing
as anything they'd ever heard.

Ricky Robles confessed
to the Wylie-Hoffert case.

He did admit that he had been
out that day to pull a burglary.

And he decided
to choose that building

because there was no doorman.

And he went up
the service stairwell,

and what he did
was pretty unbelievable.

You know,
I just looked up and I saw it was open,

and I saw that there was
some ledges on the side

I could just
kind of put my leg up

and just kind of shimmy
my way up the wall.

It's 30 feet in the air.

Okay, so,
here's the window, right?

So... I go up here,

and then... There's the ledge,

And somehow...

he managed to pull himself up
and squirt into the window.

Janice Wylie appeared nude.

He said she was everything
he had always longed for.

A blond, white woman...

someone who looked rich
and out of his realm.

And he decided
he wanted to have sex with her,

and he raped her.

And as he was leaving,

he was heading for the door,
Emily Hoffert walked in.

And he grabbed her
and tied her up, also.

And when he removed her glasses,

she said to him,
"I'll recognize you.

I'm gonna turn you in
to the police."

He decided
he had to kill them both.

He took some money
from Emily Hoffert's purse...

it was maybe $25, $30...
and left.

Ricky Robles went on trial

in the late fall
and early winter of 1965,

and he was convicted.

He was sentenced
to 20 years to life

for the Wylie-Hoffert murders.

But Whitmore had confessed...
61 pages of details.

How could he have done that?

It's not unusual for individuals
to falsely confess.

False confessions are brought on

by their desperation
to get out of the situation,

be it because
they were threatened,

because they think
they are going to be offered

some sort of leniency,

or because
they're simply confused.

Police officers have been known

to take advantage
in those situations,

and that's what happened
to Mr. Whitmore.

Bulger, he had been
taken off of the case.

as soon as he saw that picture,

this is sort of
like his salvation.

This is a career,
either, maker or breaker.

Sometimes you forget,

"Am I reminding them
of what happened,

or am I telling them
what happened?"

After hours of constant
interrogation, threats,

Mr. Whitmore finally bowed
to that pressure.

That's why DNA exoneration
today is so critical,

because there are
so many false confessions

that lead to false convictions.

And you would think

that the charges
against George Whitmore

would just be dropped,
and they were,

but it wasn't that easy.

Whitmore's lawyers
had to finally go to court

to get the case dismissed.

The D.A. never did it.

Not one detective
was ever brought up

on any kind
of departmental charges,

was ever,
in any way, reprimanded.

But even after they dropped
the murder charges,

George Whitmore
was still sitting in prison

on the Borrero conviction.

George stayed in jail
for a while,

and then Selwyn Raab
came out with a book

where he showed
that Elba Borrero

identified two other people
before George

and that she was in it
for the $10,000 reward.

She was told, presumably
by one of the detectives,

that she would be eligible
for that reward

if she fingered George.

We found out years later,

they had sent that button
to the FBI laboratories

and found out it could not be,

in any way,
attributed to the coat.

This is something
that the prosecution

never told the defense.

And finally, the last charge

against George Whitmore
was dropped, as well.

After nine terrifying years,

Whitmore was finally exonerated
in 1973.

They knew that this was
an innocent kid.

Two girls got murdered
by a drug addict.

That was a very bad thing.

But, to call it
"The Career Girls Murder",

that, "If you get too big
for your britches, girls",

"This is what can happen."

I think
that was taking liberties

with what the story was about.

The papers
and the police worked hard

to make it a story
about two girls

who had jobs when
they should have had husbands.

Anyway, let's talk
about more important things,

like if you're coming
to Georgio's tonight.

If I can find the blue dishes,
I will come.

But maybe they needed
to see it that way.

The queen has risen.

Leave me alone.

The alternative was
that two bright, shining lives

had been snuffed out
for no reason at all.

And that means
it could happen to anyone.

Okay, ladies.

I have to run, but I will
see you tonight at Georgio's.

Yes, you will.

And hopefully you'll see me
at work, too.

It could happen to me.
It could happen to you.

And that is too much to bear.

Bye, honey.

So, you find a way
not to think about it,

to keep it at arm's length.

You shake your head and say,
"That's life in the Big City."