The Death of Isidor Fink


NYC Police Commissioner Mulrooney called the murder an “insoluble mystery.”

Isidor Fink came over the Atlantic from Poland and eventually set up a laundry in New York City in the early part of the 20th century.

On the night of March 9, 1929, he would become famous in a tragic way.

On that night he made several laundry deliveries and returned to his living quarters (which were attached to the laundry) at 10:15pm. At 10:30 his neighbor heard screams (but no shots) and went out to summon the police. A police officer happened to be nearby and rushed to the scene. Very little time had elapsed from the time the screams were heard and when that first policeman arrived at the apartment.

After interviewing the neighbor, the officer tried the front door but found it locked from the inside. He tried the back door but found it also had been locked from the inside. Testing the windows, he found them all nailed shut on the inside. There was no way a person could have left the premises without locking a door or window on the inside while standing outside. Because the windows were too small for an adult to squeeze through, the officer broke a window and then asked a small boy to climb through it and unlock the front door.

The officer was then able to get into the apartment and survey the scene. Isidor Fink lay on the floor with three gunshot wounds: two to the chest and one to the wrist. Because of the impossibility of a second person to have been in the room, the police immediately suspected suicide.

But there was no gun anywhere on the premises.

No money or valuables were stolen, so it didn’t appear that robbery had been the motive.

Fingerprints were taken but the only ones found were Isidor Fink’s.

The crime was now clearly a homicide but how did the murderer get into the apartment? And, more puzzling, how did he get out? And what was the motive?

Desperate by now, the police searched the premises for a hidden opening in the walls of the apartment. No secret doors were found.

Somehow a person had gained entrance into the locked apartment, murdered Fisk, and left through an exit that was not a door or a window.

The case would never be solved. It remains an unsolved murder in the annals of New York City police’s history.

The Mammoth Book of Bizarre Crimes by Robin Odell
“100 Weird Years”, The Independent, 12/26/99

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Doug MacGowan lives on the San Francisco peninsula with his wife, a dog, and far too many cats. He has published three books on the topic of historic true crime. In his free time he enjoys reading.
  • Abi Tsai

    My theory:
    Mr. Fink had let the murderer in his house, unknowing. Apparently an ironing machine was still on and had not scorched anything by the time the police came. So perhaps the murderer waited for an opportunity, like while mr fink was ironing clothes and shot him twice in the chest. The murderer backs away out the door, and mr fink, still not dead, crawls toward the door and try’s to deadbolt the door. The murderer shoots him in the hand, and mr fink uses his other hand to lock the door. By the time the police come, he dead.

    Is it just me or does this “small boy” seem suspicious? He could’ve taken anything from the crime scene before unlocking it to the police. Just sayin.

  • John Reade

    The victim encountered the attacker outside the room. They struggled and he was shot. He managed to get into the room and shut and bolt the door to protect himself from further attack, but then collapsed and died from his injuries.

  • Xelif

    The Kid took the gun. It was suicide.