When we left our story last time, we had just learned that Mr. Lyons had been partying all day with at least three friends when he decided to go for a joyride, shattering the lives of three families.
Girls Held in Connection With Death of Child Here; Two Ridgefield Cops on Stand For Hiding Evidence After Crash.
(Special to the Bergen Evening Record)
New York, Sept. 13 — Two 22-year-old New York night club entertainers, Anita Corbin and Dorothy McCoy, living at the Hotel Embassy, Seventieth Street and Broadway, were arrested last night on a prosecutor’s warrant from Bergen County, charging manslaughter in connection with the hit-and-run automobile killing of Dorothy Balmaine at Ridgefield Aug. 25 last.
DENY BEING THERE
The young women denied being in the car when the accident took place, but according to police, they fled on foot after the mishap, hitch-hiking back to New York.
They were booked at West Sixty-eighth Street Station last night and held in the women’s Detention Prison. Detective John E. Guidetti, of Bergen County Prosecutor’s staff, was to take them to Hackensack this morning for questioning.
At Ridgefield, meanwhile, an echo of the hit-and-run tragedy that resulted in death to the Balmaine girl and severe injury to two others was heard last night when Sergeant Charles Erickson and Patrolman William Heilmann were placed on trial on charges of violating departmental rules and regulations.
The hearing was held behind closed doors in the borough clerk’s office, municipal building, with reporters and spectators barred. Erickson, it was charged, failed to make proper entries on the blotter, while Heilmann neglected to place information he had received at the scene of the killing in his memorandum book.
The trial was held before Mayor Emil Berger and the three members of the police commission, Alan B. Conor, Henry Formon and C. Kile, with Supervisor of Police George Darrow present as complainant. Decision on both officers was reserved, and when it will be handed down could not be determined.
The alleged breaches of departmental regulations were committed on the night of Aug. 25 when a hit-and-run driver killed the Balmaine youngster and injured her two companions.
The action was instigated by Michael Kelly, 1116 Edgewater Avenue, father of Evelyn Kelly, one of those injured by the hit-and-run driver. He is understood to have been looking for certain information which did not appear on the blotter of the Ridgefield police department. He informed Supervisor Darrow of this fact and immediately an investigation was started. Darrow discovered that Sergeant Erickson had failed to enter one case on the blotter and had also made improper entries.
A search of Heilmann’s book also failed to reveal information which he had received on the night of the killing. Darrow summoned the men before him and after hearing their stories preferred charges which he filed with the police commission.
The specific charges involving Erickson alleged that he failed to enter in the blotter the fact that Warren L. Bahl, 644 Teaneck Road, Teaneck, had been arrested Aug. 25 on a charge of disorderly conduct, tried by Recorder Clarence A. Davis and fined $10 and $2.50 cost of court.
In the other complaint against the sergeant, it was charged that he had received information from Patrolman Heilmann, relative to the hit and run case. This information he also, it was charged, failed to place in the blotter. At the hearing, it is reported Erickson told his judges that the memorandum possibly became misplaced and for this reason no record was made on the blotter.
On the night of the killing an autoist approached Heilman and informed him that inasmuch as he was in the vicinity he wanted his license number recorded.
He told the policeman that he did not want a bystander to jot down his number and then later be called on by the police to explain his presence in the neighborhood. The patrolman took the information, but failed to make a permanent record of it in his memorandum book. He maintained that he turned the information over to the desk sergeant.
Patrolman Charles Seguine, who arrested Harvey Lyons and Robert Berry, both of Edgwater, immediately after the killing, was also called as a witness. He was in the hearing room only five minutes and was unable to give any information vital to the charges.
He told the commissioners that he was at the police station for only a short time the night of the killing, being occupied with rushing to Holy Name and Englewood hospitals, determining how badly the victims of the hit-and-run driver were injured.
Erickson spent about forty-five minutes in the hearing room, while Heilmann after testifying for fifteen minutes was recalled for further examination, which lasted for five minutes.
Although Kelly, the instigator of the investigation, could not be reached last night at his home for a statement, it is understood he commended the department for the efficient manner in which it handled the hit and run case in which his daughter was injured.
