Nov. 27, 1944—Here’s the Story Behind Slaying of Policeman
Nov. 28, 1944—Trial Witness Insists Identification False
Nov. 29, 1944—Postman’s Story at Odds With That of “Finger Woman”
Nov. 30, 1944—Frame-up Seen in Witness’ Acts
Chicago Times, November 30, 1944
Up to six weeks ago Mrs. Tillie Majczek was waging, single-handed, her long fight for evidence that would clear her son of the stigma of murder. But since the TIMES first told the story of the mother’s years of toil as a scrubwoman to raise funds for her boy’s cause, Mrs. Majczek has had the attention and sympathy of all Chicago. The TIMES conducted a new investigation of all aspects of the case and today TIMESmen continue the report on their findings.
By JACK McPHAUL and JAMES McGUIRE
During the 12 years since William D. Lundy was slain, some of the original investigators have died; memories of sleuths still living have faded as far as the case is concerned, and more than one written record has vanished.
Death has taken the officer TIMES investigators of Joe Majczek’s case were most anxious to talk with. He was Michael P. Naughton, a supervising captain when he died last July. As a sergeant he was in charge of the show-up1 at New City station that concluded with the announcement that Vera Walush had identified Majczek as one of Policeman Lundy’s slayers.
Majczek asserts that on Dec. 23, 1`932, Vera twice viewed him said each time he was not one of the bandits who invaded her delicatessen and killed Lundy. Then, Joe says, he was taken to another room, held for an hour, after which he was brought to the station’s handball court.
Naughton, Joe alleges, told Vera to “take another look,” and then according to the prisoner:
This time with hesitation and without looking at me, she said I was one of the killers.
WHY DID VERA CHANGE ‘NO’?
If Joe’s statement is correct, and up to this point in the TIMES investigation all his charges have been substantiated, the question arises:
What happened during that one hour to change Vera’s no to yes?
TIMESmen have talked to several police officers who were in on Joe’s arrest. Generally speaking, their stock answer has been,
Oh, there’s been so many cases since, I can’t remember what happened.
Judge Charles P. Molthrop, whose personal investigation convinced him of Joe’s innocence, is dead; Capt. Naughton is dead, and Vera Walush, the “star” of the police and prosecutors case, today maintains a tight-lipped silence.
But, fortunately for the cause for which Mrs. Tillie Majczek is fighting, there are still facts to to be found by inquiring minds; some records where they should be, and several persons willing to speak out.
34-HOUR GAP FAVORS JOE
At the police warehouse, 32d and Sacramento, a TIMES investigator dug up the the New City station lockup keeper’s record book showing that Joe was arrested at 5:45 AM Thursday. Dec. 22, 1932. At the state’s attorney’s office, another TIMESman unearthed a statement revealing that it was not until 3:45 PM Friday, Dec. 23 that Vera made her “identification.”
To anyone familiar with police procedure, this gap of 34 hours speaks eloquently in support of Joe’s claim that Vera viewed him on several occasions before making her purported identification. And it must be assumed that if she did scrutinize him before the that final episode at New City, she was unable to recognize him otherwise there would not have been such a relatively long period of time, as such police matters go, between the arrest and the announcement of the “finger.”
A knowledge of the type of sleuth Naughton was supports this belief. Diligent, shrewd, methodical, he was not one to have a man in custody for hours without staging a show-up, particularly when identification was the crux of the case.
Thursday night is and has been for years show-up night at the detective bureau. Majczek, arrested on Thursday morning, says he was shown up at the bureau, among other places, that night. If the officer in charge didn’t have Vera on hand to view him at the bureau, he wasn’t the Mickey Naughton veteran police reporters had known. Yet it wasn’t until Friday afternoon that Vera came through with the publicized “identification.”
DISCREPANCY IN STORIES
This picture of a witness unable to identify at a show-up, finally supplying the necessary nod of the head during a viewing marked by a mysterious one-hour intermission finds its perfect twin in the eyebrow-lifting discrepancy between two statements signed by Vera Walush.
At the outset Vera eliminated herself as a reliable witness, although the jury at Joe’s trial nearly a year later had no way of knowing this.
In her statement made immediately after the slaying she said she did not get a good look at the hold-up men; could not describe either of them because “I was so scared that I ran away before I could look at them.” Asked if she would know either of them if she saw them again, she replied:
Maybe by the voice. One of them had niot such a strong voice.
But after the New City show-up the records have her stating confidently that she had gotten a good look at the slayers and had no trouble picking out Joe Majzcek from a line of three men.
TIMESmen burrowed diligently but nowhere did they find any record of a police officer asking her to explain the absence of that “good look”—at the time of the crime and its return 14 days later.
John Zagata, the only other eye-witness to the murder, told The TIMES he was recalled so many times to view Majczek he lost count.
WITNESS PRODDED BY POLICE
If I told them once, I told them a dozen times that in my honest opinion, Majczek was not one of the killers. I told the police he was too small to have been either of the pair. But they insisted I keep on looking at him. They took me out of home nights: once used a squad car to curb my truck, while I was delivering coal.
That the authorities finally gave up Zagata as no help toward their goal is shown by the coroner’s records of the Lundy inquest, Jan. 10, 1933. The only witness the state produced was Mrs. Walush. Majczek’s attorney asked for Zagata. Police said he could not be located. The inquest was adjourned for 10 minutes for police to find him. They were back with him within the 10-minute limit. Again he said Joe was not one of the killers.
William Fitzgerald, Judge Molthrop’s personal bailiff, remembered that on the first day of the trial detectives brought Mrs. Walush up to the courtroom in an elevator reserved for prisoners.
William Fitzgerald said:
It was very unusual to carry a witness in this elevator. Coming from the car she had to pass through the bullpen where Majczek and Ted Marcinkiewicz were waiting to be called. At the time it was my opinion this was done so that she would have an opportunity to see the men again and not falter in her identification.
Readers may pause at this point and ask themselves the question that intrigued TIMES investigators:
Why, in view of this doubt, as to identification (Zagata against Vera Walush) were the police so persistent in efforts to roll up evidence against Majczek?
Not unknown in police annals are cases in which an officer feels morally certain of a prisoner’s guilt and considers himself justified in using any weapon to establish a case. However, it must be said that if any basis existed for such a state of mind it has so far eluded TIMES investigators.
EAGER FOR ‘SPOTLESS TOWN’
Studying Joe’s dilemma from another angle, one must take into consideration Chicago’s civic state of mind during the period of Lundy’s murder. A Century of Progress was to open within a few months; Chicago was expecting “company” from all over the world and murder, especially unsolved murder, was poor advertising. Mayor A. J. Cermak was demanding a “spotless town.”
But three days after Lundy was killed in Vera Walush’s “blind pig,” a second policeman was slain in a speakeasy2. And there were six other murders in the process of investigation. State’s Atty. Thomas J. Courtney said he agreed there should be a clean-up.
The heat was on:
The Lundy murder needed solving.
Looking for another man, the police stumbled upon Joe Majczek.
1 A show-up is an identification procedure in which the police present a single suspect to an eyewitness and then ask the eyewitness whether the suspect is the perpetrator. Unfortunately, the convenience of a show-up comes at a high price: the increased risk of a false identification.
2 Off-duty Policeman Albert G. Magoon was shot and killed in a soft drink parlor ran by Jerry Maas, on the second floor at 2908 North Halsted street on Dec. 12, 1932. Mr. Magoon stopped at the shop just before going home, so he was in his civilian clothes.