Syracuse Journal, Thursday, July 27, 1933
Mystery Veils Death of Two from Cyanide
NEW YORK (INS) — Without a clue and in a welter of unrelated theories, police today sought solution to one of New York's weirdest death mysteries.

A man and a woman were involved. Both died in an upper Broadway restaurant. But, so far as police could learn, the victims were not acquainted with each other and there was no indication of any connection between them, yet both died from the same cause — cyanide poisoning.

The man, Henry Jellinek, 50-year-old auto repair dealer, was seized with sudden paroxysms and died in the restaurant while a physician was examining him.

The woman, Lillian Rosenfelt, 45, worth $25,000 but who generally refused to pay for food and shelter, was known to sleep in parks and subways, collapsed a short time later in the same restaurant and died in Knickerbocker Hospital.

AT FIRST both deaths were attributed to epilepsy or heart failure.

But the autopsies by Assistant Medical Examiner Thomas Gonzales showed death was due to cyanide poisoning, that stomachs of the victims showed both had eaten poppy seed rolls.

Yet, so far as police could learn, neither had eaten in the restaurant. The management denied that either Jellinek or Miss Rosenfelt had ordered food, and police said the statement apparently was borne out by their investigation.

Detectives said the woman had carried a roll in her purse and apparently went to the restaurant to order coffee to accompany it — in keeping with her frugal eccentric habits.

In an effort to throw additional light on the double death, the vital organs of both victims were to be turned over today to City Toxicologist Getler for minute examination.

RELATIVES of Jellinek and Miss Rosenfelt could give police no aid in solving the mystery.

Police found an apartment where the woman slept in the cellar and found additional evidence of her strange life. The place was crowded with boxes stuffed with old clothes, books, shoes, paper and miscellany. On the floor and in boxes stacked around the dark, dank room police found thousands of pencils, buttons, old coins and cheap jewelry carefully hoarded.


The New York Sun dug much deeper that day and found a solution to the mystery that seemed strange, but would prove true.


New York Sun, Thursday, July 27, 1933
Poison Inquiry Leans Toward Suicide Theory
Detectives working on the mysterious poison deaths of a man and woman, strangers to each other, in an upper Broadway restaurant yesterday, inclined today toward the theory that the man committed suicide by eating half of a roll he had impregnated with poison, and that the woman was betrayed by penury into becoming a victim of his act.

The man was Henry Jellinek, 50 years old, of 605 West 170th Street, an automobile mechanic with a business at 794 Tenth Avenue. The woman, Lillian Rosenfelt, 43, lived alone in a cellar room at 119 West 104th Street amid all the outward signs of squalid poverty, though bank books found there revealed deposits of more than $40,000.

Police believe Jellinek entered the restaurant, a Horn & Hardart automat at Broadway and 104th Street, yesterday, intent on taking his life. According to their theory, he ate half the roll and left the other half on a table. He collapsed outside a washroom in the basement of the restaurant and died there while physicians worked over him.

MISS ROSENFELT, known at her residence as Lillian Fields, foraging through the restaurant for scraps of food for a free breakfast, is believed to have found the half roll and one that was untouched on the table where Jellinek left them, eating the half. She was found unconscious at a table on the mezzanine floor and died an hour later in the Knickerbocker Hospital.

Autopsies found quantities of poison sufficient to cause death in both stomachs. There was three or four times as much of the poison in the man’s stomach as in the woman’s. Particles of rolls also were found in both stomachs. A piece of roll that had lodged in the woman’s throat and the whole roll found in a paper bag at the table were examined, but revealed no traces of poison.

There was no indication, police said, that the rolls were purchased in the restaurant.

No action will be taken in the case, said Assistant District Attorney McGowan and police officials, until an analysis of food in the restaurant has been completed by the Board of Health and a report made to the medical examiner.

Jellinek’s wife and his son, Harold, 18, a student at New York University, were prostrated by his death and unable to give police any help. From Adolph Schwartz, his partner in the automobile repair business, police learned Jellinek had suffered an attack of ptomaine poisoning some time ago. As far as he know, Jellinek had no financial or other worries, Schwartz said.

IDENTIFICATION of the woman was made through a bank book, indicating a balance of $4,000, accumulated over a period of sixteen years, to her credit in the Metropolitan Savings Bank, 61 Cooper Square. An address in her bag led police to her cousin, Abraham Mannheimer, whose business address is 369 Seventh Avenue.

Through him police found her room in the rear of the basement at the 104th Street address. Last night a woman who said she was Delia Rosenfelt, of 38 West 126th Street, a sister of the dead woman, led police to the apartment where several more bank books, all on New York savings banks, were found. The credits in the books totaled $41,000.

Miss Rosenfelt said they were daughters of Simon S. Rosenfelt, a Boston and New York real estate man who died about 12 years ago, leaving each of them $15,000. She and her sister quarreled a shortly after their father’s death, she said, and she had seen little of her sister since.

THE ROOM in which the dead woman lived was a litter of castoff furniture and small pieces of junk, most of it stowed away in cardboard boxes which the woman had collected over a period of years.

The furniture consisted of a ramshackle bed, a sofa apparently retrieved from a vacant lot and a broken armchair. The bankbooks were found among the amazing collection of useless articles. The room was partitioned by flimsy boards into two compartments.

According to Bernard Docherty, superintendent of the building, he had known the woman for two years. He said she never spent any of her money for food or clothing and that she apparently cared nothing for the ordinary comforts of life.

When he took over the building, he said, the woman had been living in the room for about six months. The former superintendent, according to Docherty’s information, had found her sleeping in the hallway and out of compassion had offered her the use of the cellar room. Docherty said he put up the partition for her and that he generally gave her the leftover food from his own table. She paid $7 a month rent for the room, he said.

More on this strange case and the place where the deaths occurred.