The 1933 murders of Edward A. Ridley and his secretary, Lee Weinstein, if not the year's most interesting mystery, had to be the most convoluted. At one point there were 65 detectives assigned to the case, which might have been the biggest waste of resources in the history of the New York City Police Department.
New York Sun, May 10, 1933
Edward A. Ridley, one of New York’s pioneer merchants and real estate operators, and his secretary, Lee Weinstein, were found murdered this afternoon in the damp and chill little office which Ridley maintained thirty feet underground at 59 Allen Street — the same office in which another of Ridley’s secretaries was murdered two years ago.
The aged and eccentric Mr. Ridley — he was 88 years old — and his secretary had been beaten to death, their heads being crushed.
Mr. Ridley lived in Fanwood, New Jersey. His secretary, Weinstein, was 44 years old, and lived at 1042 East 35th Street, Brooklyn.
The murder victim of two years ago was Herman Moench, 60 years old. He was Mr. Ridley’s confidential secretary. His body, with two bullets in it, was found slumped in a chair in his office on January 3, 1931.
And now Mr. Ridley himself and his secretary, whom he hired after the murder of Moench, have been slain under similar circumstances, which add to the mystery surrounding the crime of two years ago.
Mr. Ridley’s body was found near the threshold of his dimly lighted and ill-ventilated little office far underground. The body of his secretary was well inside his office.
The place was swarming with policemen soon after the alarm on the double murder had been flashed — an alarm that recalled to most of them the 1931 murder. That crime was added to the list of New York’s unsolved mysteries.
In keeping with Mr. Ridley’s frugal and eccentric habits, the office as it was found today, was almost bare. There was an old roll-top desk, a couple of chairs, some papers — some of them musty with age — strewn on the floor. Nothing more — except the bodies of the aged merchant and his secretary.
The earlier murder mentioned in the story above — which took place in the same location when Ridley's previous secretary was the victim — had gone unsolved (with three detectives investigating). One important error in the above story — Lee Weinstein wasn't beaten to death; he was shot seven times with what a ballistics expert would say was the same gun that killed Herman Moench in 1931.
Early attention in the double murder was focused on Ridley, a very strange bird, to say the least. Days later, police uncovered intriguing details of Weinstein's professional and personal lives that complicated an already confusing case. However, accounts in New York City newspapers led me to suspect the investigators got carried away chasing false leads. Possible solutions were obvious, but none was pursued to the point an arrest was made, at least, not for the murders. Through it all, one essential question was seldom addressed — where was the gun that killed Weinstein and Moench? And whose was it?
But first, more about Edward Albert Ridley, possibly the American, unrepentant version of Ebenezer Scrooge, told in a newspaper story that, unfortunately, carried no byline:
New York Sun, May 15, 1933
The murder of Edward A. Ridley and his two secretaries in the grim Allen Street dungeon in which they labored — poring over ink-stained ledgers, adding long columns of figures, counting the money that poured into Ridley’s pocket — provides a fascinating mystery tale, and a true one. Absorbing, intriguing, its details are enough to excite the envy of any imaginative writer of detective yarns.
“Old Ridley” they called him on the lower East Side — Old Ridley, who lived and died in an atmosphere of mystery, whose very taciturnity and aloofness appear to have been transmitted to his few associates, making them as mysterious as he.
Old Ridley lived in the shadows. He preferred the dark and chilly gloom of his underground office to the sunshine and laughter and babble of tongues 35 feet above him in crowded Allen Street.
He spent his lifetime amassing a fortune that he would not spend — a fortune that could have given him ease and leisure in bright and healthful surroundings. He accumulated about $2 million in cash and property, only to die in the sub-cellar to which he was so attached — murdered with Lee Weinstein, his secretary, in a manner almost identical with the slaying of Weinstein’s predecessor, Herman Moench, two years ago.
The last of a long line of successful merchants, Ridley was a familiar figure on the lower East Side for more than half a century. But no one knew much about him. He had few friends, if any; he had no intimates. He rarely spoke to anyone. He was the East Side’s mystery man — old, extremely eccentric and strictly business.
A PICTURESQUE figure he was. Old Ridley might well have been a character out of Dickens. A flowing, white beard concealed most of his ruddy face. A black derby was clamped on his head. He wore an overcoat — sometimes two — every day, winter or summer, spring or fall. Under the topcoat was a faded and shiny frock coat which he wore year in and year out. He carried an umbrella and wore rubbers, rain or shine.
