Homicides are nothing new

Baltimore Glimpses

September 06, 1994|By Gilbert Sandler

LOCALLY, the Edward Joseph Reiriz case, and nationally, the O.J. Simpson case, have us mesmerized, riveted on the grisly details of heinous crime. In Baltimore we have been here before.

The Evelyn Rice murder case: At 6:10 p.m., April 14, 1939, 8-year-old Nickie Kemper went down the sewer at Lombard and Chapel streets in East Baltimore to retrieve his ball. When he came out, he shouted: "There's a hand down there!"

There was indeed, and more: a left leg wrapped in comic strip pages from a Sunday newspaper. Young Kemper had found the first piece of evidence in one of Baltimore's most sensational murder cases.

The Dorothy May Grammer murder case: At 12:30 a.m., Aug. 20, 1952, Baltimore County Police officers John Eurice and Paul J. Hardesty, cruising near Belair Road and Taylor Avenue, saw a car careening in their direction. Twenty feet away, it swerved, veered off the road, hit a tree and turned over on its side. The woman pulled from the wreck was pronounced dead at St. Joseph's Hospital.

However, in examining the overturned car, police noticed that its wheels were still spinning after the crash because a rock was holding the accelerator down.

Russell Fisher, the chief medical examiner, set the tone for the investigation. "This is murder, no ifs, ands or buts."

Police reached the husband of the deceased, G. Edward Grammer in New York. He told police that on the night of the murder his wife had driven him to Penn Station and he took a train to New York on business -- a usual pattern.

Ten days after the murder, Grammer confessed. He had, he admitted, bludgeoned his wife to death about half an hour before the "accident."

The William Norris Murder Case: At 9:25 a.m. on Aug. 18, 1922, five men were seated in a Hudson automobile parked on the south side of Madison Street between Howard Street and Park Avenue. They were Jack Hart, Charles "Country" Carey, Frank Allers, John "Wiggles" Smith and 19-year-old Walter Socolow. They had turned off the engine and were looking for two men.

They didn't have to wait long. As they expected, William Norris and Walter Kuethe, walked into sight. They had just left the Commonwealth Bank at Howard and Madison and were carrying the payroll ($7,263) of the engineering firm of Hicks, Tate and Norris. Hart gave the signal and he, Smith and Socolow rushed Norris. In the fracas, Socolow shot Norris in the thigh, and Norris fell to the sidewalk. Socolow fired three more shots into Norris.

The manhunt, captures and trials occupied the public's attention for four months. Before the year was out, Carey, Smith and Hart were given life sentences. In 1928 Carey was hanged for murdering a prison guard, and Smith died of natural causes in 1946 in a Hagerstown prison. Allers was not prosecuted.

Hart and Socolow were paroled. Hart died in the New Jersey home of his brother.

As for Socolow, on his release from prison in 1945, he went to work for the News-American as a printer (a trade he learned in prison).

But back to young Nickie and the "hand down there."

By 7 p.m. that same evening, other body parts of a woman -- identified as 30-year-old Evelyn Rice -- were found in East Baltimore. A patient walking in the area of City Hospital (now Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center) found three-quarters of the dead woman's torso giving the case its name, "The Torso Murder."

Rice's husband, Aurelio Marco Tarquinio, had reported his wife missing a few days before the body parts were discovered. After interrogating Tarquinio, the police dug up his yard at 110 S. Durham St. In minutes they found what they had been looking for: Rice's head, two upper arms, two thighs, a section of torso.

Tarquinio was paroled from prison in 1954 and, then, apparently dropped out of sight.

At 12:55 a.m. on June 11, 1954, Edward Grammer was hanged in the Maryland State Penitentiary.

In 1973 Walter Socolow died at 70 in his room on Crimea Road, alone. At his funeral he was remembered by his colleagues as "a gentle, well-liked and law abiding citizen."

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