THE CASE OF THE YEARBOOK MURDERS
It's 1956 and somebody is killing off the high school baseball players from the class of '35 of one New Jersey High School. The police are treating these deaths as unrelated. In the space of a few months, one after another of these former ballplayers, not yet forty years old, are found dead. Private detective Tony Donohoo deciphers a coded message in the yearbooks leading to secret romances and murder. Tony and his sarcastic, but beautiful red-haired girl friend, Mindy McCall, work to connect the dots and determine what really is going on.
The Case of the Yearbook Murders is the second installment of the Tony and Mindy Mysteries, and brings their investigation close to home on a case that Mindy asks Tony to work on personally to help out her grieving sister. Follow the clues of Tony and Mindy's investigation as they work diligently to get to the bottom of the yearbook murders.
Monday, February 6, 1956, 8:22 P.M. - Sears Roebuck Parking Lot, Hackensack, New Jersey
Stu Mullavey threaded his way through parked cars searching for his own. He looped two fingers under the hook of the hanger holding his new sport jacket. The temperature had dropped well below freezing and he wished he had thought to wear gloves. At last he spotted his car and fumbled in his pocket for the keys.
“Hey, Stu. Nice to run into you,” called a voice.
“Well, hello. How are you? It’s been a while.” Stu answered as the speaker approached. Too late he noticed light glinting on a long-bladed knife. In a moment it was thrust up to the hilt into his abdomen.
* * *
The victim’s wallet and watch had been taken. The cause of death was a knife which entered his body just below the rib cage on his right side. The wound had an upward path toward the left side of his body indicating the assailant held the knife in the left hand. The conclusion was homicide during the commission of a felony robbery. Hackensack Police detectives were investigating but presented no suspects. The ruling at the coroner’s inquest was Stuart Mullavey died by the hand of an unknown person.
The Bergen Evening Record reported that Stuart Mullavey, 38, of Teaneck, left a wife, Julia, and two children. Mullavey was an insurance adjuster with Northeast Casualty Company.
Monday, April 9, 1956, 12:47 P.M. - Allison Park, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey
When the weather cooperated, Warren Delore routinely lunched alone in Allison Park, where he could escape the customers and employees of his drug store. He and his brother Owen, both pharmacists, had purchased the Bridge View Pharmacy in nearby Fort Lee in 1951.
On this sunny, breezy day, Warren took up his “throne,” as he thought of it, a park bench facing the panorama of the Hudson River far below, Manhattan Island on the other side of the river and the George Washington Bridge one mile to the south. The bench rested a yard from a waist-high wooden fence placed only a couple of feet from the cliff’s edge. The drop was almost straight down the face of the Palisades, three hundred feet to the Henry Hudson Drive below.
The park was a manicured eight acres with little macadam trails winding through the flora. A small parking lot abutted a tiny building housing restrooms. The toilets, as well as several water fountains, operated from April to October. Warren carried a paper sack containing a cold can of Rheingold beer and a roast beef sandwich on rye. He always brought along a fistful of peanuts for the brazen chipmunks that would climb up his trouser leg for a treat.
He visited the park exclusively on school days when no children would be there. Today, to his delight, the parking lot contained no other cars and he saw no other visitors. Warren enjoyed his own company. Hour after hour, in the pharmacy, he was compelled to listen to and make small talk. On any given day, he received fifteen or twenty personal weather reports. He needed the isolation of a lunch alone.
As Warren sat munching his sandwich and sipping his beer, a smiling figure approached. Warren forced a smile in return and rose from the bench.
“What are you doing here? I’ve never seen you here before,” Warren said, turning to face the interloper, who said nothing but maintained a disarming smile. In an instant, a vicious shove sent Warren reeling back, tumbling over the low fence, and then over the precipice.
An Interstate Park Policeman spotted the body just a few yards off Henry Hudson Drive at 1:25 P.M. Clearly the victim of a fall, the policeman noted the scene was directly below the park. He radioed headquarters and arranged to meet with two officers from the Englewood Cliffs Police Department in Allison Park. When they arrived the chipmunks were working overtime on the sandwich remains and a half empty can of beer was on the bench. A clear plastic cigarette case, holding a pack of Camels and a book of matches, nestled in the grass between the fence and edge of the cliff.
The official finding was accidental death. The reasoning was that the deceased had dropped his cigarettes and lost his footing when he stepped over the fence to retrieve them. The half-eaten lunch and the absence of a note ruled out suicide. Murder was only briefly considered and abandoned.
The obituary in the weekly Palisadian read, “Warren Delore, dead at 39 years of age, left a wife, Nancy and two sons, Warren Jr. and David. Hundreds of well-wishers were received by his family at the Robert J. Paladino Home for Funerals in Englewood.”
Saturday, April 14, 1956, Afternoon
After Warren Delore’s funeral, close to forty relatives, friends, and neighbors assembled in the Delore home in Englewood. Nearly a dozen women brought casseroles, deviled eggs, salads, and a host of finger foods.
Among the visitors was Mindy McCall, a freelance photographer and sometime operative of the Anthony Donohoo Detective Agency. Tony Donohoo himself escorted Mindy, the younger sister of the new widow, Nancy Delore.
“Tony, what do you think of this? I mean, why would Warren have fallen? Grown men don’t just fall,” Mindy said.
“Well, I suppose anyone could lose his footing, trip, and take a header, but there is something about it that I don’t like,” Tony answered. “The report said he likely dropped his cigarette case between the fence and the cliff edge. So he would have retrieved it either before or after he ate lunch. But he was in the middle of eating a sandwich, so he wouldn’t be smoking. Nobody smokes and eats at the same time.”
“Let’s keep it to ourselves for now. I wouldn’t want anyone to hear us talking about this now.”
“Who the hell are all these people anyway?” Tony asked.
“You know my sisters and their husbands. A few cousins, neighbors. See that group of guys over there?” Without waiting for an answer, Mindy went on. “They are all high school friends of Warren’s. Oddly enough, they just lost another classmate a couple of months ago. You remember the stabbing in the parking lot outside Sears Roebuck?”
“Oh, yeah. I don’t think the cops got anywhere on that one. So he went to school with Warren. Interesting,”
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