Guilty or Innocent Harry Hoffman, Sam Leibowitz and Maude Bauer Part 1

About the murder of Maude Bauer and the trial of Harry Hoffman a man who fit the suspect's description to a tee.

Harry Hoffman--A Twin by Circumstances

Mar. 25, 1924. The week before, it had snowed on Staten Island, leaving road shoulders muddy and soft. Maude Bauer, an attractive woman of 35, was driving in a wooded area off South Avenue when her right wheels slid into the slush and spun hopelessly. While she was walking to the nearest phone, a man stopped and offered her a lift. An hour later, Maude lay on a deserted road, her clothes shredded, her body bruised, and bullets in her neck and chest.

Maude Bauer had died defending her honor, and the public demanded vengeance. With plentiful clues, police launched a furious manhunt. Barbara Fahs, 13, had seen Maude climb into a Model T Ford. She remembered the driver as dark-complected, with thick brown hair and wearing a brown coat, brown hat, and tortoiseshell glasses. The police added one more clue: Maude had been murdered with a .25-caliber Colt automatic. Fortunately for the murderer, this combination of seven clues could apply to two men--the murderer and Harry Hoffman.

Harry Hoffman was a movie projectionist at the Palace Theatre in Port Richmond. At 32, he was happily married with two young daughters. He stood 5 ft. 6 in. and weighed 198 lb. Roly-poly and nearsighted, he also blew a mean trombone, but otherwise was considered no more dangerous than a marshmallow.

When the description of the murderer hit the newsstands, Hoffman was aghast. It fit him perfectly. And he had no alibi for that crucial hour during which the murder was committed. The police were systematically checking off each clue with every Model T owner in the area. Hoffman knew that when they got to him, the puzzle would fit neatly together and he would be on trial for his life. Frantic, he got a crew cut and had his Model T repainted. Then he set about manufacturing alibis.

When the police finally confronted Hoffman, Barbara Fahs had already identified him as the man with whom Maude Bauer had driven away. Hoffman's desperate fabrication backfired and became the most damaging evidence against him.

His story included a visit to his stockbroker and a chat with his friend Racey Parker. But George McCabe of Hutton & Co. remembered only a phone call in which Hoffman had pleaded with him to vouch for his presence that afternoon. Racey Parker admitted that Hoffman had begged him to tell police that the two of them had been visiting during the hour the murder was committed. Racey had laughingly agreed, until he learned that Harry owned a .25-caliber Colt automatic. When the police reminded Hoffman of the gun, he claimed he had given it to his brother weeks before the murder. He had mailed the gun to his brother all right, but three days after the murder. There was a note attached: "Hold this. Keep it in a safe place. If you hear of my being in trouble, give it to my attorney." The absence of an alibi would have looked suspicious; but by the desperate manufacture of one, Hoffman was sending up flares of guilt.

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