“The work of a maniac”
On 28 August 1963 Dr Martin Luther King, Jr declared in Washington DC that he had a dream. On the same day Newsweek researcher Janice Wylie, 21, and teacher Emily Hoffert, 23, were murdered in their apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Chief Medical Examiner Dr Milton Helpern described the murders as “the work of a maniac… both girls were stabbed repeatedly in the chest, abdomen and neck.” The New York Daily News reported that “Emily had been the victim of multiple stab wounds and Janice had one huge slash across her abdomen.” Newsweek offered a S10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the murderer.
The case lay dormant until 3.30am on 25 April 1964 when news agency AP released the following, “A 19-year-old Negro has admitted slaying Janice Wylie and Emily Hoeffert [sic] in their East Side apartment last August 28, Deputy Police Commissioner Walter Arm said early today.” The item identified the confessor as George Whitmore, Jr, a 1.65 m (5 ft 5 in) tall, myopic, pockmarked black labourer with an IQ of just 60. The teenager had been arrested the day before as a rape suspect in Brownsville and, as he was being questioned, he confessed to the career girl slayings.
Chief of Detectives Lawrence McKearney said that Whitmore had used a Coke bottle and three knives to butcher the women. On 9 November 1964 Whitmore’s trial for rape and assault began at the Brooklyn Criminal Court. During the trial it became clear that Whitmore had an alibi for the murders. However, he was convicted of the assault and was still in the frame for another murder, plus the Wylie-Hoffert killings. In 1966 he was sentenced to 5-10 years in Sing Sing prison.
57 East 88th Street, Manhattan, New York City, USA
Wednesday 28 August 1963
On 26 January 1965 Richard Robles, a 22-year-old ex-convict and drug addict with a heroin habit, was arrested for the murders of Janice Wylie and Emily Hoffert. He had been burgling the apartment when his interest turned sexual. Then “I just went bananas”, and beat the women unconscious before slashing and stabbing them to death. The charges against Whitmore were finally dropped and he was released on 10 April 1973.
On 1 December 1965 Robles was convicted of the Career Girl Murders and in January 1966 sentenced to life imprisonment, but eligible for parole in 26 years. At a parole hearing on 5 November 1986 Robles, having proclaimed his innocence for 20 years, finally confessed. “I got in through a window. Miss Wylie was in the apartment. She was in bed… I tied her up… I wanted to have sex with her. I attempted to. She said ‘No!’ I stopped.” Then Emily Hoffert came home. As he tied her up “She started telling me that she was going to tell the police on me,” Robles said. “The thought entered my mind I have to kill… I killed… I was out of it.” Robles remains incarcerated.
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
A book about the case, Justice In The Back Room, by Selwyn Raab of the New York World-Telegram and Sun was turned into a film starring Telly Savalas that later became the television show Kojak.