They say the old gentleman’s one slogan was, “Practice economy and industry.” He practiced it. He wore his clothes until they were little better than rags, buying new ones only after much persuasion from his landlady, Miss Emma Boucher, in Fanwood, New Jersey, where he lived for 35 years or more, commuting from there to his damp and cheerless office.
Nor was his eccentricity and thrift confined to his habits of dress. The story is told that Old Ridley would arise every Sunday morning in Fanwood, board a train and ride to Jersey City and back just to use up his commutation ticket.
He insisted on dining alone. He made it a point to enter the dining room at his boarding house before or after the other boarders had eaten. If others entered the dining room while he was there, he would get up from the table and leave his meal unfinished. He likewise refused to wear a coat of any description in the house, even when dining.
WHILE TACITURN and aloof, the old man was not unpleasant. He usually was courteous when spoken to and pleasant enough when he spoke to anyone else. He just didn’t talk much. His conversations at his Fanwood boarding house were nearly always confined to a pleasant “good morning” as he was leaving the house and “good evening” when he returned.
In business, Ridley had the reputation of a man who drove a hard bargain, who asked no quarter and gave none. He was strictly honest, lived up to his contracts to the letter and insisted on others doing the same. He expected to get the last penny owed him and on the date it was due, no matter how sorely pressed those indebted to him might be.
Owner of considerable real estate, Ridley collected good rents. He never was known to reduce rent. Apparently, with Edward A. Ridley, there was no such thing as extenuating circumstances.
So much, then, for the character of this queer old man who was marked for a violent death. It was the kind of death he had expected ever since the murder of his first secretary two years ago.
An Englishman by birth, Ridley came to this country as a boy. His father, Edward Albert Ridley Sr., had been a merchant in Newark, England, but fled from the country to escape a debtor’s prison after he had met reverses. For two years the father peddled goods from door to door, acquired some capital, and, in 1851, opened a small dry goods store at 311-1/2 Grand Street.
From that small beginning there arose in Grand Street the department store of Ridley & Sons, occupying the entire block bounded by Grand, Allen and Orchard Streets. It was a great store in its day — one of the first and the largest department store of a Victorian New York.
WHEN THE FATHER died in 1883, the sons — Edward A. and Arthur Ridley — inherited the business. The store reached its peak in 1887. That year it had 2,500 employees, maintained a delivery service that required many horses and wagons, and did a $6 million business.
In the years that followed, however, the shopping trend shifted. The once flourishing business of the Ridley department store dwindled. In 1901 the Ridley brothers gave up. They sold the stock and fixtures of the store for $300,000 rather than leave the scene of their early success to follow the uptown trend. Arthur Ridley, now dead, went into the brokerage business. The lower East Side remained New York to Edward Ridley, and there he stayed.
Seeking solitude, he moved into the five-story building at 59-63 Allen Street, once the stable maintained by the great Ridley store. He wanted to work without annoyance from the rumbling elevated trains overhead, so workmen dug the sub-cellar, 35 feet below the street level. Ridley moved in. A young man named Herman Moench, who had worked as errand boy in the store, became his sole helper.
WITH MOENCH as his right hand man, Ridley attended to his real estate, collecting his rents, foreclosing his mortgages when they were not paid, selling and buying additional property. The years rolled on, but old Ridley and Moench seemed to go on forever.
On January 3, 1931, the white-haired Ridley, then 86 years old, arrived at his cave-like office at 11:30 a.m., his usual hour. Methodically he removed his overcoat and overshoes, placed his umbrella in a corner and sat down to work.
Moench had preceded him to work, as usual. He had left a batch of checks on the desk for Ridley to sign. For a few minutes only the scratching of the pen could be heard as the old man worked. Then he finished and called Moench. There was no answer. Ridley arose and walked around the thin partition that separated their desks.
Moench was slumped in his chair, as if asleep, Ridley shook him, but he did not awake. Then he noticed a thin trickle of blood down the side of the chair. Moench was dead from two bullet wounds in the chest.
Police, after a lengthy and fruitless investigation, put the murder down as motivated by revenge. Old Ridley always believed the slayers had meant to kill him and would have done so had he been at the office. He probably was right. But the killing of Moench never was solved.
