The press labelled Lonergan a murderer
On 23 October 1943 Patricia Lonergan, a 22-year-old socialite and brewery heiress to a $6 million fortune was found naked and dead in her apartment after going to a party. She had been struck with a candlestick and strangled. At the time of her death she was estranged from her husband Wayne Lonergan, a handsome, 1.82 m (6 ft) tall Royal Canadian Air Force aircraftman, three years her senior.
The police contacted his commanding officer and discovered that Lonergan had been on leave in New York during the weekend of his wife’s death. He was discovered in Toronto and returned to New York voluntarily. He was interrogated for 84 hours and supposedly confessed to killing his wife during a quarrel. He also spoke of their sex life or lack of one, leading to speculation that Lonergan was homosexual. Unfortunately, much of the interview was leaked to the press, resulting in Lonergan being labelled a murderer before a court had had the chance to try him. At his trial in March 1944 doubt was cast on his confession and, although the police could prove that he was indeed in New York at the time of the killing, they could not prove he had been at the murder scene.
Assistant District Attorney Jacob Grumet testified that Lonergan confessed (the unsigned confession was repudiated by the defendant and his lawyers) to homosexual relations, both before and after his marriage. One of the men involved was said to have been William Burton, Patricia’s father, who had set up the younger man in his own apartment and given him money to live on. When Mr Burton died in October 1940 Lonergan moved on to his daughter and they were married on 30 July 1941. Grumet also quoted Lonergan as saying that he derived “a certain amount” of satisfaction from his married life but that his separation from his wife was the result of “mutual boredom”. One Manhattan psychiatrist spoke of Lonergan’s “financial promiscuity, sexual promiscuity, emotional shallowness”. Oddly, given the early press leaks, Judge James Garrett Wallace barred all spectators, except newspapermen, from the court. Lonergan was convicted of second-degree murder on 17 April 1944 and sentenced to 30 years to life in jail.
51st Street, New York City, USA
Saturday 23 October 1943
After spending 22 years in Sing Sing, Lonergan was released on 2 December 1965 and deported to Canada.