Last time, we learned about the varied and diverse players in our story. Let’s see if we can figure out what actually happened that fateful Thursday evening.
Funeral Services Today for Girl Killed
Evelyn Kelly, 1112 Edgewater Avenue, Ridgefield, one of the three youngsters hit Thursday night by a hit and run driver, still lies on a cot in the Englewood Hospital in a semi-conscious condition. She suffered a scalp injury and doctors have as yet been unable to determine whether it is a fracture or contusion.
Occasionally she gains consciousness but this lasts for only a few moments and then she lapses again into a coma. Her general condition is said to be good and she is resting comfortably.
Gertrude Pugh, another victim is nursing a broken leg and lacerations of the body and is also reported to be resting easy at the Holy Name Hospital.
This afternoon at 2 o’clock funeral services will be held for 14-year-old Dorothy Balmaine [sic]who was killed almost instantly by the hit-and-run driver. Services will be conducted at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Williamson, 946 Edgewater Avenue, Ridgefield, with the Canon W. J. White, pastor of the St. James Episcopal Church, of which the Balmaine girl was a member, officiating.
The badly twisted and blood spattered car in which Harvey Lyons, 358 Undercliff Avenue, Edgewater, was found shortly after the killing, has been placed in a local garage for close scrutiny of investigators handling the case. Lyons is out on bail on a charge of manslaughter while Robert Perry, 91 Edgewater Place, Edgewater, has also been released on bail as a material witness.
The death of one girl and the injury of the other two occurred on Edgewater Avenue, Ridgefield, within a few feet of the Kelly youngster’s home.
So we know how the girls are doing. Let’s see what else is going on in the case:
Former Prohibition Agent, Now Speakeasy Owner, to be Arrested as Result of Charges Made in Connection with Girl’s Death
Warrants were issued today by the Bergen County prosecutor for the arrest of Ridgely Armstrong, former prohibition agent and proprietor of the Ridgefield Inn on Bergen turnpike, and his bartender, John Mannion, on charges of threatening to kill Harry Eicholz of 417 Lafayette avenue, Grantwood, operator of a lunch stand at Hendricks’ causeway, Ridgefield.
The charges are the outcome of the fatal accident in Ridgefield on August 25 when Dorothy Balmain, 14, was killed and Gertrude Pugh and Evelyn Kelly of Ridgefield were severely injured. Harvey Lyons of 358 Undercliff avenue, Edgewater, was arrested a mile from the scene in his car and charged with manslaughter. He had been drinking, it was stated, but a physician held that he was able to operate a car.
Eicholz made a statement to the Ridgefield Park police in which he told what he knew about a drinking party at Armstrong’s restaurant on the day and night of the fatal accident, and at the Prosecutor’s office today he made a further statement, in which he asserted that Armstrong and Mannion had approached him on the morning after the accident and threatened to kill him if he told anybody what he had seen or heard.
Lieutenant John Gaudetti of the prosecutor’s office left the Court House shortly before noon today and said that he would arrest Armstrong and Mannion on the threatening to kill charge on the strength of Eicholz’s latest statement.
In his statement to the Ridgefield police, Eicholz said that at 1:30 p. m. on August 25, Lyons, another man and two women arrived at Armstrong’s tavern. At 3 o’clock another man arrived and joined the group and they remained drinking until 5 p. m. Armstrong then left the place, leaving Mannion in charge, and half an hour later Lyons and the other man and two women left, apparently drunk.
“The party returned the same evening at 7 o’clock,” Eicholz continued in his statement, “and Mannion told me they paid $28.45 for drinks, Lyons giving a check for that amount made out to ‘cash.'”
“At 10 a. m. on August 26 Armstrong gave the check to Murray Penn of Jersey City. I saw him pass the check to Penn, who left and upon his return later said that Mayor Wissel (former mayor of Edgewater) said there were no funds with which to pay it and it could not be cashed. Penn gave the check to Mannion in my presence and the latter said he could hide it.
“At 3:30 that same day Armstrong’s friend, I do not know his name but his car license was B39882, (this car is listed as owned by Joseph Elias of 333 Hamilton place, Hackensack) arrived and told Mannion and myself to warn Armstrong that the police did not hold or question him at the scene of the accident but that Lyons was so drunk that he had to hold onto him when he left the place.
