It was a gruesome scene inside the fourth floor apartment at 316 East 50th Street on Easter afternoon, 1937.
Veronica Gedeon, a 20-year-old model, was found naked and strangled to death on a bed; her mother, Mary, had also been strangled. Mary’s clothes were off as well, her body under the same bed.
Newspapers reported that Mary had been “ravished.” Meanwhile, a deaf bartender who had rented another room as a boarder was also dead in his bed, stabbed multiple times.
Only Mary’s pet Pekinese was spared, according to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle on March 29.
Police from the 17th precinct rushed to the home after Joseph Gideon, the estranged husband of Mary and father of Veronica, came upon it when he paid a holiday visit to the apartment, which Mary ran as a boardinghouse.
Cops questioned Joseph, but nothing tied the immigrant upholsterer to the murders. They picked up other suspects who were cleared.
While the police tried to solve the crimes, the press focused on Veronica, known as Ronnie, according to Undisclosed Files of the Police: Cases From the Archives of the NYPD.
Her modeling work wasn’t high fashion. The pretty blonde posed sometimes nude for ads, artists, and detective magazines.
She had a fiance, but the night of the murders, she was out with another man and reportedly returned to the East 50th Street apartment intoxicated.
Her modeling work and love life were mined for clues; even pages of her diary were printed in the papers.
Thanks to this focus, the public didn’t shy away from blaming Veronica for the crimes. “The young model probably messed around with too many men . . . she should have been more particular with her boy friends,” commented one Brooklyn resident in another Eagle story.
The real killer, however, wasn’t interested in Veronica—he was infatuated with her married older sister, Ethel.
Robert Irwin (right), a sculptor and “sex mad” divinity student became obsessed with Ethel when he boarded with the family in another apartment the Gedeons had on East 53rd Street.
A massive hunt for Irwin consumed the NYPD. “The city’s entire detective force, 1950 strong, armed with photographs and thumbnail descriptions of the vanished sculptor, probed through cheap Bowery lodging houses and saloons, through hospital wards and missions for down-and-outers,” wrote the Eagle on April 6.
Caught in the Midwest, Irwin pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.
He calmly told officials the story: he “arrived at the Gedeons’ apartment on Holy Saturday night,” stated a New York Daily News article from 2008 that looked back on the crime.
“He and Mary Gedeon chatted amicably for some time, but when Irwin pried for gossip about Ethel, Mrs. Gedeon told him it was time to let go of the imagined romance. Irwin snapped.
‘The room was blue with death,’ he later said. ‘There wasn’t anything I could do.'” He killed Mary first, then murdered Veronica when she came home at 3 a.m. The boarder was stabbed to death as he slept.
Sentenced to 139 years in prison amid controversy about his mental state, Irwin was eventually moved to Matteawan, a state institution for the criminally insane, where he died in 1975.
[First and third photos: Life magazine, April 12, 1937; second photo: Find a Grave; third and fourth photos: Brooklyn Daily Eagle; fifth photo: Getty images]