DEEPLY SHAKEN by the tragedy, but trying bravely not to show it, old man Ridley said, “My work must go on. I shall continue at the same old stand and I shall get a new assistant. Death is not a tragedy; it must come to all of us.”
Strangely enough, Ridley refused to provide for Moench’s family in Brooklyn, although he had known Moench man and boy for more than 50 years.
“Why should I do anything for them?” he demanded petulantly. “I paid him his weekly salary, didn’t I?”
No, he had not made a will, he informed his questioners peevishly. Why should he?
But something caused old man Ridley to change his mind about that will. On March 4, 1932, one year and two months after Moench’s death, he drew up a will and in it he made a new secretary, Lee Weinstein, a beneficiary to the extent of $200,000.
The Moench murder virtually was forgotten and Ridley continued with his work. Relatives pleaded with him to give up his damp, gloomy office. He refused. His life was threatened, his relatives said. Old Ridley ignored the threats.
ON LAST Wednesday about 10:30 a.m. Lee Weinstein’s brother, Harry, who operates the garage on a sublease, telephoned. He told Joseph Fiduccia, an employee, to tell Lee that he wanted to see him later. Fiduccia promptly forgot all about it. Harry called again at 2 p.m. Fiduccia ran down the long ramp that leads to the sub-cellar.
Stretched on the floor well in the office lay the body of Lee Weinstein. Near the door was Old Ridley’s body. Weinstein had been shot to death — shot seven times. Ridley had been beaten, his skull crushed, his face mutilated, part of his white beard plucked out by the roots. Several .32 caliber cartridge shells were scattered on the floor of the barren, dimly lighted office.
Inspector Francis Kear, who had charge of the Moench murder investigation, took charge of this one. Here are some of the clues as unraveled by the police: Herman Moench and Lee Weinstein were slain by bullets fired from the same pistol — a .32 automatic. Ridley was beaten to death with heavy instruments, including the high office stool, which was bloodstained.
Police hold to the theory that revenge, deep hatred of Ridley and his secretary, was the motive, probably as the result of some business transaction. They are convinced the same person or persons who killed Moench also killed Ridley and Weinstein.
RIDLEY'S WILL, found in one of his old-fashioned safes the day after the murder, leaves $200,000 to Weinstein, who also was named as executor, on the condition that Weinstein was alive at the time of the testator’s death. In the event of Weinstein’s prior death, the money was to revert to the residue, which is divided among Ridley’s grandnieces and grandnephews. Bequests of $50,000 each are made to seven nephews and nieces.
There is considerable mystery about Weinstein. Investigation revealed he had been living a double life. He had been married eight years and was living with his wife here under the name of H. Lee, supposedly without the knowledge of members of his own family.
Harry Weinstein told the police he did not know Lee was married, but this statement is under investigation, since Harry was seen emerging from the suite of Lee’s wife in the Hotel Belvedere when two detectives went there to question her.
AND HERE ARE some of the questions which baffle the police:
How did Lee Weinstein so impress his old employer that he was named beneficiary of $200,000 — the largest bequest made?
What caused Ridley to change his mind about making a will?
Why was he so generous with Weinstein, whom he had known only a year and two months after Moench’s death, when he had refused to reward the family of Moench, who had served him faithfully so many years?
But mystery seems to be piling upon mystery in the Ridley Riddle. On Saturday, the dark sub-cellar yielded another secret — a brick-walled room which was used until recently, police learned, by a gang of bootleggers as a cutting plant. Lee Weinstein is believed to have known about this plant, but Ridley did not. Its discovery serves to deepen the mystery.
Some clarification: No excavation was required to create a sub-cellar office for Ridley; only a door that was knocked through a wall at the bottom of a ramp that led down from the basement. There was a fairly large room below the basement that was used for horses and wagons when it was the department store stable. An office that measured eight by twenty feet was partitioned off from the rest of the sub-cellar room. Behind the partition was the space used by bootleggers, and used well before Lee Weinstein became Ridley's secretary. The space also had been used to store automobiles and was easily reached by a large freight elevator off a street-level entrance to the garage.
