A random and unsolved murder on Jane Street

In 1990, an incredible 2,245 murders were committed in New York City.

One was the murder of John Reisenbach, 33, who lived with his wife in a one-bedroom apartment at Jane and Hudson Streets.

His case garnered lots of coverage because he was a West Village ad exec. But also, his slaying seemed so freakishly random—even in a summer packed with random killings.

The facts: Around 10 p.m. on July 30, with his home phone not working, Reisenbach left his place at 61 Jane Street (below) to use a payphone around the corner.

He was in the middle of talking to a colleague about a business idea, according to an article in The Villager that ran a few years ago:

“‘Give me the money! Give me the money!’ [the colleague] recalled hearing. ‘It sounded like a mugging, then I heard nothing.'”

Three shots were fired, then “Reisenbach staggered around the corner before collapsing on the sidewalk in front of 803 Greenwich Avenue,” explains the Villager.

A few days later, police arrested a homeless man who hung out at Abingdon Square Park. Media reports focused on the homeless drug addicts who back then made the park their home base, as well as the trannie prostitutes spilling over from the Meatpacking District.

But after six months, they let him go. That’s when the case went cold, where it’s stayed for 21 years.

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6 Responses to “A random and unsolved murder on Jane Street”

  1. The Devoted Classicist Says:

    I remember this well because I had used that very pay phone a number of times. In those days, the adjacent Meat Packing District still had some rough characters on the streets despite popular restaurants in the area such as Tortilla Flats and Florent.

  2. John M Says:

    the ‘incredible 2,245 murders,’ while a statistical peak, didn’t seem so bad in 1990. and, if that number happened today, I bet you wouldn’t find it so incredible, either. most of them didn’t happen in the meat packing district, and the fact that poor reisenbach was a white-collar, young, white person is what got this story so much press.

    there are 8,000,000 people here, swatches of terrible poverty and desperation, the best and worst of human morality. the incredible thing is that there aren’t 5,000 murders per year, or 25,000, and that so incredibly many people are relatively civilized.

    • Evan Says:

      Indeed. In a city like New York, with 8M people all from different cultures that often don’t get along, it’s lucky that 2245 murders isn’t the norm.

  3. Dan Says:

    The Reisenbach foundation was started by his father in his honor shortly afterward, and to this day some of the leading media figures gather every year to raise money in his honor, and have given more than $5 million to programs that improve safety and the quality of life in New York City.


  4. Claudia Says:

    I remember this story, too. Can’t believe it’s 21 years old! Wow.

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