Cousin Solly and the “Kiss of Death Girl”

Hit-man for Murder, Inc…wanted to go straight… killed and thrown into a lake:  the family legend turns out to be true.

Solly (Solomon) Goldstein was the the fourth of five children born in the US to my father’s Uncle Shimon (Sam).  Born in about 1913 in New York City, he was 23 or 24 years old when he disappeared.  He was also sometimes known as “Jack.”

Some background

In 1920’s Brooklyn, New York, during Prohibition, the docks, unions, most shops, small businesses, laundries and restaurants were under the “protection” of the mobsters and were coerced into paying protection money.  As Prohibition ended, the gangs expanded their reach into bookmaking, illegal drugs, prostitution, loan-sharking and more.

The National Crime Syndicate was a loose association of Jewish and Italian gangs that allowed the rival mobs to co-exist relatively peacefully, and was formed to protect their businesses interests. They functioned as equals; the mob bosses formed a Board of Directors that respected each gang’s territories and forbade any assassinations that weren’t approved by this Board of Directors.  This was the beginning of what we know of as “organized crime.”

Abe “Kid Twist” Reles had control of the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn; he and his “Brooklyn Boys” gained the admiration of the Syndicate for their carefully planned, dispassionate and skillfully-done assassinations.  They became known as “Murder, Inc” and served as the exclusive executioners for all the contracts approved by the Syndicate’s Board of Directors.  The most prolific and brutal of the murderers was Harry “Pittsburgh Phil” Strauss.

Solly’s story

What I have learned about Solly comes from numerous newspaper articles of the day as well as the book, Murder, Inc: the Story of the Syndicate, by Burton B. Turkus and Sid Feder.

Solomon Goldstein, St. Albans Daily Messenger, March 28, 1940.

The first report of Solomon’s activities that I found was in the Brooklyn Times Union of June 28, 1933[1], which wrote that Solly had been involved in a robbery and shooting.  He was accused of being one of two men who held up a pool hall at 176 Sumner Avenue in Brooklyn, shooting a customer and an off-duty police officer who rushed to the scene.  Solomon was able to escape but was apprehended at the Gates Avenue station.  His  arraignment for assault and robbery was scheduled for June 28th.  I haven’t yet discovered the result of that arraignment.

I know that he was involved in the rackets at the Fulton Fish Market, but not in what way precisely.  However, I do know about his love life, which involved the infamous “Kiss of Death Girl,” Evelyn Mittelman.

The “Kiss of Death Girl”

Brooklyn-born, beautiful, blonde Evelyn Mittelman began her notorious career in California when she was 17.  In an argument at a dance hall over who had dibs on her, her then-boyfriend, Hymie Miller, was killed.  Robert Feuer was either the man who shot Hymie Miller, or he met Evelyn a couple of years later after she made her way back to New York.  In any case, at another dance in 1935, Solomon spied the tall blonde with Feuer.

Evelyn Mittelman, the “Kiss of Death Girl.”

Feuer was unhappy with the attention Solomon paid to Evelyn and told him so.  He also complained to Evelyn about Solomon, who declared that “…no one could give the lovely young lady a hard time like that when he was around.”[2]

To defend whatever was left of Evelyn’s honor and win her affections, Solomon shot Robert Feuer on May 14, 1935, at 170 Grand Street in Brooklyn.  Feuer, age 24, was taken to “…St. Catharine’s Hospital…with a bullet wound in his abdomen”[3] and died of his wounds.

Solomon was charged with felonious assault; a hearing was set for June 17 and bail was denied[4]The Syndicate generally took care of anyone who was arrested, providing sufficient legal services to the extent that almost nobody served time for anything; perhaps that is why Solomon was soon back on the streets.  But the main thing was that Evelyn was now Solomon’s girl.

Their romantic idyll lasted until Solomon and Evelyn attended yet another dance, probably in late 1935 or early ’36.  There she was spotted by Harry Strauss, aka “Pittsburgh Phil,” who was Murder, Inc.’s star killer.  Solomon apparently hadn’t learned anything from the unfortunate Robert Feuer’s experience, and complained then and there that he didn’t like Pittsburg Phil’s attentions to Evelyn.

Harry Strauss, aka Pittsburgh Phil. Daily News, May 13, 1940, p.7.

The two men went to a nearby poolroom to “talk things over,” which entailed Pittsburgh Phil giving Solomon a ferocious beating with a pool cue.  And, of course, he left with Evelyn Mittelman on his arm.  Pittsburgh Phil was in, Solomon was out, the Kiss of Death Girl was three for three, and she dyed her blonde hair dark brown at Phil’s request.

Solomon suffered serious facial injuries which permanently altered his hitherto handsome appearance.  However, he had escaped with his life, an unusually lucky break.  Shortly thereafter, he met red-haired Helen Eiger,  and decided to break with the mob.  In late July 1936 they were married in Monticello, Sullivan County, in the Catskills, and began their honeymoon in a resort cottage at Glen Wilde.

