Joseph Force Crater **  New York City, NY

Joseph Force Crater
Missing since August 6, 1930 from New York City, New York County, New York.
Classification: Missing

Vital Statistics

Date Of Birth: January 5, 1889
Age at Time of Disappearance: 41 years old
Height and Weight at Time of Disappearance: 6'0; 180 lbs
Distinguishing Characteristics: White male. Brown hair, mixed with gray, thin at the top, parted in the middle and "slicked" down. Brown eyes.
Marks, Scars: The tip of his right index finger is somewhat mutilated due to having been crushed. The Greek lettering of his college fraternity "Sigma Chi" tattooed on his left arm.
Clothing: Last seen wearing a dark-brown, double-breasted suit with thin green stripes, pearl gray spats, a high white linen collar with a detachable choker, a panama hat or one of a similar style, wore tortoiseshell glasses for reading, yellow gold Masonic ring somewhat worn, a yellow gold square-shaped wristwatch with a leather strap.
Dentals: Dentures for upper and lower jaws.
Circumstances of Disappearance
Crater was an associate justice on the New York State Supreme Court in 1930. Crater had an association with several organized crime members and a few suspicious financial dealings.

Crater was married to Stella Wheeler, whom he wed in 1917. Crater and Wheeler were residing in their summer house in Belgrade Lakes, Maine in June 1930 after the courts recessed. Crater received a phone call in Maine in late July and told his wife he had to travel to New York City. He returned to Maine by August 1, after apparently stopping in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Crater traveled to New York City again on August 3 and stayed at the 5th Avenue apartment he owned with his wife. Crater reportedly spent two hours in his office during the morning hours of August 6. He removed several files in locked briefcases and brought the papers back to his residence. Crater's assistant told authorities that his employer cashed $5,000 worth of checks later in the day before dismissing him.

Crater purchased one ticket for the Broadway performance of Dancing Partner at the Belasco Theater later that night. He arrived at Billy Has' Chophouse on West 45th Street during the evening hours and met his friend, attorney William Klein. Showgirl Sally Lou Ritz, was also at the restaurant. Witnesses stated that Crater departed from the restaurant at approximately 21.10, which was after the start time of the play he planned to attend. Crater hailed a taxi on West 45th Street and disappeared. He has never been heard from again.

Wheeler became concerned about her husband when she failed to contact him by August 16, 1930, ten days after he was last seen. Authorities initially believed Crater would return to New York in short order and did not begin an investigation. A search was initiated on August 25, when Crater failed to appear at the opening of the courts. A grand jury was convened in October 1930, nearly two months after Crater's disappearance. Substantial evidence was collected during the investigation, but the jury members could not decide if Crater was deceased.

Wheeler sued several insurance companies in 1937, seven years after her husband vanished. She claimed that he had been murdered by members of organized crime. The companies won the lawsuits, but Wheeler continued to maintain that Crater was a victim of foul play due to his political and criminal connections.

Crater was declared legally deceased in 1939.


Investigators
If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:

NYPD Missing Person's Squad
1-212-694-7781

Agency Case Number: 13595

Source Information:
Reader's Digest
Hardini's Place
The Seattle Times 8/20/05

http://www.doenetwork.org/cases/626dmny.html

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Comment by Brenda on April 14, 2011 at 8:45pm
APRIL 14, 2011
Looking Back: New Novel Suggests Fate of Judge Joe Crater, Class of 1910
posted in ALUMNI, NEWS AND FEATURES
tagged with ARCHIVES, CLASS OF 1910, HISTORICAL

Judge Joseph Crater, Class of 1910
Just over 100 years ago, Easton, Pa., native Joseph Force Crater graduated from Lafayette and went on to become a New York State Supreme Court Justice, appointed in 1930 by then-Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt. Then four months later, he disappeared. One of the most notorious unsolved missing-person cases in history, two books and numerous magazine articles have probed the mystery, including a flurry of coverage in 2005 when a long-sealed letter revealed new information.

In The Man Who Never Returned (Overlook, 2010), novelist Peter Quinn imagines what became of Judge Crater. When he began his research, the New York City Police Department’s Missing Persons Squad discovered three accordion files that had been left on top of a file cabinet. Quinn, familiar with the case due to his father’s interest, realized that the files revealed details that had not been published. His father was a justice at the same Foley Square courthouse where Crater worked. In the novel, private investigator Fintan Dunne is hired by a media tycoon in 1955 to solve the case.

Crater was a snappy dresser, known for his tailored suits. When he disappeared he was wearing pearl-gray spats, a double-breasted brown suit with thin green stripes, and a Panama hat cocked at a sporty angle. He wore an old-fashioned detachable choker collar of starched linen and a gold Masonic ring.


Judge Joseph Crater, Class of 1910
Crater grew up in the house at 503 Ferry St., Easton, which was restored in 1988. He graduated first in his class at Easton High in 1906 and won a scholarship to Lafayette. He received his law degree from Columbia University.

As the story goes, on Wednesday, Aug. 6, 1930, Crater entered Billy Haas’s restaurant at 332 West 45th St., just beyond Eighth Avenue and met his friend, William Klein, attorney for the Shubert brothers, and Sally Lou Ritz, a Shubert show girl. He had a ticket for Dancing Partner, playing at the Belasco Theater. They all departed about 9 p.m. Crater hailed a taxicab heading west on 45th; Klein and Ritz reported later that they watched it depart and then they headed east toward the Shubert office.

Crater was never seen again.

At the time, his wife, Stella Wheeler Crater, whom he married in 1917, was at their summer home in Belgrade Lakes, Maine. Crater had been with her until he received a disturbing phone call on Sunday, Aug. 3. He left for New York by train and promised to return the following Saturday, Aug. 9. When he didn’t return, Stella hired a private detective to find him. Carter’s law firm, Wagner, Quillinan, and Rifkind, was also searching for him. Finally, on Sept. 3, Simon H. Rifkind went to police headquarters and made a full report.

A huge investigation began, with the city offering a $5,000 reward. The results revealed that he was involved with a number of chorus girls, one of whom, Vivian Gordon, was murdered by gangland assassins shortly after Crater’s disappearance and just before she was scheduled to testify against the policy in an unrelated corruption case.


Judge Joseph Crater, Class of 1910, disappeared mysteriously more than 80 years ago.
On the day of his disappearance, Crater gathered a stack of files and folders from his office, and along with his personal assistant, took them to his apartment. He also gave his assistant two checks, for $3,000 and $2,100, and asked him to cash them for bills of large denominations. Crater put the envelopes in the inside pocket of his suit jacket.

When Stella returned to their New York apartment on Jan. 21, she opened a secret drawer in her dresser and found three envelopes with cash, stock cert

Events

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