Why Was Alice Crimmins' 1971 Double Murder Conviction So Controversial?

Alice Crimmins' name was splashed across headlines in New York in the late 1960s for the controversial case she was involved in. She was a 26-year-old mother who the press described as a "sexpot," and her behavior after her children were discovered dead was heavily scrutinized by the public.

On July 14, 1965, Alice's husband, Edmund Crimmins, phoned authorities to report his two children — 5-year-old Eddie and 4-year-old Missy — were missing. He was separated from his wife and the kids were supposed to be with her when he received a call from Alice asking if he was with the children. As reported by the New York Daily News, Alice, who lived in an apartment in Queens, tucked his children in bed at about 9 p.m. the night before but found them missing from their beds in the morning. The last time she had seen them was at midnight when she checked in on them and saw them sleeping soundly. Officers who talked to Alice noted her behavior as "fishy," as she appeared calm and collected despite the disappearance of her son and daughter. Even her appearance was flawless; her hair was perfectly done, her makeup was immaculate, and she didn't appear frantic. One of the officers said, "She looks like a cold b***h."

Alice and Edmund Crimmins' relationship

Alice Crimmins, born Alice Mary Burke in 1939, was raised in an Irish Catholic family in the Bronx. Edmund Crimmins was her high school sweetheart, and they married in 1959 when she was 19 years old, per ATI. The couple had their first child, Edmund Michael or Eddie, soon after and Alice Marie, or Missy, was born one year later. While Edmund worked, Alice was left to care for their children. Her husband often went out drinking with friends and Alice felt neglected. She had only been with one man her whole life, and wanted to explore her options, especially when her husband didn't give her the attention she wanted.

Alice got work as a cocktail waitress, and she started seeing some of her customers. The two eventually separated in 1964, and Alice no longer had to hide her affairs from her husband. At one point, Edmund caught Alice with another man in their home. According to Hazliit, it seemed that Alice neglected her parental responsibilities after the separation. She went on a cruise to the Bahamas with a boyfriend and left the children in the nanny's care. In June 1965, Edmund filed for sole custody over the two children and claimed that his estranged wife was an unfit mother. Alice's own mother called her "mentally ill" and agreed with Edmund and said he was a better fit to "take good care of the children." The custody hearing was scheduled a few days after Eddie and Missy disappeared.

The discovery of the children's bodies

On the day the Crimmins children were reported missing, a boy who was playing discovered the dead body of Missy in a vacant lot near the apartment. She appeared to be strangled with her pajama bottoms. As reported by Criminal Element, authorities brought Alice Crimmins to the scene without telling her that her daughter had been found, and she fainted. On the way back home, she appeared stoic but police noted that she cried and became hysterical when photographers were taking photos. Five days later, Eddie's remains were discovered along an expressway. His body was badly decomposed that his cause of death couldn't be determined, per the New York Daily News.

Investigators questioned both parents, and Edmund agreed to take a polygraph test. It was determined that he didn't have anything to do with the death of his children. Alice also willingly took a polygraph test but bolted from the room in the middle of the examination. From the start, investigators honed in on Alice as their suspect despite not finding conclusive evidence that suggested she was the murderer.

Investigators kept tabs on Alice Crimmins

Authorities followed Alice Crimmins in the months following her children's murders. She didn't escape public scrutiny as well and was let go from jobs because of her tarnished reputation. More than a year after the murders, the district attorney received a letter from an anonymous writer stating that they saw Alice on the night Eddie and Missy disappeared. The writer said that they went outside to get some fresh air and saw Alice, a man, and a boy enter a car, per the New York Daily News. The man allegedly carried something that was wrapped, which was described as the size of a little girl. Additionally, one of Alice's former lovers told authorities that the young mother told him she killed her children.

Investigators looked for the anonymous writer and eventually identified her as Sophie Earomirski, who was Alice's neighbor. She agreed to testify in court. As reported by Criminal Element, Alice was arrested for the murder of her daughter Missy on September 11, 1967.

Alice Crimmins' trials

The prosecution's case against Alice Crimmins wasn't solid. Sophie Earomirski's testimony was not credible, as she was known as the neighborhood gossip and often exaggerated stories to get attention. According to The Vintage News, she also changed her story several times before taking the witness stand, but the jury didn't know that. The other witness, Crimmins' ex-lover, had proposed to her before the trial, but Crimmins refused to marry him. In court, Crimmins screamed "liar!" to Earomirski during her testimony. The prosecution focused on Crimmins' many relationships with different men and even brought up an instance when she skinny-dipped after her children's murders. The all-male jury found her guilty of manslaughter, and she was sentenced to five to 20 years in prison In May 1968. However, the verdict was overturned after an appeal brought to light trial misconduct, but it wasn't over.

In 1971, Crimmins was back in court for the first-degree murder of Eddie and manslaughter of Missy. As reported by ATI, a man testified it had been him, his wife, and his dog that Earomirski saw on the night Eddie and Missy disappeared. It seemed that wasn't enough for the jury, though, and Crimmins was found guilty of murder and manslaughter. She was sentenced to life in prison for murder and five to 20 years for manslaughter.

The controversies surrounding the case

In 1973, two years after Alice Crimmins was convicted, the Supreme Court overturned her murder conviction due to the fact that Eddie's cause of death couldn't be determined because his body was severely decomposed (via ATI). However, her manslaughter conviction stuck. In 1977, Crimmins was released on parole, and she lived a quiet life. From the start, the court of public opinion found her guilty. However, the facts didn't provide a conclusion. As noted by Hazlitt, investigators focused on Crimmins from the start. The investigation wasn't thorough and protocol wasn't followed. Crimmins said of the police, "Nobody was out looking to see who killed my kids. They were interested in making me break."

There was not a single piece of evidence that tied Crimmins to the deaths of her children. Looking back, her case was doomed from the start. The shoddy investigation, unreliable witnesses, and sexist perceptions clouded the case. Furthermore, no other suspects were looked into. Today, the question still remains: did Crimmins murder her children, or was she the victim of prejudice?