Throughout Alice Crimmins' trial for the murder of her two young children, the prosecution used questionable witnesses and thin evidence that nevertheless convinced an all-male jury to find her guilty.
At around 9:00 a.m. on July 14, 1965, Alice Crimmins noticed that her two children weren’t in their beds. The 26-year-old frantically called her husband, who was living elsewhere since their marriage had fallen apart. He was furious at her apparent neglect and reported the children missing.
There was no trace of five-year-old Eddie Crimmins Jr. or four-year-old Alice “Missy” Marie Crimmins anywhere near their Queens, New York home, but police already had a suspect anyway: their mother.
Despite having little evidence, investigators soon decided that Alice Crimmins was their culprit. Within a few hours of police taking Crimmins in, her daughter’s strangled corpse was found in a nearby lot.
Weeks later, the decomposed body of Eddie Jr. was found along the Van Wyck Expressway — so decomposed that authorities could find no discernible cause of death.
Police then grew ever more desperate to pin the murders on Alice Crimmins and spent years surveilling her before they officially did. What followed was a trial of nearly unprecedented controversy.
The tabloids painted her as an immoral tramp, which was what the prosecution also said, in lieu of hard evidence. Alice Crimmins was ultimately found guilty of killing her own children, though she insisted their true murderer remained at large.
Why Alice Crimmins Wasn’t Like Other Midcentury Mothers
Born on March 9, 1939, in the Bronx, Alice Crimmins was raised by devout Irish Catholic parents. She spent her days at Saint Raymond’s convent and dreamt of independence by night. At 19, she decided marriage was the only way to attain it.
In 1959, she married her high school sweetheart Edmund Crimmins and gave birth to her son, Eddie Jr. Alice Marie was born the following year, while the family moved into the Regal Gardens Apartments in Kew Gardens, New York.
Crimmins soon found herself stuck at home while her husband spent his nights drinking with colleagues. By her own account, she had only slept with one man in her entire life and grew curious about her options as her husband neglected her.
Crimmins took up work as a cocktail waitress, a taboo move for a mother in mid-century America. She further defied the ideal of the nuclear family when she reportedly began dating her customers.
Jilted, Edmund Crimmins eventually moved out, but not before he bugged his wife’s bedroom and recorded her affairs with other men. He later even admitted to sneaking in when she was out to touch her “personal things” and exposed himself to young girls in a nearby park.
When his son told him that his mother regularly invited “cousins” who walked around in undershirts to spend the night, Edmund Crimmins became incensed. But he was most enraged when his wife failed to return home one night to the kids after partying with her boyfriend, millionaire contractor Anthony Grace.
Then, on June 22, 1965, Edmund Crimmins filed for sole custody of their children. Alice Crimmins’ own mother sided with him, calling him “a good man” who would “take good care of the children.”
The custody hearing was scheduled for July 19, 1965 — but it would never happen.
An Incomplete And Biased Investigation
When she found that her children were missing on the morning of July 14, Alice Crimmins’ first call was to her estranged husband.
She reportedly broke down when he told her he didn’t have the children, “Don’t you play games with me!” She said. “Eddie! Don’t fool around! Do you have them? Please don’t do this to me! Eddie, they’re missing!”
When Detective Gerald Piering responded to the Crimmins’ call about their missing children that same afternoon, he was met by Edmund and Alice Crimmins, who was in high heels and tight pants.
Piering proceeded to question the husband and wife, but took no photos of the scene nor noticed a missing screen in the children’s bedroom window. He didn’t even dust for fingerprints.
Crimmins relayed her evening to the officer. She said that she fed her kids at 7:30 p.m. the night before and woke up to find them gone. But by the time Piering spotted empty liquor bottles, birth control pills, and brassieres in her bedroom, he had already designated Alice Crimmins as his prime suspect anyway.
“You take the husband, I’ll take the bitch,” he allegedly told his partner.
Hours later, a colleague informed Piering that Missy had been found. He drove Alice Crimmins to the empty lot where her daughter’s corpse lay buzzing with flies. She fainted immediately. Piering would later claim that Crimmins was “unmoved” by the sight.
When Eddie Jr.’s corpse was discovered weeks later, it had decomposed to the point that the medical examiner couldn’t even determine how he died.
Despite there being no physical evidence to suggest that Alice Crimmins killed her children, prosecutors tried their best to prove that she was guilty.
For two years, authorities sidelined suspects, including local burglars and Eddie Crimmins Sr., who admitted that he was obsessively stalking his wife before the tragedy. His alibi also changed several times throughout the investigation.
Nonetheless, authorities wiretapped Alice Crimmins’ phone, followed her around, and used any instance of her frustration and grief as proof of her guilt.
For her part, Crimmins did do her best to incite the cops whenever she saw them following her and would answer her tapped phone, “Hi boys, drop dead.” Her defiance only fueled the case against her.
“They wanted me to break down,” Crimmins later told Gross in 1971. “They wanted me to grieve ⏤ not for the sake of my children, but for them ⏤ the police. I wasn’t going to give them the satisfaction. They were my kids. Nobody was out looking to see who killed my kids. They were interested in making me break.”
