August 24, 2012

The summer of ’42

Seventy years ago, two killings rocked our small community in a way that no crime had ever before. One of the saddest days in Bedford history occurred in mid-September, 1942. The case brought national newspaper headlines, even juxtaposed against the canvas of the worst years of World War II.

While a bitter war raged in Europe and the Pacific, Bedford Village was a relative oasis of calm. Yet on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 18-year-old Edward Haight “coolly and dispassionately,” in the words of a reporter of the time, kidnapped, abused and savagely murdered Margaret Lynch, 7, and her sister Helen, 8.

Reporters described how at the funeral the twin white coffins of the girls were carried across mist-enveloped lawns and into the stone St. Patrick’s church. Villagers stood silently on the walks, heads bared and faces graven with memories of the Lynch children, “who only Monday afternoon rubbed noses on the baker’s window, sucked licorice sticks at the candy shop,” according to reports at the time.

Three hundred mourners attended the mass. Twenty classmates of the girls at Bedford Village District School marched from the school in a group, accompanied by teachers. District Attorney Elbert T. Gallagher of Westchester County came with his aide, Major Raymond Moniz. Others among the throng were Bedford Police Chief Frank Mallette and J. Clifford McChristie, justice of the peace, who presided over the first arraignment of Edward Haight.

Their killer was to be tried, convicted and sentenced to death. “Lynching was too good for him,” local residents said.

On July 8, 1943, Edward Haight became the youngest person to be executed in Sing Sing’s electric chair and, to this day, is the youngest man in New York to have been served the death penalty. Edward Haight was buried in a plot of quick lime in nearby Peekskill.

In a world rocked by the random killings of a family of Sikhs in Wisconsin, the shooting of college students at Texas A&M and moviegoers in Colorado, few atrocities shock us. Even in Bedford, strings of burglaries and break-ins, an unsolved assault in the Glebe, and domestic violence threaten our safety and security. Gun control may be an answer, but it is only part of the equation.

Violence, it seems, is always someplace else. Yet 70 years ago, it was all too close, all too real.

As we look around us today, at the headlines of the tabloids and the 24/7 litany of tragedies of all stripes, let us take a moment to remember these two young children — victims of an insanity that remains just below the surface of the American dream.

The summer of ’12

A few very troubling incidents in our area remain under investigation, and serve as reminders that we as a community must remain vigilant in keeping ourselves, our families, our neighbors and our towns safe.

We’re fortunate to live in a beautiful, peaceful and safe area — but crime occurs in even the safest of places. Bedford has an able, dedicated but relatively small police force, which makes it even more incumbent on residents to keep an eye out for one another. The police can’t be everywhere and can’t, even with the best intentions, keep Bedford safe on their own. But if each of us employ a “If you see something, say something” approach, we can continue to enjoy the safety and security we’ve all grown accustomed to.

In terms of those incidents, the Bedford police continue to investigate a sexual assault that occurred on May 17, in the wooded area behind St. Matthew’s Church. According to police, the 18-year-old female victim reported the assault, and stated she had been in the area behind the church walking her dog when the attack occurred. After the assault, she fled the woods and called 911. She was transported to Northern Westchester Hospital for treatment and released.

The white male is described as being in his 50s with salt-and-pepper hair. At the time of the incident, he was described as having a full beard that was neatly groomed.

Recently, two lewd conduct incidents, one on Route 35 and one on Maple Avenue, have also been reported in these pages. The former resulted in an arrest; in the second, the suspect is still at large.

Also in Westchester, MTA police are seeking a suspect wanted in connection with a criminal sexual act in the first degree and criminal use of a firearm first degree. The subject has been known to use the alias of Steve Smoltz and Mike Snell. Subject has a history of paying his victims using counterfeit $100 bills.

On numerous occasions, Bedford Police Chief William Hayes and other members of the department have told residents that the police would rather get a report of something suspicious and determine it to be nothing of concern than to not get the phone call at all.

Paying attention to what’s going on around us can go a long way in terms of crime prevention. And in the case of the ongoing investigations, anyone with information about these incidents should immediately contact police.

The Bedford detectives bureau can be reached at 241-3111, and MTA detectives can be reached at 969-1800.

Read more local coverage of your hometown in this week’s issue of the The Record-Review. Newsstand copies are available at several locations listed above, or subscribe today for convenient home delivery.

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Pound Ridge/Scotts Corners

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  3. Sam Parker Country Market — 257 Westchester Avenue    

Bedford Village

  1. Bedford Rexall Pharmacy — Hunting Ridge Mall; 424 Old Post Road  

  2. Village Green Deli — Village Green; Routes 22 and 172    

  3. Bedford Shell — Routes 22 and 172 (at blinking light); 848 So. Bedford Road

  4. Village Service Center —193 Pound Ridge Road (at Long Ridge Road intersection)    

Bedford Hills

  1. Bedford Hills Deli – 7 Babbitt Road    

  2. Bueti’s Deli – 526 Bedford Road (Route 117)


  1. NoKA Joe’s – 25 Katonah Avenue    

  2. Steger’s Paper Mill – 89 Katonah Avenue    

  3. Katonah Pharmacy – Katonah Shopping Center; 294 Katonah Avenue   

  4. Bagel Shoppe – Katonah Shopping Center; 280 Katonah Avenue    

  5. Katonah Sunoco – 105 Bedford Road

Mount Kisco

  1. Teamo/Mt. Kisco News – 239 Main Street    

Cross River

  1. Bagel Boys Café – Cross River Shopping Center; Routes 121 and 35    

  2. Cross River Shell Station – Route 35    

  3. Cameron’s Deli –  890 Route 35    

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