A little girl goes missing in 1960s Chelsea

EdithkiecoriusphotoIt was February 1961, Washington’s birthday. Four-year-old Edith Kiecorius had taken the subway from her Brooklyn home with her widowed mother and brother to visit her uncle in Manhattan.

Her uncle’s apartment was on Eighth Avenue near 18th Street, in the “deteriorating” neighborhood of Chelsea, as one newspaper described it at the time.

Edith spent the afternoon playing outside on the sidewalk. Her uncle left her alone for a few minutes to buy cigarettes, and by the time he came back around 4 pm, the little girl in a purple snowsuit had vanished.

In an era without Amber Alerts or even 911, police seemed to pull out all the stops to find her. Over the next week, they set up special hotlines for anyone who may have seen her; they searched rooftops, sewers, and the bottom of the Hudson.


“Detectives leafed through records of mental hospitals for women recently released and checked death lists,” reported the New York Times, as the police felt the person who took her might have “a frustrated mother instinct.”

Edithk307west20thstOn February 27, Edith’s body was found on a bed in a one-room flat at 307 West 20th Street (at left today), a “dingy Chelsea rooming house,” as a front-page Times piece put it. She’d been sexually assaulted and beaten to death.

The killer was captured a few days later. Fred Thompson, a 59-year-old drifter who had just rented the room in the West 20th Street house. He admitted to cops that while in a drunken stupor, he lured Edith to his room by telling her that he had his “own little girl” she could play with.

He assaulted and beat her, then left her in the room while he spent days drinking on the Bowery. When he learned that police had found Edith’s body and that he was the prime suspect, he fled to Philadelphia and then to a New Jersey chicken farm.

Edithkfredthompsonnyt“Assistant Chief Inspector James J. Walsh of the New York City police said after questioning Thompson he had said, ‘I know I deserve my full punishment for what I did,'” the Times wrote.

“Asked what he meant by ‘full punishment,’ Thompson was quoted as saying ‘life imprisonment or the electric chair.'”

Thompson was tried and found guilty later that year; the verdict carried a mandatory death sentence.

But according to one source, Thompson, above, was instead institutionalized for the rest of his life.

[Second photo: Getty Images; Fourth photo: NYTimes]

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7 Responses to “A little girl goes missing in 1960s Chelsea”

  1. Carolyn Says:

    A brutal death for an innocent child. 18 years later, another child, 6 year old Etan Patz, also made headlines when he disappeared. Etan was the first missing child to be pictured on a milk carton.

  2. Annalucia Says:

    I was nine years old when that happened; I still remember the headlines.

    She had an older brother named Albin: photo of him and his mother at Edith’s funeral. I wonder what became of him.

  3. Frank Says:

    Remember that case very well! Years after I went to work for the New York Dept. Of Corrections and assigned to the Fishkill Mental Facility upstate NY. This scumbag was there walking around like he owned the place with a woman’s red wig acting crazy.
    A couple of years Latter all these criminals were transferred to Civil Hospitals mostly in Long Island NY which was a country club setting. Another serial murderer was also transferred there & he murdered a medical staff at her home.

  4. miminqueens Says:

    I remember that well, though I’d forgotten that it happened in 1961 rather than in the 50’s. When I read from time to time that the disappearance of Etan Patz caused parents everywhere to keep close and constant watch on their children, I want to ask why “Googie’s” murder didn’t have the same effect.

    That change in parenting had to do with more than just Etan.

  5. Ellen Says:

    I was the same age as Edith so maybe that is why this stayed with me when I read it in my parents’ newspaper. I didn’t realize Thompson was put in an institution…I had hoped and thought he had been in prison or put to death . May that little girl RIP.

  6. Lynda Cash Says:

    There was a question on Facebook “What is the earliest News Headline you remember”? I was about 10, and I always remember her so I posted it about Edith. Susan responded that she also remember her.

  7. Edward Mulrenin Says:

    Tonight, I was listening to some Oldies in a moment of nostalgia, when the 1961 hit Runaway came on. My mind flashed back to listening to that song when it first came out on the radio in a friend’s car as we drove up and down Broadway in Newburgh NY, as high school kids were wont to do those days But then, the name Fred Thompson popped into my mind. I always associated that song with the little girl he adducted, thinking she had run away . I remember hearing on the radio news back then about a young girl who was adducted by a drifter name Fred Thompson, but my recollection was that she was discovered at a farm in New Jersey. So I put his name into Google and this article popped up. My recollection was wrong – she was murdered. I hope that SoB suffered greatly in jail. How sad that all these years I thought she had been found.

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