“Mannion told me that Armstrong was in the car that ran down the three girls and that he returned to the place with the women after the accident.”
Well, this is an interesting turn of events. Stay tuned for even more twists and turns!
One girl is killed and two other girls injured in a hit-and-run with a drunk driver. The incident created quite a spectacle in the community, involving a suspicious medical exam, two NYC night club “entertainers,” a former-prohibition-agent-turned-speakeasy-owner (and his thuggish bartender), death threats, and a possible police cover-up.
This is a series of articles in Pop’s scrapbook. It apparently affected him enough that he kept every article that was written about this incident.
On August 25, 1932, Evelyn Kelly, Gertrude Pugh, and Dorothy Balmain were walking together along Edgewater Avenue when they were struck by a vehicle driven by Harvey Lyons.
Evelyn Kelly was about 15 years old. Her father was Michael Kelly, a newspaper employee, and her mother was Veronica. She had three brothers and a sister. The family lived on Edgewater Avenue, only a few feet from where the girls were struck down.
Gertrude Pugh was also around 15 years old. She lived with her mother Harriet and two siblings: a sister and a brother.
Dorothy Balmain was 14 years old. She lived with her mother, Irene (Seaman) Balmain – a widowed telephone operator – her brother Robert, and her sister Frances, both several years older. Dorothy’s father, Robert, worked in a saloon before his death. He and Irene were married 24 Oct 1907 in Kings County, NY.
Harvey Lyons was born in New Jersey on 27 Feb 1889 to parents William Lyons and Ida Truax.1 2 At the time of the incident, he was a 40-year-old truck driver. He apparently had no children, but was first married to a woman named Sarah, then to a woman named Florence (to whom he was married at the time of this incident). He was driving the vehicle involved in this incident, and apparently had three passengers: Robert Berry, Anita Corbin, and Dorothy McCoy.
Anita Corbin and Dorothy McCoy were both 22 years old and worked at a night club in New York. They lived at the Hotel Embassy at 70th and Broadway in New York City.
Harry Eicholz was a lunch stand operator in Ridgefield.
Ridgely Armstrong was a former Prohibition Agent, and at the time of the incident was the proprietor of the Ridgefield Inn on Bergen Turnpike.
John Mannion was bartender at the Ridgefield Inn on the night of the incident.
Dr. John V. Lynn was the physician who examined Mr. Lyons at 10:30 p.m. on the night of the incident.
Sgt. Charles Erickson and Patrolman William Heilman were members of the Ridgefield Police department. Sgt. Erickson was working the desk the night of the incident. Heilman was one of the officers searching the area of the incident during the investigation.
Coming Up Next: Part 2 – What actually happened?
- “New Jersey Births and Christenings, 1660-1980,” database, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FCLB-MY3 : accessed 22 November 2015), Harvey M. Lyons, 27 Feb 1889; citing Rfd., Bergen, New Jersey, reference v 31 p 46; FHL microfilm 494,213. ↩
- His WWI draft card says he was born in 1890. ↩
Another commendation from a Ridgefield citizen for Walter’s exceptional police work … in sending two police officers to check on a woman who saw a prowler outside her kitchen window.
Cops Responded Immediately When Sought for Aid
The efficiency of the Ridgefield Police was given corroboration Tuesday night, at the council meeting, when a letter was received from a resident of the borough complimenting the prompt manner in which the department responded to a call for assistance.
A verbatim copy of the letter follows:
“On Thursday night, January 14th, a prowler was observed looking into the kitchen windows of my mother’s home. Mrs. Stansfield immediately telephoned the police and within three minutes, two officials from the Department were at the house investigating, but the offender, apparently realizing that he had been detected, had in the meantime, disappeared.
“May we not express our appreciation of the prompt action of Sergeant Gallagher and the two officers who answered the call, and congratulate through your Honorable Body, the Police Department on their efficiency and alertness.
“It is comforting, indeed, to know that in a case of emergency, an immediate response can be expected of our local Police.