The above story, like several others, did not question Ridley's claim that he arrived at the office regularly at 11:30 a.m. However, he was known to take an 8 a.m. commuter train from New Jersey every morning. Even the subsequent ferry ride across the Hudson River didn't prevent Ridley from arriving at the office before 10 a.m.
Also, it would be impossible for Ridley, dressed in two overcoats, to reach his desk without squeezing past Moench, their work space being so narrow, thanks to shelves along the walls. For that matter, it's possible that were Moench actually dead when Ridley arrived, the old man would have accidentally knocked his secretary's body off the stool. ("Really? I didn't notice.")
But more on that later. Below, an illustration of a much happier time in the life of Edward Albert Ridley Jr.
As online headline writers would put it, You Won't Believe What This Building Looks Like Today!
A Ridley relative, interviewed for the following story, had several interesting things to say about the man who founded Ridley & Son, and also about his family. It turned out eccentric Edward A. Ridley wasn't the first son to be murdered. That case, in 1874, also went unsolved.
New York Evening Post, May 18, 1933
The great wealth which Edward Ridley, hard-working, generous and pious storekeeper, amassed in the first department store in this country and which lurks behind the mysterious slaying of his son, Edward Albert Ridley, was the cause of the murder of another Ridley, a brother of the eccentric of the Allen Street dugout.
Late on Saturday, November 26, 1874, James Mosley Ridley, another son of the founder, was attacked and slugged to death on Canal Street, a few blocks from the store, which had just closed for the evening. His pockets were rifled. Apparently he had been killed by thugs who believed he had a large sum of money on his person. They got less than $50, it is believed, and they were never arrested.
James Moseley Ridley died at the age of 37. Among his survivors was a son, Edward, then nine years old This son married in time and today his son, John Longley Ridley, has started action to break the will which was found among the ton of papers in his great-uncle’s subterranean office. In that will, Mr. Ridley and his mother, now Mrs. Samuel Marks, are not named, although other near relatives are named, as well as Lee Weinstein, the old man’s secretary, who was killed with him.
Weinstein, although employed by Ridley for only two years, was to receive $200,000 from the Ridley estate if he survived the old man, while relatives were to receive much less. It was this aspect of the will — a will of which Ridley’s regular lawyers had no knowledge — that caused police to delve into the life of Weinstein and find that he was secretly married and living beyond his apparent income.
INSPECTOR Francis Kear received today from the police of Norfolk, Virginia, a copy of the marriage certificate issued there to Weinstein. Today two detectives will go to Norfolk to investigate Weinstein’s life there and to determine, if possible, if he is the man who, using the name of Lee Weinstein, was arrested there several years ago.
Police investigation of the will found in Ridley’s office revealed it was witnessed by two certified public accountants, George Goodman of 1749 Grand Concourse, The Bronx, and Arthur Hoffman, whose office is at 11 West 42nd Street.
The will was signed by the eccentric millionaire in his office after Weinstein had read it to him and there had been a brief discussion of some of its provisions.
Police also learned Weinstein’s account in the Public National Bank, in which he kept an average balance of $1,000, was opened in 1931, after he became Ridley’s secretary.
Still another murder ushered in the employment of Weinstein by Ridley. Two years ago, in the same sub-basement at 63 Allen Street, Herman Moench, long in the employ of Ridley, also as secretary, was found dead by the old man. Weinstein was then operating the garage on the floors above, leasing that property from Ridley.
THE FATE of James Mosley Ridley was revealed today by Mrs. Marks in an interview with the Evening Post in the apartment of her son at 44 Christopher Street. Her story included many details not only of the white-bearded eccentric, but also of Edward Ridley, founder of the store.
“I last saw Edward Albert Ridley about four years ago when I called on him at his Allen Street Office,” said Mrs Marks.”My home then was in the Middle West and I was in New York for a visit. I went to see him. He was courteous, but, of course, had little to say.
“Even when he was young he used to wear his hair down to his shoulders and have a long beard. He was extremely fond of his parents, but had little to do with other members of the family. He did not even attend the funeral of his brother, Arthur, or of my husband, his nephew.
“The great love of his life was his mother. Until within a year or so, he used to go every Sunday to the family burial plot in Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn, and stay there throughout the day. The attendants there knew him well, and it was on a recent trip to the grave of Mr. Ridley that I learned from one of them that he had not been there for some time.
