Alice Crimmins: The Most Hated Woman in America
Alice Crimmins was made public enemy number one and she paid dearly, but was she innocent?
Alice and Eddie via murderpedia.org
She was the subject of a hate campaign across America due to a police force’s relentless harassment and theories. During a time of solid morals, Alice Crimmin’s lifestyle and appearance meant she was targeted by the public and the police. She was stuck in a living nightmare, and no one would help her.
On the 14th of July 1965, Alice awoke to find her Queens apartment in silence. It was late, around 9 am, and it was unusual for there to be no noise in her normally loud home, but opening the door to her children’s room, there would be no ‘normal’ again.
Alice had married her husband Eddie when she was young. He was a drinker, and by July ’65, they were in the middle of a divorce and long, drawn-out custody battle over their children, Eddie Jr., who was five and Alice jr, known as Missy, was four.
Alice was 26 years old and a beauty. She had worked as a cocktail waitress for a few months, in which she made many admirers. Her mass of perfectly pinned red hair, dark eyes and Bronx accent made men fall in love with her, and she was ready to move on from her husband.
Eddie was still infatuated with his soon-to-be ex-wife and often followed her around the city and even bugged her apartment. He knew she was now seeing other men, so he would sneak in through the basement of the building and listen to her having sex. He’d usually leave her to her evening, but the times he became jealous, he would burst into the apartment, sending the suitor running.
Eddie received a call from Alice that fateful morning in July, asking if he’d taken the children while she slept. After promising her that he didn’t have Eddie and Missy, Alice told him about their disappearance, and he drove over to her apartment.
The children had left the house before, and a neighbour had found them outside in their nightwear, but this time the neighbour hadn’t seen them. At 9.45 am, the police were called, and the children were reported missing.
When the call came in over the radio that two children had disappeared, Detective Gerard Piering headed over to the redbrick apartment in the Kew Gardens Hills. The father of six had a feeling that the case wasn’t as it seemed and wanted to check it out for himself.
When he arrived, he was met by Alice and what he saw confirmed his feeling. Standing in front of him was a woman who was entirely made up, from her makeup to her hair and clothes. She didn’t look like a mother whose children were missing; she looked like she was carrying on with her day.
Alice told the detective about her morning, but Piering was dubious and began to look around the apartment. In the kitchen, he made a mental note of the bottles of alcohol in the rubbish bin. Alice was due a welfare check by the courts on her children due to the custody hearing and had wanted to rid the home of liquor before the visit.
There was also a box of macaroni in the bin and leftovers in the fridge, a point that would become important later.
He moved onto the children’s bedroom, and as he entered the room, he noticed the fisheye lock on the outside of the door. Inside the room, there was a bureau underneath the window which Piering would later claim had a layer of dust on the top that was undisturbed.
Items found in Alice’s room that made him distrust this woman further. Her address book was filled with contact details for numerous men, and under her bed was a bag filled with love letters. The notes and cards had come from various men, including Robert Kennedy and several other political figures, all affectionately calling her Rusty.
The fact that Alice was seeing multiple men disgusted Piering, whose traditional Catholic values were very different from the young woman’s. He wanted to interview the parents, so he told his partner, “You take Eddie and I’ll take the bitch.”
Alice sat in an interview room with Piering at the police station and began to tell him her account of the night before.
The night before the disappearance
Alice had slept in that morning, as she did most mornings. She kept strange hours so sleeping later than most wasn’t unusual. That afternoon, Alice, Missy and Eddie jr went to the park for a picnic and returned home around 4.30 pm.
Alice needed to call her lawyer to go through the upcoming custody hearing and discuss further issues. A maid, who had previously looked after the children, was now blackmailing Alice for $600 in payment to testify for the mother rather than Eddie. The maid had told the court that Alice had partied for days on end, leaving the maid to look after the children. Alice didn’t want to pay her, and she was intent on making sure she didn’t.
Her lawyer was busy and told her to call back later when he was free, so instead, Alice went to the store to pick up dinner for that night. She returned with soda, veal and beans, fed her children and called her lawyer again.
Although the night was warm and the apartment had air conditioning, Alice wanted to see if Eddie was at his apartment, so the three of them went for a drive. If Eddie was home, he wasn’t following her that evening, and Alice could relax.