“Yours very truly,
“CHESTER T. STANSFIELD.”
Below is a copy of the actual letter that was received.
Sergeant Walter Gallagher and Patrolmen Arthur Kalbhenn, Henry Lustmann, Edward Masterson and Charles Seguine, of the Ridgefield police department, visiting Sing Sing Prison at Ossining, N. Y., Saturday. The policemen were guided through this penal institution by one of the wardens.
I guess being an officer in one organization wasn’t enough for ol’ Walter. This article was likely published at the end of 1932, since Walter was scheduled to take office in 1933.
The following have been named to serve on the Ridgefield Police Pension Fund Commission for 1933: Mayor Emil Berger, Samuel Hendricks, representing the citizens of the borough; Sergeant Walter Gallagher, as a representative of the Police Department and Tax Collector P. A. Meserole.
Gallagher will serve as sercretary [sic] and Meserole as treasurer. Sergeant Gallagher was recently chosen a trustee of the Beregn [sic] Police Mutual Aid Association as representative of Local 45, Police Benevolent Association
Am I the only one who – thanks to “My Cousin Vinny” – hears “yoots” whenever I read “youths?”
Anyway, here’s another article where Pop feels “compelled” to be a hero. Again. I believe this article is from August 1933.
YOUTHS CHARGED WITH CAR THEFT
Say They Took It From White Beeches Club
Two youths, picked up in Ridgefield yesterday as suspicious persons, were surrendered to the Haworth police last night to answer a charge of stealing an automobile. The prisoners gave their names as Edward Fischer, 21 years old, 62 Grand Avenue, Dumont, and Arthur Stean, 18, or New Jersey Avenue, Bergenfield.
The car which the police charge the pair with stealing belonged to C. T. Gay, 1 Harriet Avenue, Palisades Park and was taken Thursday, Aug. 3, from in front of the White Beeches Golf Club. Haworth. According to Chief Edward Menze of Haworth, the car was driven to Maine by the youths, where it was abandoned. The boys then hitch-hiked back to New Jersey and were apparently on their way home when caught in Ridgefield.
Both boys, said Menze, have confessed to stealing the machine, claiming that they merely took it to have a “joy ride.” They have been booked on a charge of the larceny of an automobile and today will be turned over to County authorities.
The Haworth police chief claims that Fischer has been implicated in several robberies in the vicinity of Haworth and Dumont. Stean however has no record as far as the police can learn.
The capture of the two was made by Sergeant Walter Gallagher of the Ridgefield Department who learning from neighboring police that two suspicious looking characters were headed for this borough immediately went out in search of the pair. He located them sitting on the tracks of the Northern Railroad of New Jersey apparently asleep. When he approached the two he was compelled to rouse them from their slumbers. A few minutes after they left the track a New York bound train passed the spot where they were found.
When questioned the boys would admit nothing and immediately Sergeant Gallagher sent out an alarm which brought Chief Menze of Haworth to Ridgefield. He recognized Fischer as a youth whom he had arrested before and began questioning the two. After several hours, Menze says, they confessed, claiming that they abandoned the car on a road in Maine when one of the tires went flat. Before the arrest of the boys the car had been located and will probably be returned to the owner shortly.
Apparently being elected Vice President of a county-wide organization was a pretty big deal back in the day … or maybe it was just a slow news day. Either way, Walter’s in the newspaper again:
Sergeant Walter Gallagher of the Ridgefield police department, was elected vice-president of the Bergen County Police Mutual Aid Association yesterday at a meeting held in Garfield. Gallagher is the first policeman from Ridgefield who has ever held office in the association.
The story of how Walter became a superhero was apparently published in more than one newspaper. This is the second (unidentified) article I found relating the events of that day (and apparently the Great Bear Spring Company is still around. You can read the history of it here):
‘RIDE’ VICTIM IS RESCUED BY COP
Ridgefield Is Roused As Autoist Chases Foe
Shouting that he was being taken for a ride, John Ponzi Marchese, 210 Twenty-first Street, West New York, caused the arrest in Ridgefield last night of Adolph Solimine, 520 Ninth Street, West New York. Solimine was booked on a charge of assault and battery and committed to the County Jail, Hackensack.
