Solving a murder at Harlem’s Green Parrot Grill

It may be the only time a tropical bird helped crack a New York cold case.

On July 12, 1942, Max Geller, owner of the Green Parrot Bar and Grill on Third Avenue and 100th Street, was shot to death in his small restaurant by a lone gunman.

“None of the restaurant’s patrons could (or would) identify the killer, and the police had no clues,” wrote Patrick M. Wall in The Annals of Manhattan Crime, published in New York magazine in 1988.

Months passed, and finally, a breakthrough. Geller had kept a real parrot in his restaurant, and a detective learned that the bird was trained to call regular customers by name.

Witnesses had said that the bird screeched “robber robber robber” as his owner was shot. The detective, however, “had a hunch that the parrot had actually repeated “Robert Robert Robert.”

“Suspicion focused on a man named Robert Butler, 28, who had left Manhattan shortly after the shooting,” wrote Wall.

Cops located Butler, a former taxi driver, in Maryland, where he confessed to shooting Geller in a drunken rage because Geller refused to serve him.

Brought back to New York in November 1943, Butler was sentenced to 15 years.

[This is not the murder-solving parrot, but he probably looked similar. . . .]

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10 Responses to “Solving a murder at Harlem’s Green Parrot Grill”

  1. focusoninfinity Says:

    One bright, “bird”-dogging detective.

    You name the victim, name the the criminal; but omit the brilliant, “bird”-dogging detective’s name. Now, are you doing justice to that once detective’s memory?

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    I wish I knew his name! That detail was left out of Wall’s book and the New York Times article.

  3. Joe R Says:

    I looked at the Google Books source link provided in the posting but there’s no mention of the bird’s name, if any.

  4. wildnewyork Says:

    We’ll just have to name him ourselves. Screechy?

  5. Joe R Says:

    Wildnewyork, I have to thank you for that Google Books link. Fascinating tidbits of Manhattan crimes!

  6. wildnewyork Says:

    I know, isn’t it great? If the web existed in 1988, I’m sure he would have had a terrific NYC crime blog.

  7. petey Says:

    great story!
    here’s another parrot who dropped a dime:

    http://articles.cnn.com/2006-01-17/world/uk.parrot_1_pet-parrot-suzy-collins-newspaper-reports?_s=PM:WORLD

  8. wildnewyork Says:

    Cool! The moral of the story is to put a sheet over your parrot’s cage if you’re having an affair or plan on shooting someone.

  9. T.J. Connick Says:

    Read about “Pretty Polly” and the usual collection of Broadway characters in “So You Won’t Talk!”, Damon Runyon’s funny short story featuring a parrot who identifies a murderer.

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