They returned after an hour, and Alice bathed her children and got them ready for bed. The children’s window screen had a hole in it, and Alice needed to fix it before the welfare inspection, so she removed the broken screen. The replacement was dirty, so instead, she put the old screen back over the window but didn’t secure it, setting aside the replacement to wash in the morning.
At 8.30 pm, as the children said their nighttime prayers, their old babysitter walked past their window and heard them praying. She noted a child’s stroller in the path containing a box.
Once the children were asleep, Alice phoned Tony Grace, a wealthy contractor and one of her suitors. He was out, so the pair didn’t speak for long, but Alice offered to come out and drink with him. He told her he wouldn’t be out much longer, so she shouldn’t bother.
Later that night, Alice received a call from another friend, Joe Rorech. He was married with seven children and was a successful businessman who’d wooed Alice with gifts, meals and fine wine. He was beginning to fall apart, and his drinking had caused problems in his personal life and business. Joe asked Alice to come and have a drink with him, but she declined.
At midnight, Alice took Eddie jr to the bathroom, and when they returned to the room, she helped him back into bed. Alice couldn’t remember if she locked them in that night. Detective Piering queried the strange placement of the lock, and Alice told him that her son often woke up in the middle of the night and ate the refrigerator's contents.
Alice took the dog for a walk, who’d needed to urinate more often, and it later transpired that Brandy was pregnant and gave birth to a single puppy just days after the children disappeared. It was a huge surprise to her owner.
Alice fell asleep and woke up around 2.45 am to a noise, but she wasn’t concerned and didn’t check on the children. Eddie called soon after to speak about the custody hearing, but they didn’t talk for long and shortly after hanging up, Alice took the dog out for another walk and ran herself a bath. She finally went to bed at around 3.30 am.
Eddie was interviewed by Detective George Martin. He told the detective that he’d played golf that day and then drank at the club. Afterwards, he drove past Joe Rorech’s home to see if Alice was there.
There was speculation about Eddie’s evening from the start. Usually, a quiet beer drinker, the order of gin and tonics and his loud, flowing conversation with the barman left people wondering whether he was giving himself an alibi.
Finally, around 3 am, he left the bar and went to Alice’s apartment. Some witnesses said they saw Eddie watching the apartment from his car, but others said they saw him by the children’s window. He saw Alice’s lights on, so he instead went home and called to speak about the hearing.
After hearing both accounts, Piering grew more convinced that this woman had done something to her children, now he just needed to prove it.
While being questioned, their home was searched and processed poorly by forensics. There were few images taken of the crime scene due to a lack of instruction from officers to the photographer. Many items of interest weren’t collected, and fingerprints weren’t taken from the usual hotspots, like the windowsill.
At some point during the night, the pushchair with the box in it had also been moved to underneath the children’s window. That wasn’t processed either.
One fingerprint collected that didn’t match either of the parents, but without suspects, there was nothing to compare it against. Piering only had one suspect, and that was Alice Crimmins.
Missy was found in a vacant lot, and she was still wearing her pyjamas. Alice found out about her daughter’s death when she was put in a police car and driven to the crime scene, where she was presented with Missy’s dead body to identify in front of dozens of officers and reporters.
Alice collapsed to the floor and cried, but Piering told the jury during his testimony that Alice stopped sobbing as soon as the cameras were turned off. He believed she was acting up for the media and didn’t care about her children. She was merely mimicking a mother’s grief.
Missy’s autopsy was performed, and the results gave Piering more reason to go after the mother and paint her as a liar and child killer.
The contents of Missy’s stomach showed that she hadn’t eaten veal that night but instead had been fed macaroni. There were also carrots, beans, potato, seeds and chewing gum in her digestive system.
Missy had been strangled to death but hadn’t been sexually assaulted. The medical examiner couldn’t give an exact time of death but estimated that she’d been dead between six and 18 hours, which gave investigators a window of 10 pm to 4 am.
Five days later, Eddie’s body was found. He was already in a state of decomposition, so they couldn’t ascertain a cause of death nor a time of death, but investigators believed that he’d likely been killed at the same time as Missy.
No suspects were ever identified, and the longer the case went on, the more Piering believed Alice had killed her children. Both parents were questioned constantly as the case unfolded and were each told by Piering to give the other up for a lighter sentence, but neither folded; there was nothing to admit.