Sergeant Walter Gallagher, who was off duty, heard howls and then saw Marchese dash out of the woods near Gallagher’s home on Virgil Avenue. He ran into his house, grabbed his gun, and reached the street just in time to halt Solimine, who was pursuing Marchese in an automobile. Pointing the gun at Solimine, the sergeant ordered the man to stop. Solimine submitted to arrest.
Marchese said that on New York Avenue, a thoroughfare on which there are no houses and which is fairly well hidden by woods, Solimine hit him in the face. Marchese said he attempted to jump from the car, but Solimine grabbed his coat and ripped a pocket off.
Fleeing through the woods shouting “Where is a cop? — that man tried to take me for a ride”, Marchese reached Virgil Avenue, where he was rescued by Gallagher. The shouting brought a score of residents from their lawns and porches, fearing someone would follow the man with a machine gun. A search of Solimine’s car and clothes failed to reveal any weapon. Both men said the trouble arose out of an alleged loss of about $700 which Solimine accused Marchese of taking from him. Solimine, who says he is employed by the Great Bear Spring Water Company, Ridgefield, said he “made book” until recently on horse races.
He said he employed Marchese and, one day, allowed him to “take the wire” over which results of the races were received. By waiting for the results of some of the races and then claiming that certain persons had placed bets on the winners, Solimine charged Marchese was able to “beat” him out of about $700. Marchese denied it.
Marchese accepted an invitation to ride with Solimine yesterday afternoon, but when he reached his home in West New York, Marchese said he was not allowed to get out of the car. Instead, Solimine kept riding until they reached the lonely spot in Ridgefield, where he claimed he was punched in the face and after that jumped from the car.
Solimine maintained that he was going back to the Great Bear Spring Water Company to report to his employer and asked Marchese to take a ride with him. He denied the assault and explained that his pocket was torn when he caught it on the car door.
As Solimine alighted from his car at Gallagher’s command he spoke in Italian to Marchese. After that Marchese became reluctant to talk. Neither man would reveal what was uttered.
Marchese, who is 33 years old, has, according to police, a record as an automobile thief. Solimine is 23 years old and is said to be a former pugilist. He said that he has been employed in his present job for five years.
This unidentified, undated article is from between 1931 and 1935, when Pop was still a Sergeant.
Taken for Ride, Ponzi Charges
West New York Man Leaps from Car — Seeks Police Aid
Claiming that he had just leaped from an automobile, the driver of which was attempting to take him for a ride, John Marchese, alias “Ponzi,” of 210 21st street, West New York, ran down Virgil avenue, Ridgefield, yesterday afternoon, shouting, “Where can I find a cop?”
Sergeant Walter Gallagher, of the Ridgefield police force, working in his garden on his day off, hearing Marchese’s cries, ran out into the street, gun in hand. The terror-stricken Marchese pointed to an automobile which Gallagher ordered to halt.
The driver, who said he was Al Solomoni, of 520 Ninth street, West New York, whom Marchese said was the man who had tried to take him for the ride, denied that such was the case, and said that he had merely offered to drive Marchese to a spring water plant in Ridgefield, to seek employment.
This Marchese denied, saying that Solomoni had driven the car to a lonely dead end street in Ridgefield, and that he had escaped by leaping from the car while it was in motion. In substantiation of his statement he exhibited the pocket of his coat, the cloth of which had been torn still being in the car.
While Gallagher was questioning the men, Solomoni is alleged to have addressed Marchese sharply in Italian, and from then on, the latter became silent, and refused to answer questions. He preferred, however, a charge of assault against Solomoni, and the latter was turned over to county authorities for investigation.
Upon investigation, the Ridgefield police learned that Solomoni is alleged to have been proprietor of a bookmaking establishment, where Marchese did odd jobs and occasionally had charge of race track wires. A shortage of $700 having occurred in the place, Marchese is said to have been accused by Solomoni of taking the money. This is believed to have been the cause of the trouble between the men.
“Ponzi” or Marchese is well known to them, according to Union City police, who say that he has been involved in a number of automobile thefts, and that he has a police record.