6 Unforgettable Crimes Connected to Westchester County

Adobe Stock / Michalsanca

From missing persons files to ominous cults, these true crimes committed in our backyard might have you looking over your shoulder for the near future…

true crime
Adobe Stock/ Michalsanca

The revolutionary podcast Serial introduced the masses to the true crime genre and the storytelling that goes with it. Since then, the doors have been blown off and hundreds upon hundreds of podcasts, documentaries, and books covering the topic have emerged. But how many of those larger-than-life stories could possibly happen in our backyard? More than the property taxes are willing to admit.

mother and two kids
Adobe Stock/ Design Studio RM

1977

The Disappearance of Leslie Guthrie

On February 5th, 1977, Leslie Guthrie of Katonah went to pick up her two children, six-year-old Julie and three-year-old Timothy, from their father’s house in her white 1974 Ford Maverick. The trio were never seen again. The 29-year-old was separated from Timothy Sr., the father of the kids, but had done so amicably and maintained a friendly relationship. It was Timothy Sr. who reported them missing the following day after Leslie and the kids failed to make it to her mother’s house in White Plains. At first thought to be involved, Timothy Sr. was ruled out as a suspect in the disappearance of the family, cooperating with authorities and then eventually hiring his own private investigator. Police speculated that wherever Leslie went was not premeditated and that she wasn’t planning on leaving permanently. Leslie’s bank account was untouched before disappearing, and she had no personal belongings on her. The vehicle has never been recovered and their case remains unsolved to this day.

Hand
Adobe Stock / Hamna

1989

Carolyn Warmus, the Fatal Attraction Killer

Born in Michigan into a wealthy family, Carolyn Warmus moved to Westchester in 1987 after landing a teaching job at the Greenville Elementary School in Greenburgh’s Edgemont district. This is where she met fifth-grade teacher Paul Solomon, as well as his wife Betty Jeanne and their daughter Kristan. The two teachers began their affair very shortly after Warmus’ arrival at the school, but the torrid love story turned violent and obsessive when Solomon tried to break it off in May of 1988. Warmus allegedly said to Solomon “life isn’t worth living without you in it,” and the relationship carried on. On the evening of January 15th, 1989, a New York Telephone operator received a phone call from a woman in distress that was abruptly cut off. Police were unable to trace the origin due to an error in the reverse directory. The body of Betty Jeanne was found around midnight in her Greenburgh condominium by Solomon. Initially the focus of the investigation, Solomon was able to provide an alibi — bowling with friends — that checked out. The 25-year-old Warmus allegedly first pistol whipped and shot Betty Jeanne nine times that night, and then met up with an unknowing Solomon after the fact. While his alibi began with his friends, he ended up leaving the bowling alley to meet up with Warmus. The two ate dinner and then had sex in Warmus’ car before he returned home to the grizzly sight. Two weeks before the murder, Warmus allegedly purchased a .26-caliber handgun from Vincent Parco, a Manhattan private investigator, for $2,500. The gun has never been found. While her first trial ended in a hung jury, Warmus’ next trial resulted in a hard right turn. Her lawyer argued that Solomon was framing her for murdering Betty Jeanne himself, given how quickly after her death Solomon had a girlfriend. An extra element also unfolded in the second trial when prosecutors entered new evidence — a bloody cashmere glove, found at the crime scene, that they said belonged to Warmus. The new jury found Warmus guilty of second-degree murder after six days of deliberations, despite her lawyer questioning how the glove seemingly appeared in a closet out of thin air after the first trial and how there was no way of knowing it belonged to Warmus. She was sentenced to 25-years-to-life at Bedford Women’s Correctional Facility. Released in 2019 after spending 27 years behind bars, Warmus still maintains her innocence.

