The Career Girls Murders
A Curious Thing
"The haunting, eight-month-old mystery surrounding the savage and grotesque double murder of Janice Wylie and Emily Hoffert... was declared solved yesterday with the police-reported confession of a pimple-faced, jobless 19-year-old laborer." So began the opening lines of the The Daily News story on the morning of April 26, 1964 concerning the arrest of George Whitmore Jr. Police were elated that they had solved one of the city's most notorious killings. The New York Times reported the story on page one: Youth is accused in Wylie Slaying. The press touted the excellent work of Brooklyn homicide detectives that was echoed by the family itself. "The perpetual anxiety of waiting is over," Max Wylie told the press, "Perhaps now we can cease the endless speculation... It's been a hell that we've tried to live with." Accolades poured in for the cops. Det. Ed Bulger and his colleagues received the Public Protector Award from the Journal American for their "brilliant police work." Newspapers published numerous stories concerning the dedication and professionalism of the New York City Police Department.
Author Philip Wylie, who was Janice's uncle, was the one voice of dissent. "It sounds to me like a guy who got scared into a confession," he said, "or wanted to make a name for himself." But the evidence against Whitmore was overwhelming, according to police. The photograph he had in his pocket was alleged to be that of Janice Wylie. He described things in the girl's apartment that only the killer could know. Cops told reporters that Whitmore correctly identified by brand name the soda bottles in Wylie's living room. They also said that the suspect told them he broke the blades of two of the knives used in the fatal assault and described the layout of the apartment. It was true, they said. Whitmore killed the career girls.
On April 27, the same day of Whitmore's arraignment, New York's Journal American newspaper published an article, which said that Whitmore's confession corroborated 12 important details about the killings on 88th Street that convinced police he was the killer. Those points included the location of the razor blade used to cut the bedspread, the broken knife handles, descriptions of the bed sheets and other items. Deputy Police Commissioner Walter Arm would not confirm the story. "It is not an official statement," he said. "It was not issued by this department. I have no comment."
At his arraignment on the morning of April 27, 1964, Whitmore, through his court appointed attorney, Jerome Leftow, immediately renounced his confession and said it was obtained under duress. He said he only signed the document because the cops had beaten him. Of course, the police scoffed at the idea and pointed out that the confession was given to an assistant district attorney and Whitmore's nude body was photographed at the booking procedure to counter any brutality charges. Manhattan's legendary District Attorney Frank S. Hogan, in office since 1942, emphasized the importance of the confession. "We had every top detective in town working on the murders and they couldn't find a clue. Not a clue!" he said. "If that kid hadn't confessed, we never would have caught the killer!" But Whitmore later told his attorney a curious thing. He said that during his interrogation by police, he had asked several times for the police to give him a lie detector test.
That was a strange request coming from a man who allegedly confessed to three murders, a very strange request.