The case seemingly went cold, and everything returned to a new normal. Alice and Eddie moved back together to comfort each other through the grieving process, but Alice continued to date other men.
Life continued for everyone except Detective Piering and his team of officers.
Across the street from Alice and Eddie’s new apartment, Piering had set up an expensive surveillance operation. They recorded whatever came from the bugged apartment, including every phone call, every visitor, each conversation and all sexual liaisons in the apartment.
Piering was convinced that Alice would eventually admit to killing her children, so officers sat at their posts all day, every day for nearly three years.
Because they had Alice under surveillance, they also captured Eddie’s movements, and his behaviour had become quite strange.
He’d developed a curiosity surrounding the intricate details of his children’s deaths. He wanted to know about their injuries and the findings made about the medical examiner. He appeared to be keeping an eye on the investigation.
At some point, Eddie was asked by police to take a lie detector test, which he agreed to, but the day before he was due at the station, he visited the library. He spent the whole day in the building, reading every book about polygraphs. The next day, he passed the test.
Alice had been receiving threatening anonymous phone calls for a while. During the calls, the man would speak, and because all conversations were being listened to, officers believed the stranger sounded like Eddie. Later, police also discovered that Eddie had revealed himself to little girls playing in a park. They did nothing about the offence.
Detective Piering began harassing Alice, and instead of watching her from afar. He would appear at her workplace and inform her manager of who she was and what they believed she had done to her children. She would always be asked to leave and not come back.
“Nobody was out to see who killed my kids, they were just interested in making me break.”
Detective Piering and his team had become desperate, and after three years of surveillance and nothing to show for the expensive operation, they looked at who they could lean on to help.
Two years after the murders, a witness had written an anonymous letter, telling the police what she’d seen the night the children disappeared. The letter told of a woman with dark hair and her husband getting into a nearby car with their children in tow late that night.
The prosecution needed this witness to testify for them, and they eventually tracked down the mystery letter writer. Sophie Earomirski was known in her group of friends as an exaggerator and attention seeker. She also knew Alice and had plenty to say.
Piering needed one more witness who would hold up in court, so he went after the medical examiner. They persuaded him to change the time of death on Missy’s autopsy report. Instead of reading that her death would have been between 10 pm to 4 am, he amended the report to say she’d died before midnight.
The police finally had Alice tarnished as a liar, and the dominoes began to fall. Her son’s decomposition made it impossible for her to be tried for his murder, so she was arrested for the first-degree manslaughter of her daughter, and the press began their campaign against Alice.
They called her the ‘Medea of Kew Gardens’, and she was described as an ‘erring wife, a Circe, an amoral woman whose many affairs appeared symptomatic of America’s Sex Revolution’ by Front Page Detective magazine. She was branded as a manhunter and a ‘lowly’ cocktail waitress who smacked gum loudly. Alice had no hope of escaping the gossip and rumours that filled the air around her.
When the trial finally started on the 9th of March 1968 in Queens County Criminal Court, the odds were against Alice from the start. The jury comprised twelve white men, despite women being allowed to participate in jury service, and all of them looked like Detective Piering.
Sophie Earomirski was put on the stand to retell her witness statement. However, this time she had an audience, and she embellished her story, even telling the jury that it was definitely Alice she saw that night, not just a dark-haired woman. Sophie’s downfall came when she told her audience that she heard Alice talking about her pregnant dog, but at that point, Alice didn’t know Brandy was even expecting.
The defence had little to bring to the stand. They had the children’s former babysitter tell the court about the pushchair under the window, but the idea that it could have been used as a climbing device didn’t land with the jury.
The defence’s last hope was to put Alice on the stand, but that only helped push the verdict towards guilty. Letting Alice talk had allowed the prosecution to delve into her illustrious love life, and they grasped at the chance.
They questioned her about the nights Eddie had caught her in bed with other men when she’d left her children at home to attend parties and her nude swimming at Joe Rorech’s house;
“Does he have a swimming pool there, Mrs Crimmins?” “Yes, he does.” “Did you ever go swimming in that pool?” “Yes, I did.” “What were you wearing when you went swimming in that pool, Mrs Crimmins?” “One time a bathing suit; one time, no bathing suit.”“Where were your children when you were swimming without a bathing suit in Joe Rorech’s swimming pool?” “They were dead.”
