The Career Girls Murders
We've Got the Right Man
On April 14, 1964, Mrs. Minnie Edmonds, 46, of 444 Blake Avenue, was found murdered in an alleyway off Chester Street in Brooklyn. She had been stabbed and slashed repeatedly. There was also evidence of sexual assault. Investigators had developed no suspects and the murder became just another unsolved killing in a borough where someone was murdered almost every day of the year. Although the solution rate for homicides was actually higher in 1964 than it is today, hovering at about 84 percent in Brooklyn, the Edmonds case got cold fast.
Nine days later, on April 23, a 20-year-old Latino woman, Elba Borrero, was walking home from work on Sutter Avenue at about 1:20 a.m. The location was just one block away from the Edmonds killing. Suddenly, a black man jumped her from behind and placed her in a head lock. The woman fought back hard and the suspect ran away. New York City Police Officer Frank Isola, 27, who was patrolling nearby, gave chase and fired several shots at the fleeing suspect. The man escaped after a foot chase of approximately three blocks. The next day, which was a Friday, a suspect was located a few blocks away by Isola and taken into custody. He was positively identified at the 73 Precinct by Elba Borrero and charged with the attempted robbery. His name was George Whitmore Jr. from Wildwood, New Jersey.
Whitmore told detectives he was staying with his aunt in Brownville, Brooklyn for several months. George was a black man, 19-years-old, slender, five-foot, five-inches, with a light complexion. He had a bad case of acne and was extremely near-sighted. George had lost his glasses sometime before his arrest and couldn't afford to buy a replacement. His clothes were virtual rags. He had no job and it was unknown how he was supporting himself. Detective Joseph DiPrima, of Brooklyn Homicide Squad, was the lead investigator for the Edmonds killing. He questioned Whitmore for the first few hours. Soon, Whitmore allegedly told investigators that he had attacked and killed Minnie Edmonds on Chester Street the week before. "That is when I pulled my knife out and starting cutting her in the face," the confession transcript reads, "...She was in a side position when I was struggling and I cut her and when she stopped struggling that is when I turned her face up." When Whitmore was searched, Detective Edward Bulger, of the Brooklyn North Homicide Squad, found a photograph of a white girl in Whitmore's pocket. Bulger happened to be one of the many detectives who once worked on the Wylie-Hoffert case from September to December 1963. Bulger thought the girl in the photo strongly resembled Janice Wylie. He told the other detectives about the photograph and it was decided Bulger should question Whitmore about the career girls murders.
Over the next 22 hours, police investigators, led by Det. Bulger, interrogated Whitmore about the murders on 88th Street in August of 1963. By early Saturday morning, police had a full and detailed confession from the frightened suspect. Not only had he admitted to the Borrero mugging and the Edmonds killing, but the Wylie-Hoffert murders as well. An assistant district attorney from Manhattan, Peter Koste, 39, was notified and he responded to the seven-three where he interviewed Whitmore. A steno typist transcribed the entire confession, which lasted nearly an hour and spanned 61 pages. There didn't seem to be any doubt about it. Whitmore confessed to the Wylie-Hoffert slayings in details that only the killer could have known.
"He finally broke down and made a full confession," Chief McKearney told reporters. "We're sure we've got the right man." It was official. The most notorious murder case in New York was solved by a stroke of luck and it was a stunning achievement for the police.