Who killed the Upper East Side career girls?

On August 28, 1963, a 23-year-old Time-Life staffer named Patricia Tolles came home from work to find her apartment at 57 East 88th Street a ransacked mess.

That was the least of it. In a blood-soaked bedroom were the bodies of her roommates, 20-year-old Newsweek editorial researcher Janice Wylie (below) and 23-year-old teacher Emily Hoffert (right).

Wylie (who had been sexually assaulted) and Hoffert were bound, naked, and each brutally stabbed dozens of times.

The horrific murders shook the city, especially the thousands of young “career girls”—as they were called in the 1960s—who came to New York to share apartments and find jobs.

For months, cops had no leads, until April 1964, when a 19-year-old Brooklyn resident named George Whitmore was arrested.

Police were certain they had their man. But his confession was soon discredited, and investigators were back on the hunt for the real killer.

He finally emerged in October 1964. Heroin addict and convicted burglar Richard Robles, 20, who had grown up near the East 80s apartment where the three career girls lived, was charged in January 1965.

After a jury found him guilty and he was sentenced to life in prison, he told the judge he didn’t do it.

But during a parole hearing two decades later in 1986, Robles confessed to butchering the girls in a robbery-gone-wrong after Hoffert told him she was going to report him to the police. He was denied parole.

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18 Responses to “Who killed the Upper East Side career girls?”

  1. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    I remember trying to look for a job in those years. “Career girls” were in all the want ads, and some of them were knockouts too, jobs for “men” or “laborers” were very hard to find.

  2. Rev. E.M. Camarena Says:

    Hey, you know who lived in that building back then? Vaughn Meader, the second person killed 11/23/63.

  3. Rev. E.M. Camarena Says:

    HAH! I meant to write 11/22/63. But November 23 is my wife’s birthday and if I ever forget that I’m cooked!
    That night tragic night, Lenny Brice said they may as well dig two graves in Arlington, meaning Meader’s career was over. Vaughn lived there before the murders but while the girls lived there. He didn’t know them. It is just one of those quirks of history.

  4. Calvert Morgan Says:

    Have you read THE SAVAGE CITY, T.J. English’s amazing new chronicle of race relations in 1960s NYC? At the center of the story is the Career Girls murder case and the fate of George Whitmore, the young man who was falsely accused of the crime. It’s an extraordinary work of urban history.

  5. Rev. Camarena Says:

    No, I have heard about the book but not yet seen it. Thanks for the heads up! Living in Hell’s Kitchen I have naturally read English’s book on the Westies – I live across the street from one of the people highlighted in the book. Served a full 20 for a murder described in the book… English is not too popular around here…
    Also Paul Sann in his book The Angry Decade about the 1960’s has a nice chapter on the Whitmore case.

  6. JOEY S Says:


  7. Career Girls | SAVAGE CITY Says:

    […] Who killed the Upper East Side career girls? […]

  8. Dr. Jane Foxx Says:

    The entire story of the Janice Wylie and Emily Hoffert murders was detailed in an exciting book called “The Victims”. It would have made a great movie, with the right director in charge. Janice was the niece of author Phillip Wylie, who wrote “A Generation of Vipers”.

  9. Michael Falsia Says:

    Does anyone know if Robles is still alive? If so what prison? I believe he was alive as late as 2007. We are approaching the 50th aniversary of these tragic murders. For some reason this crime remains haunting even after all this time! I have been to the areas where the people who were involved once walked and lived. Some places are not too far removed from the time of the incident. The building where the two Girls lived is gone but the Building next door is still there. And there remains room for speculation regarding some evidence? Certain details are questionable although I believe based on what I read that Robles is the best candidate for the crimes even without the confession. This case covers a period of great transition in New York City. The overall psychological make up of the city during the early part of the 1960’s is a facinating sociological study in itself. Attitudes both old and new would find a strange blend of social behavior that were quite antagonistic and contradictory in many ways while at the same time giving rise to a new mindset that would have bad and good consequences.

  10. patrick lentze Says:

    i will never forget that this was the subject of an episode of the “kojak” television series (1973). it was very shocking, especially when i heard years later that it really happened. i saw it on dutch television. this is one of those terrible crimes.

  11. LeanneL Says:

    No one discusses that in the book, Casebook Of a Crime Psychiatrist, that Dr Brussels says there is no way that Robles was the killer, he did not fit the profile at all. That’s why he never confessed until he thought it would help with parole.

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