- Advertisement -
Legs
Adobe Stock/ Galina

1990s

The Tanglewood Boys

Despite seeming like it was ripped from Coppola’s imagination, there was still active mob activity in Westchester as recently as 30 years ago. Responsible for multiple murders across the early 90’s, the Tangelwood Boys were used as the minor leagues for the larger Lucchese Crime Family. Operating out of the Tanglewood Shopping Center in Yonkers, the gang was responsible for murder, arson, bookmaking, and more across the county, the Bronx, and into Manhattan. The entire operation began to spiral in 1994. Early that year, the Boys murdered Louis Balancio, a 21-year-old Mercy College student outside of a Yonkers sports bar after he was mistaken for a rival Albanian gangster. The crime had dozens of witnesses, all of whom refused to cooperate with authorities. That same day, an FBI agent observed capo Anthony Santorelli dumping something into the garbage, which turned out to be bloody clothes. A DNA test was conducted on the clothes, and results showed that the blood belonged to Balancio. After that, Anthony DiSimone, the son of Lucchese family capo Salvatore DiSimone, went into hiding. In December 1996, Darin Mazzarella was charged with the murder of Balancio, and Santorelli was charged with dumping the bloody clothes. As a result of his imprisonment, mirroring a path we often see in the movies, Mazzarella became a government witness. The information he was able to provide is credited with leading to significant infiltration of the Tanglewood Boys and the Lucchese family. Mazzarella gave information to investigators and prosecutors on multiple murder cases, including admitting to participating in some with Alfred Santorelli, the capo’s son, and testifying against his former gang cohorts. Most of the Tanglewood Boys activity came to a halt in 2005, when the then-leader of the gang Michael “Chunk” Londonio opened fire on police officers searching his apartment, wounding two, before he was shot and killed. While La Cosa Nostra had all but fizzled out from reality to history, like any good legend, it still had some legs.

2010

Sarah Lawrence College Student Cult

In a case that seems ripped right out of a horror movie, a twisted tale of abuse and manipulation unfolded in Bronxville. In the fall of 2010, Talia Ray was just beginning her sophomore year at Sarah Lawrence College. She was excited, living an off-campus townhouse with her closest friends and boyfriend, and starting her second year on her road to becoming a lawyer, a profession she chose to “help people like her dad.” But that bubble of happiness was soon to burst for the group. Larry Ray, her father whom Talia idolized, moved into the dorm later that year after he was released from jail. Posing as a mentor to Talia’s friends, the dynamic and captivating Ray infiltrated the group with wisdom and charisma. Under the guise of care and guidance, Ray slowly began exploiting and manipulating the group, preying on their weak points, and controlling every aspect of their lives, often coercing them into humiliating and sexual experiences. His “family talks” soon morphed into mandatory lectures about his own personal beliefs. By the summer of 2011, several of the students were living in an apartment with Ray on 93rd Street in Manhattan, and he had them all under his thumb. Small missteps and innocuous actions soon became the reason for lectures, apology letters, and in some cases accusations by Ray that the offender was trying to tear his family apart. It was around this time that Ray was forcing many in the group to have sex with one another, oftentimes with him joining or involving another party. For those who were still living in the Upper East Side apartment by the time the students entered their senior year, privacy was a pipe dream: Ray had removed door handles and locks from bathrooms and bedrooms and added locks to the fridge. He also began claiming things were “broken” and pressuring the students into getting exorbitant money from their parents to fix the damage. The parents of one group member estimate that they gave Ray more than $200,000 over three years, and were forced to sell their house to cover the costs. Ray soon started to engage in increasingly violent behavior, and the emotional and physical damage affected almost every member of the group, with a few finding the courage to break off and escape. In response to an April 2019 article in The Cut, authorities began to investigate Ray. In January 2023, he was sentenced to 60 years in prison for racketeering conspiracy, violent crime in aid of racketeering, extortion, sex trafficking, forced labor, tax evasion, and money laundering offenses.