“UNLIKE his father, he was always miserly with his money and never helped anyone. Herman Moench, a fine character, had worked for him many years, but after he was murdered, Mr. Ridley did not even give his son a job.
“Edward Ridley, the father, was as generous as he was hard-working. He had been a merchant in Newark, England, and failed. When he came to this country he was deeply in debt. After he had established his store here and made money, he returned to England and repaid the old debts.
“It has been reported that he was Scottish, but he was English. He brought his family of wife and five children to New York. He started selling ribbons on the curb, but soon had a small store. The family lived behind it. There were three sons — James, Edward Albert and Arthur — and two daughters, Emma and Fannie.
“When they became well-to-do, they had a fine estate out at Gravesend Bay. Mr. Ridley used to drive in from there every day to the store. After his first wife died, he married again. Mrs. Clara Gerken was the daughter of that marriage.
“Mr. Ridley gave generously to Methodist churches and missionaries. What is now the Ocean Parkway Methodist Episcopal Church in Brooklyn was once the Ridley Memorial Church.”
John L. Ridley, Mrs. Marks’ son, has a law office at 1 Exchange Place, Jersey City. He is a graduate of New York Law School and enlisted in the Navy during the World War.
It took a few days for police to prove what seemed suspicious from the start — Lee Weinstein's widow, the former Nora Deacy, would not be receiving any money from Edward A. Ridley's estate. Not only had her husband died before Ridley, one of the will's escape clauses, but the will itself wasn't valid. (Whether Ridley actually signed the document became the subject of debate, but the truth of that matter was ... that it did not matter.)
One policeman who earned his pay was Detective Henry P. Oswald, who uncovered Lee Weinstein's secret marriage and learned the secretary, notoriously poor at math, had involved two accountants in the Ridley firm. These accountants, George Goodman and Arthur Hoffman, were not on Ridley's payroll; their compensation came from helping Weinstein steal thousands of dollars from his employer by paying their dummy companies for repairs on Ridley property, repairs that were never made, obviously.
This trio also bypassed Ridley's lawyer to write the will that promised $200,000 to Weinstein. Police also learned Weinstein, who was registered with his wife at the Hotel Belvedere on West 48th Street as Mr. and Mrs. H. Lee, was living far beyond his means. Oh, their hotel room wasn't particularly expensive — $18 a week — but they ate every meal in restaurants and he drove a new $2,050 Cadillac paid for with three checks, each made out to a different corporation managed by Goodman, Hoffman and himself. (Weinstein's background also included gambling-related arrests in Virginia.)
Goodman and Hoffman soon were questioned and confessed to grand larceny. Within months they were sent to Sing Sing Prison, each to serve from three to six years. They vehemently denied killing anyone, claiming they needed both Ridley and Weinstein alive to maintain the flow of money.
(It would be reported that days before the murders Ridley confronted Weinstein, saying he knew what was going on. Weinstein, according to these stories, summoned Goodman and Hoffman to say, in effect, "the jig as up." It was a stormy meeting, said the stories. Even so, none of the embezzlers had reason to kill Ridley, who may have had good reason not to tell authorities.)
The bootlegging operation? Police dismissed its importance in the murder investigation, and probably with good reason. By 1933, with Prohibition on its last legs, few people cared about bootleggers, who certainly had no reason to go after Weinstein and Ridley, particularly with such rage. Reason for that rage — seven slugs in the secretary, 22 separate blows to the eccentric old man — was as important to the case, it seems to me, as finding the gun that had killed two of the three victims in the two cases that were inextricably linked.
Police kept alive two theories that didn't make sense— that robbery was the motive in both cases or that the murders were committed by a disgruntled tenant of one of Ridley's 150 pieces of property.
Trouble was, nothing was taken either time, and in both cases a robber would have had lots of time to grab anything of value. And if Ridley were killed in 1933 because he interrupted a robbery, then why wasn't he killed two years earlier by the same intruder?
As for a disgruntled tenant, it was ridiculous to think someone would stew for 28 months, then return to his landlord's office and empty his gun on Weinstein, forcing him to whack Ridley with the handiest piece of furniture available.
Enter Thomas McMorrow
Three weeks after the murder, Thomas McMorrow was hired to write a series about the Ridley case for the Hearst newspapers. McMorrow had a law degree, but gave up the practice to be a writer. He became best known for short stories and articles in Collier's and other leading magazines.
