BY ROB CARBONE
For many, July 4th is a day of celebration of our nations independence. But in 1956, one Long Island family was torn apart by an event that would eventually help the nation. On the morning of July 4th, Betty Weinberger did what young mothers all around the world had always done. Peter, her one-month old son, had fallen asleep and Mrs. Weinberger wrapped him in a blanket and placed him in a carriage on the front patio of her family’s Westbury home. Safe in the knowledge that her child would sleep and get fresh air, she went back inside for a few moments and returned to every mother’s nightmare. Peter was gone and in his place was a ransom note.
While kidnappings had happened before, a case of child abduction touched nerves everywhere since the March 1, 1932 kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh Jr. Knowing how that ended could not have been reassuring for Mrs. Weinberger. After contacting the Nassau PD and asking the local newspapers not to cover the story (The Daily News failed to comply and ran the story on the front page), reporters swarmed the ransom drop-off point and the chance to catch the kidnapper was lost.
Six days after the kidnapping, the Weinbergers received two phone calls from the kidnapper with new instructions for the ransom drop-off. Both times the kidnapper did not show up but the police did find a blue, cloth bag with a handwritten note inside saying where the baby would be if the ransom were paid without any difficulties. The next day the FBI, having to wait 7 days before getting involved, entered the case. After establishing a local office to work from and bringing in handwriting experts to examine the notes, a match was found between the ransom note and the handwriting in the probation file of Angelo LaMarca.
A Plainview resident, LaMarca had a wife, two kids and a criminal record. At the time of the kidnapping he was working as a truck and taxi driver who was struggling with a house he could not afford, mounting bills and a loan shark who was threatening his life. As he drove through the Weinberger’s Westbury neighborhood trying to figure out how to pay his bills he saw Mrs. Weinberger placing Peter on the patio and the memories of the Lindbergh case gave him an idea.
On August 23rd, federal and local officers arrested LaMarca at his home. After denying involvement he confessed after being shown the handwriting comparisons. He then admitted that he brought Peter with him to the initial ransom drop-off site but was scared off by the press and police. As he fled he abandoned the infant in tall grass of a Northern State Parkway exit and went home. Upon searching the area a baby pin was found and soon after the decomposed remains of Peter Weinberger.
LaMarca would eventually be convicted of kidnapping & murder on December 14, 1956, and was executed at Sing Sing Prison on August 7, 1958. The Lindbergh Law, which was passed after the famous kidnapping, allowed the FBI to get involved if it was believed that the kidnapping crossed state lines. The tragedy of the Weinberger kidnapping and the fact that if the FBI had gotten involve sooner the baby could have been recovered alive, inspired a change to the Lindbergh Law that President Eisenhower signed reducing the waiting period for FBI involvement from 7 days to 24 hours. So, it took a second horrendous death to improve a twenty-six year old law.
In an odd twist of fate Vincent LaMarca, who was 11 years old when his father was executed for the kidnapping and murder of Peter Weinberger, would grow up to become a decorated police officer in the Long Island community of Long Beach. Upon retiring, La Marca would experience what Michael Corleone proclaimed when he said, “Just when I think I’m out, they pull me back in.” Thirty-eighht years after his grandfather’s execution, Vincent’s son Joey would be convicted and imprisoned for manslaughter for the death of a fellow drug addict. Three generations, two murderers, and one decorated cop left an impression on Nassau County in the name of LaMarca. Vincent would eventually retire to Florida and in a 1997 interview for an article in Esquire Magazine he stated that the only murder stupider than the one his father committed was the one his son committed.
Post Categories: Crime & Justice, Rob Carbone's Crime Beat
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