Joe was another person Piering had been pressuring to testify against Alice. He had been seen visiting drag bars, which back in the 1960s was considered a very taboo pastime. Police leaned, and Joe caved and agreed to testify in court.
He explained to the jury that Alice had said things would have been different if he’d come over the night the children went missing. He said that she’d also asked for his forgiveness for killing Missy.
Alice was already furious, but Joe’s lying was the last straw. She stood up in anger and banged the desk with her fists in frustration.
“Joseph, how could you do this? This is not true! Joseph, you, of all people. Oh my God!"
Just the day before, Joe had asked for Alice’s hand in marriage.
Ultimately the jury found Alice Crimmins guilty of first-degree manslaughter after thirteen days in court. They told the judge that the fundamental proof from the medical examiner that Missy’s death happened before midnight was the testimony that swayed them. They weren’t to know that the report had been changed months before.
Alice was sentenced to more than five years but less than twenty. Upon her sentencing, she shouted at the judge, “You don’t care who killed my children, you want to close your books. You don’t give a damn who killed my kids.”
The second trial
In December 1969, the appeals court ordered a new trial for Alice. Three of the jurors had visited the area of Sophie Earomirski’s witness report, which wasn’t allowed during the case.
The trial started on the 15th of March 1971, and it was very different from the first. The prosecution’s lawyers had been replaced, there were court attendants dotted throughout the room and corridors to keep order, and Alice was kept off the stand.
The other difference was that Eddie jr’s murder was now being brought as a charge. The medical examiner believed that Eddie’s killing could be ‘inferred’ because of his sister’s death, and so Alice was now up on charges for the manslaughter of her daughter and the murder of her son.
She was mocked by Demakos, the prosecution lawyer, for not taking the stand in the trial, “she doesn’t have the courage to stand up here and tell the world she killed her daughter”, which suggested that Alice didn’t need to testify because she was guilty.
Alice’s defence had found the man who believed he had walked past Sophie Earomirski’s window that fateful night, with his wife, children and dog in tow. Marvin Weinstein recalled carrying his daughter under his arm ‘like a sack’, while his wife walked alongside their son. He told the jury that his dog may have looked pregnant as she was old.
The jury deliberated for over a day, and when they returned, it was announced that Alice Crimmins had been found guilty of the murder of her son and the manslaughter of Missy. She was transferred to Bedford Hills prison in New York state.
Alice Crimmins spent years in and out of the appeal’s court. Her conviction was overturned, as the prosecution hadn’t proved that Eddie’s death resulted from a criminal act and because of the attack on Alice by Demakos during the second trial.
However, in May 1975, she was sent back to prison when the Court of Appeals reinstated the manslaughter conviction of Missy.
Alice was released on parole from prison in 1977, and she married Tony Grace. Tony had visited Alice once a week while she was in jail, and the pair moved to Key Largo, Florida.
Alice is now 81 years old and lives a quiet life. Tony died in 1998.
Although Alice was convicted for the murder of her children, the question still remains; why? Alice’s ex-husband, Eddie told the police that Alice would never harm her children — she adored them.
There are still many unanswered questions about this case. According to the prosecution’s theory, Alice needed at least two accomplices to murder her children, yet no one else was ever charged for the deaths of Eddie and Missy.
There were issues throughout the trial regarding memory. Did Alice feed her children veal or macaroni? Were they being fussy, so she made them two meals? Why would she lie?
There was little collected from the crime scene at the apartment. Few photographs were taken, and little was done to collect fingerprints. Was the owner of the fingerprint found at the crime scene ever identified?
Detective Piering was so convinced that the pristinely clothed woman who didn’t cry was the culprit that no other suspects were looked for. Eddie was never a proper suspect, and the police would often taunt him with his wife’s love life. He was a pawn in their game.
Sophie Earomirski’s testimony only grew with time, and when she got to court, she’d embellished her witness statement with minutiae that made it sound like she was stood next to the family on the road, not above them, hanging out of a window.
Alice wasn’t ever presumed innocent in her trials. Because of her lifestyle, character and appearance, she was branded a floozy who killed her children because of their inconvenience.
Whether she did kill Eddie and Missy, we’ll never know, but with such an unbalanced hearing, the trial should have been thrown out of court, and some police work should have taken place to find other suspects.