Prior to all of this Solomon had been involved with the rackets in the Fulton Fish Market, a huge and entirely corrupt municipal enterprise run by the racketeer, “Socks” Lanza, who wielded enormous power.  Activities included “…Phantom paychecks, payroll padding, rigged Union elections, labor extortion.  Kickbacks…parking concession fees, port “association” fees, cargo thefts, gambling, loan sharking, truck hijacking, narcotics smuggling.”[5]  In the mid-1930’s Lanza was indicted by a federal grand jury for “…monopolistic control of fish…”[6]  He was convicted, appealed and a retrial was set for 1936.  Lanza realized that, now that Solomon had gone straight, he was potentially a very dangerous witness.  A contract for his murder was therefore approved and Pittsburgh Phil, who had his own personal grudge against Solomon, was given the job.[7]

Four years later when Assistant District Attorney Burton B. Turkus was investigating the hundreds of unsolved murders attributed to Murder, Inc., Solomon’s killing was on his short list.  Abe “Kid Twist” Reles finally sang to Turkus and gave him the details of Solomon’s murder:

On the night of August 3, 1936, Solomon and Helen were in their honeymoon cottage at Glen Wilde preparing to go out.  Solomon received a phone call and then a car drove up for him; the people in the car were known to him.  Helen watched through the cottage window as he got in the car and that was the last time Solomon was seen alive.  Abraham “Pretty” Levine, Anthony “Dukey” Maffatore, Mikey Syckoff and Jack Cutler were involved in transporting Solomon (photos of some of these thugs are below).[8]  Pittsburgh Phil’s instructions were to have Solomon delivered to him alive, so Pretty knocked him unconscious with a hammer to the head.  Phil tied him up with wire – probably using his special technique that caused victims to strangle themselves as they struggled against the restraints – and wrapped him in a blanket. The inert but still-living Solomon was taken in a boat rowed by Allie Tannenbaum and Jack Drucker[9] to the middle of Loch Shedrake, weighted with automobile parts and dumped in.[10]

Sol was finally reported missing on August 25, 1936, but apparently not by his new wife.  She disappeared shortly after Solomon’s disappearance, remarried, and was later questioned during the 1940 investigations.[11].  His disappearance remained a mystery until Reles sang four years later. 

On March 26, 1940, State Troopers questioned Solomon’s mother Gussie and his sister (probably Frieda, who would still have been living at home) but were told “nothing of importance.”[12]  That May a grappling hook, an under-water electric magnet and finally a diver were sent into the lake to try to find Solomon’s body, without success. [13]  Solomon Goldstein’s body was never recovered.

Pittsburgh Phil was eventually convicted for the murder of Irv “Puggy” Feinstein, and died in the electric chair; Evelyn remained true to him till the end and visited him on the eve of his execution.

In 1940, news of the investigation and prosecution of Murder, Inc. members, including Solomon’s case, was covered throughout the United States case.  I found articles from all over New York State but also from as far away as Lake Kalispell, MO.

Burton B. Turkus’ book, Murder, Inc: The Story of the Syndicate is out of print but available in some libraries and from Internet booksellers.  The movie based on the book, Murder, Inc., introducing Peter Falk as Kid Twist Reles, is available on Amazon Prime for a couple of bucks.  Solomon Goldstein is not featured in the script but the movie is pretty true to the book.

I have sent FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests to the New York City Police Department to see if I can get anymore information on Solomon’s arrests and to the New York State Police to see if there’s a report from the interview done in 1940 with Gussie Goldstein.  When and if I hear from them, I’ll follow up here.

The photos below are from the Burton B. Turkus Papers, held in the Lloyd Sealy Library Special Collections Room at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.  Maffatore and Levine were among Solomon’s killers; Levine is the one who hit him in the head with the hammer.

[1] Brooklyn Times. (June 28, 1933).  “Arrested as Bandit in Holdup Affray,” p. 3.

[2] Turkus, Burton B. and Feder, Sid (1951). Murder, Inc: the Story of the Syndicate. New York: Farrar, Strauss & Young, p. 207.

[3] Brooklyn Daily Eagle. (May 15, 1935). “Youth Shot Down in Grand Street Row,” p.6.

[4]  Brooklyn Times Union. (1935, June 14). Two Held in Shooting,” p.9.

[5] https://infamousnewyork.com/category/fulton-fish-market/

[6] Turkus & Feder, Op Cit, Murder, Inc., p. 209.

[7] Turkus & Feder, Ibid, p. 210.

[8] Conway, John, Sullivan County Democrat. “The Honeymoon Murder,” Retrospect column.

[9]Conway, John. Ibid.

[10] Turkus & Feder, Op Cit, p. 210-211.

[11] Middletown Times Herald. (April 16, 1940). “Three Suspected in Yuran Murder,” pp. 1-2.

[12]  Dunkirk Evening Observer. (March 27, 1940). “Confessions of Many Gangsters Sifted by Cops,” p.2.

[13] Cornish, Dick (May 13, 1940). “Magnet Spots Body of Mob Moll’s Ex in Loch.” Daily News, p.7.

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