Later in the year he'd cover the Jesse Costello murder case and correctly predict she'd convince the jury of her innocence. With the Ridley case, McMorrow was not distracted by things that, while interesting, seemed irrelevant to the essential matter at hand — who murdered Lee Weinstein and Edward Ridley ... and Herman Moench?
He did a six-part series announcing his conclusions in part six, though he tipped his hand earlier. My hunch is McMorrow would have been happier wrapping up the project in one article, no more than two.
McMorrow followed the obvious trail — the murders, while connected weren't linked the way police had figured. And there were two murderers.
He said Edward A. Ridley had killed both his secretaries. The problem — and unfortunately McMorrow offered no explanation — was the gun. It was never found. (That raises an interesting theory I'll get to in a few paragraphs.)
McMorrow was convinced Ridley knew from the start what Weinstein was up to, but felt helpless to do anything about it. Why? Because Weinstein knew Ridley had killed Moench. It was Weinstein who showed up at the office after Moench had been killed. The story Ridley fed police was nonsense, that he and Weinstein didn't know Moench was dead, that they tried to revive his secretary (one story said Weinstein even threw water on Moench).
It was Weinstein who called police. He may also have hidden Ridley's gun in the garage, or Ridley might have had his own hiding place in the sub-cellar.
Also obvious, Ridley hired Weinstein because of what the garage operator knew. He certainly wasn't qualified for the job as secretary.
McMorrow doesn't identify him by name, but Harry Weinstein is Ridley's most likely murderer. The theory: he went to the office to tell Lee that their brother Benjamin was coming to town that afternoon. Instead he arrived just after Ridley had killed his brother Lee. Harry Weinstein then went berserk and bashed Ridley with the only weapon handy, the heavy stool.
Harry Weinstein left the scene, called the garage from another location, and asked one of his employees to go down to the office to give Lee a message. The employee immediately forgot. Weinstein waited almost four hours, then called again. This time the employee responded and discovered the bodies.
Again the big problem is the gun. Either Ridley had easy access to a hiding place that remains a secret today, or the person who killed the old man took the gun with him. (One scenario: Harry Weinstein arrives, Ridley points the gun, squeezes the trigger ... and nothing. Weinstein grabs the gun, shoves it in a pocket, then goes after Ridley who is moving toward the stairs. Weinstein picks up the stool and bashes Ridley on the head ... and keeps bashing until his rage subsides.
Police either weren't buying it or knew there was no way too prove McMorrow was correct, especially without the gun that was used to kill two men ... two years apart.
My two cents' worth
I couldn't tell from newspaper stories why police accepted Ridley's version of the first murder. Perhaps detectives thought the man's age — he was 86 years old in 1931 — made him incapable of a premeditated murder ... or that he was so senile he could actually walk past Moench and not notice the man on his stool, slumped over.
And how did police reconcile two conflicting pieces of information — the first from several witnesses who said Ridley never missed the 8 a.m. commuter train, the second, Ridley's claim he showed up regularly for work at 11:30 a.m.?
Ridley lied in order to distance himself from the office at the time the murder was committed — 10 a.m. I think he was there before 10, killed Moench and waited about 90 minutes before notifying anyone. I think he would have waited even longer if Lee Weinstein hadn't come to the office.
Ah, but why would Ridley kill Moench, a faithful employee for more than 50 years? My guess is Moench was talking about retiring. His wife, Matilda, would die in October, and though newspapers would say she died "suddenly" (technically, is there any other way?), it could well be she already was sick in January and he wanted to spend time with her, perhaps care for her. Moench might have asked what kind of financial support Ridley would provide in retirement? He also might have had leverage to use against his boss, something he had been reluctant to do in the past.
Or perhaps Ridley suspected Moench was skimming. Something Moench did had made an enemy of his employer. (If Ridley didn't kill Moench, why did he cut the man's family off without a penny? Not even pay the funeral expenses.)
The gun? Here's a thought that intrigues me. There was a pistol found in Moench's coat pocket. It was fully loaded and disregarded by police, though I'd like to think they at least sniffed the barrel (like they do on TV cop shows) to determine if it had been recently fired.