College Students
Adobe Stock/ Galina

On the Fringes

While not perpetrated in the 914, these crimes were committed by Westchester natives. Next time you feel like you have a weird neighbor…you just might.

gun
True crimes in Westchester. Adobe Stock/ Dovla982

1989

The Betty Broderick Murders

While the murder took place on the West Coast, Elizabeth “Betty” Broderick (nee Bisceglia) grew up in Bronxville and attended Maria Regina High School in Hartsdale. Westchester ties run deep for Betty, as she and husband Dan Broderick were married at Immaculate Conception Church in Tuckahoe. When Dan decided after finishing his medical degree to pursue a J.D. at Harvard Law School, Betty became the family’s sole provider. After being hired by a law firm on the west coast, Dan moved the family to La Jolla, CA, with Betty continuing to work part-time while she raised the kids. In late 1982, Dan hired 21-year-old Linda Kolkena, a former flight attendant, to be his legal assistant. A year later, a distraught Betty suspected the two were having an affair. With their marriage on the rocks, Dan moved out in February 1985, starting a long and hostile divorce proceeding. The divorce not only saw Betty lose custody of her children, but Dan’s legal influence made it impossible for Betty to find a lawyer willing to work with her. During this time, Dan also sold the couple’s house without Betty’s knowledge and cheated her out of her share of the proceeds. Betty’s erratic behavior escalated as the years went by, and she ignored multiple restraining orders placed against her. In 1989, seven months after Dan and Linda Kolkena were married, Betty drove over to their house with a Smith & Wesson revolver, unlocked the front door using a key she had taken from her daughter, and shot the couple while they slept.

Murder
True crimes in Westchester. Adobe Stock/ Ninanaina

2009

Framing the Nine-Year-Old

In 2009, unemployed stockbroker, backgammon professional and Scarsdale native Roderick Covlin was in the midst of a vicious divorce and custody battle with his wife, UBS executive Shele Danishefsky. The two lived on the same floor in a building on the Upper West Side, maintaining separate apartments. The morning of New Year’s Eve, Danishefsky was found unresponsive, with a gash on her head, and floating face down in the tub by the couple’s then-nine-year-old daughter, Anna. Jarred by the sight, Anna immediately called her father, who rushed over and attempted CPR. The timing was incredibly suspicious: Danishefsky had made an appointment with her legal team for the day after her death to cut Covlin, also a known gambling addict, out of her $5 million will. Because Danishefsky was an orthodox Jew whose family adhered to traditional death and burial customs, there was never an autopsy, and her death was ruled undetermined, with authorities believing it was a slip and fall. However, sometime later, the Danishefsky’s family allowed her body to be exhumed and autopsied. It revealed a fractured hyoid bone, a hallmark of strangulation, and her death was then ruled a homicide. In 2013, the District Attorney reopened the investigation, sending Covlin, who had moved back to Westchester, into a panic. Covlin attempted to incriminate his daughter of the crime in an email, impersonating his daughter and “confessing” to getting in an argument with her mom and pushing her into the tub. But the charade wasn’t enough, and after bragging to a girlfriend at the time about getting away with murder and plotting to murder his own parents to cover his tracks, Covlin was arrested in 2015 and charged with two counts of second-degree murder. During the trial, in a moment that felt reminiscent of the movie Legally Blonde, there was a revelation. The day before her murder, Danishefsky had a keratin hair treatment to smooth out her hair. The treatment requires recipients to keep their hair dry for three days, raising the question as to why she was in the bathtub. With evidence mounting against a stone-faced Covlin, the case finally came to a head in 2019, when he was sentenced to 25-years-to-life behind bars.

- Partner Content -

Related: 2 Page-Turning Books About Crime and Law With Westchester Ties

Our Healthcare Heroes Awards event takes place on May 9!

Our Westchester Home Builders Awards take place on April 4!

Our Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Forum is March 14!

Unveiled: A Boutique Bridal Brunch is February 25!

Our Best of Westchester Elimination Ballot is open through March 6!

Holiday flash sale ... subscribe and save 50%

Limited time offer. New subscribers only.