Finally, in November 1966, the prosecutor’s office found something to convict her with: an eye-witness account from a brain-damaged neighbor named Sophie Earomirski.
On September 11, 1967, Alice Crimmins was arrested for the murder of her daughter.
The First Trial Of Alice Crimmins
The trial of Alice Crimmins began on May 9, 1968, and exclusively concerned the murder of her daughter. But as far as the tabloids were concerned, Crimmins was already guilty.
She epitomized to many the shift from a woman’s place as a mother and wife to one as a free and liberated individual, and those who weren’t on board with this shift demonized her for it.
The majority of the trial against her would be based on faulty eye-witness testimonies and sexist accusations. The prosecutor even asked her about nakedly swimming in a boyfriend’s pool months after her children were found dead.
“Where were your children when you were swimming without a bathing suit?” He asked. “They were dead,” said Crimmins coldly. The prosecutor then went on to list all of Crimmins’ known lovers, including her children’s barber, until the judge had to ask him to stop.
Crimmins reportedly sobbed when the coroner described the state of her daughter’s body, but then one hard fact flew in the face of her testimony and cast some doubt on her innocence.
Forensic pathologist Dr. Milton Helpern testified that Missy had been strangled to death and that the food in her system couldn’t have been ingested more than two hours before her death.
This contradicted Crimmins’ original claim that she last fed her kids at 7:30 p.m. However, a neighbor told authorities that she heard Crimmins tucking her children into bed at 9 p.m.
Then, one of Crimmins’ boyfriends gave damning testimony against her at her trial. He claimed that just days before her daughter was killed, she told him that “she would rather see the children dead” before she let her husband have custody of them. He added that she admitted to him that she killed her daughter.
“I said ‘Missy and Eddie are dead,'” the boyfriend testified, “and she said, ‘Joseph, please forgive me, I killed her.'”
At this testimony, Crimmins shouted, “I thought you were my friend. How could you?”
The most incriminating piece of evidence was, of course, Earomirski’s eye-witness account. She claimed to have seen a woman of Crimmins’ height walking toward the interstate at 2:00 a.m. on July 14, 1965, accompanied by a child and a man, and holding a bundle of blankets.
“You liar!” Crimmins reportedly yelled as her neighbor testified against her. Unfortunately, no one mentioned that Earomirski was an unreliable witness who changed her story to prosecutors multiple times before taking the stand.
Alice Crimmins was ultimately found guilty by her all-male jury on May 27, 1968.
“You want to close your books!” Crimmins screamed at Judge Peter Farrell. “You don’t give a damn who killed my children!”
The following December, her five-to-20-year sentence was overturned when trial-related misconduct came to light. Six months after that though, Crimmins was indicted again — this time for the murder and manslaughter of her son.
How The State Finally Got Crimmins Behind Bars
The second trial began on March 15, 1971.
A second neighbor came forward to corroborate the claims of Earomirski. Miraculously, a man named Marvin Weinstein came forward to testify that it was he, his wife, and their dog who were mistaken for Crimmins that night.
Nonetheless, the jury found Alice Crimmins guilty again and Judge George Balbach sentenced her to life in prison for murder and a concurrent five to 20 years for manslaughter in May 1971.
But the saga was not yet over. In 1973, a New York Supreme Court ruled that her murder conviction must be overturned as Eddie Jr.’s cause of death was never confirmed as a criminal act, or anything at all, for that matter. Further, the court found her boyfriend’s testimony to be “grossly prejudicial.”
Around this time, one of the prosecuting attorneys reported to Gross that even he was unsure of Crimmins’ guilt. “I don’t know if she did it. It still seems unlikely,” he said. “I can’t believe it. I don’t even believe the story I told the jury. I don’t even believe it now.”
However, in 1975, the New York State Court of Appeals reinstated her manslaughter verdict. The court argued that because the jury in each trial had found her “criminally responsible for the death of her daughter,” it was unlikely that they would have acquitted her if the trial-related errors hadn’t been made.
Where Is Alice Crimmins Now?
Alice Crimmins spent a total of 30 months behind bars in Harlem’s Parkside Correctional Facility between 1971 when she was first convicted, and 1977, when she was paroled.
She had made a bid for parole twice before the board granted it after seeing that she had entered a work-release program as a secretary. Other than that, it is not clear what suddenly swayed the parole board to grant her release, at least according to a New York Times article from 1977.
During her time in prison, she married her long-time lover, Anthony Grace. The two remained married until his death in 1998.
Alice Crimmins has remained remarkably elusive ever since. Some claim to have seen the 82-year-old widow in Florida and living under a different name. Others reported sightings of her in New York — though none of these have ever been confirmed.
Meanwhile, her literal trials and tribulations have inspired countless novels, documentaries, and movies. Her story became the basis for Mary Higgins Clark’s 1975 bestselling mystery novel, Where Are The Children?.
In the real-life story, Alice Crimmins’ guilt could never be conclusively proven with hard evidence. Even today, the truth behind her children’s murders remains unknown.