Following the rule of hiding things in plain sight, Ridley might have asked to see the gun — he probably considered it his property since police learned Moench had started carrying it recently, but only to and from work. Ridley then could have shot Moench, replaced the two spent cartridges and put the gun back in his secretary's coat pocket.
Having no first-hand knowledge of these things, I don't know if the two-hour lag between Moench's death and the discovery of the gun would have made any difference in determining if the gun had been fired that day. Unfortunately, newspaper accounts did not say what kind of gun Moench carried. (He was shot with a .32 caliber pistol.)
If Ridley were known to own a gun, it was never mentioned. If he did have a gun and if police immediately dismissed him as a suspect, the old man could have hidden the murder weapon in one of the two overcoats he usually wore to fend off the cold of his sub-cellar office. Frisking the old man certainly would be an unpleasant task, though perhaps, following this scenario, Ridley had hiding places that police overlooked during both investigations.
Let's get creative
Novelists and screen writers could easily succeed where police failed. For example, you may have noticed this case has everything in it but a femme fatale and a sexy romance.
The movie version would probably build up Harry Weinstein's role. In fact, Weinstein was divorced and while his brother's murder was being investigated, he was hauled into court by his ex-wife who claimed Weinstein was many months late with his child support payments.
So picture Harry Weinstein having an affair with his brother's wife. Remember he told police he didn't know his brother was married; soon afterward detectives went to question the wife, Nora, and caught Weinstein coming out of her hotel room.
Harry becomes aware Ridley is wise to Lee's scam, so he kills them both so that he and Nora can be together. He correctly anticipates police won't figure it out. And the gun? It has been in Harry Weinstein's garage for two years, ever since Lee hid it there, as a favor to Ridley.
However, I'd go with another ending, one that seems possible. It involves Herman Moench's son, Arthur, who kept investigating his father's murder long after police shoved the case files into a cardboard box in a basement storeroom.
Picture this — unknown to him, his father's gun, which was returned to his family by police, is the gun Ridley used to kill his father. Meanwhile, he becomes more and more obsessed about the case. It eats at him that his father's boss, the man his father worked for since 1879, did not provide any financial support for his mother, who died a few months after the murder.
Then, early in 1933, Arthur Moench sees Lee Weinstein, the man who is doing his father job. He's having dinner with a woman in a fancy restaurant. Days later, Arthur Moench sees Weinstein driving around in a new Cadillac. How could a man doing his father's old job be living so well? He asks around and hears rumors that Old Man Ridley has put Weinstein in his will to the tune of $200,000.
Finally Arthur Moench can't take it any more. He marches into the dank, dingy office and encounters Weinstein. In the background is Ridley, who's blocked in, unable to escape. So Moench pumps seven slugs into Weinstein, then goes after Ridley with Weinstein's stool and unleashes his full fury.
Well, back to reality. I found it interesting that, in November, New York City's Police Commissioner, James Bolan, told the press, "If I had my way, I'd put the detectives — that is, some of them — into uniform. Some of them become deficient, others become lazy. It would be a good thing to put them in uniform."
And it certainly would have been a good thing if 65 detectives assigned to one case could have come up with a solution.
Finally, the matter of Edward A. Ridley's will:
New York Evening Post, November 2, 1933
Litigation was settled today over the $4 million estate of Edward Albert Ridley, found beaten to death last May, with his secretary who was shot to death in his East Side sub-basement office. Ridley’s wealth was ordered distributed among nine persons, his next of kin.
The will in which Ridley left $200,000 to his murdered secretary, Lee Weinstein, if he should survive his employer, was rejected as false.
Details of the adjustment were disclosed in a statement by James W. Gerard, former ambassador to Germany, who is counsel for the executor, the Central Hanover Bank and Trust Company.
Bulk of the estate will go to Mrs. Clara R. Gerken of 983 East 17th Street, Brooklyn, a half-sister; John Langley Ridley, Jersey City lawyer, a grand nephew, and to seven children of a deceased nephew, Arthur J. Ridley.
The latter are Arthur J. Ridley of 2 St. Paul’s Court, Brooklyn; Henry E. Ridley of 600 West 116th Street; Edward Ridley of 118 East 64th Street; Robert M. Ridley of 2170 Jackson Street, San Francisco; Ida and Catherine Ridley, both of 118 East 64th Street, and Mrs. Alberta L. Glore of 444 Central Park West.