The 1970 murder of an Upper West Side teacher

After graduating from Smith College in 1970, 22-year-old Patrice Leary did what thousands of other new grads do: She moved to New York City.

Patrice sublet a brownstone apartment at 310 West 73rd Street—then a sketchy block, but one that was likely affordable on a teacher’s salary.

She took a job teaching second grade at the posh Brearley School. She dated. She hung out with her roommate.

She worried about crime as well, “installing an extra lock on her steel door,” according to a New York Times article.

Weeks later, on October 29, friends noticed her apartment door was ajar. “Inside they saw her body, mutilated and bloody, clothed in a bra and underpants, lying on the floor,” noted the Times.

Investigators later determined that Patrice had been stabbed in the heart, a phone cord wrapped around her neck. Her head was also bashed in with a hammer.

Neighbors reported seeing a tall white man running out of the brownstone about the time Patrice had been murdered. But no suspect was ever named.

Police took the case hard. “This was no trollop or junkie,” said a lieutenant.

“This wasn’t someone who’s been pushing for trouble. This was a fine, decent girl, the kind of person you want to help and protect.”

The Times even pointed out that the Medical Examiner determined Patrice was still a virgin when she died, a detail I don’t think you’ll ever find in a newspaper today.

Even after a $1500 reward was offered for any information leading to an arrest, Patrice’s killer was never found.

[Photo: West 73rd Street between West End Avenue and Riverside Drive. where Patrice was killed, from Trulia]

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4 Responses to “The 1970 murder of an Upper West Side teacher”

  1. Tom Says:

    Isn’t this the area where the first Charles Bronson “Death Wish” movie was filmed? What made it a skecthy block back then? It seems hi-end now. I think “The Times” newspaper point was showing that there was no rape, not judging her character. Such a tragic story. One could infer from the police remark that they don’t want to help or protect the trollip or junkie.

  2. Nicole Says:

    this blog is incredible! i recently discovered it and read every post from oldest to most current. i am so fascinated by the little-known facts you find… like this. amazing that, upon googling it, there is so little information. even googling roseann quinn/the mr. goodbar case, there is little information on a case that made such a famous film and multiple books. where do you come across these tid-bits? thank you for sharing them with everyone especially this always-curious new yorker :)

  3. wildnewyork Says:

    Thank you! Yeah, it’s fascinating how one crime grabs all the attention, and another similar one is quickly forgotten. I’m always more interested in the forgotten.

  4. Terese m Sorensen Says:

    II AM PATRICE LEARY SISTER AND WAS ONLY 19 YEARS OLD AT THE TIME OF HER MURDER. HOWEVER MY MOTHER RITA LEARY WOULD NOT LET ME TRY TO GET INFO ON THE CASE BECAUSE SHE SAID THEY DID NOT WANT ANYONE TO KNOW OF OTHER FAMILY MEMBERS . PLEASE I NEED HELP ON THIS COLD CASE AND WOULD LIKE TO KNOW WHO TO CONTACT ON THE POLICE RECORDS OR INFO ON THE COLD CASE .

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