Until Proven Innocent: Could the real-life Kojak help save a man from the electric chair?

Until Proven Innocent: Could the real-life Kojak help save a man from the electric chair?

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by Arthur Jay Harris
     
 

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The prosecutor was no longer sure both murder defendants were guilty.
So he asked his dad -- the real-life Kojak.

The Miami Herald:
"[Brian] Cavanagh called on his father for help. Three decades ago, as a New York City detective, Thomas Cavanagh became famous clearing a man accused of a Manhattan murder. His work led to the original Kojak TV movie and

Overview

The prosecutor was no longer sure both murder defendants were guilty.
So he asked his dad -- the real-life Kojak.

The Miami Herald:
"[Brian] Cavanagh called on his father for help. Three decades ago, as a New York City detective, Thomas Cavanagh became famous clearing a man accused of a Manhattan murder. His work led to the original Kojak TV movie and subsequent series.

Thomas Cavanagh built a reputation for cracking tough cases. He continued to track down elusive killers even after he retired and moved to South Florida. More than 15 years after he retired, Cavanagh used his legendary skills to help find a man who murdered a Davie woman during a home-invasion robbery.

Working together to crack a Davie murder case, the real- life Kojak and his prosecutor son..."


Breathless, a woman's call to 911 interrupted a quiet night in the horse country suburbs:
"I'm stabbed to death. Please!"
Did somebody stab you? asked the operator.
"Yes! And my husband, my baby!"

Within minutes, officers arrived at her remote ranch house but didn't know whether an assailant was still present. Announcing themselves, they got no response, then entered anyway, guns drawn, and began a dangerous, tense search, room by room. Then they heard a baby's scream. Although the house wasn't yet fully cleared, they followed the wailing to the master bedroom where they found, tied and gagged, her husband and elderly father-in-law. They and their 18-month-old all had been shot point-blank in the head--but were still alive.

Shocked, the officers called out to bring in paramedics, who had to crawl through the living room because the house still had not been completely cleared. Hurrying, and contrary to usual procedures, the officers spread out. One found a locked closet door; four officers gathered, and with guns ready, one of them kicked it in. Behind it they found their 911 caller--still holding the phone. "Oh, shit," said the kicker.

In the history of Davie, Florida, there had never been such a savage and sociopathic crime, and police and homicide prosecutor Brian Cavanagh were determined to resolve it. For three years, they had two suspects under surveillance, then arrest. Both faced the death penalty. But as the legal case progressed, Cavanagh began to doubt that the defendants were partners. Possibly one had been a victim of the other, as well.

In 1963, Cavanagh's dad, Tom, a Manhattan lieutenant of detectives, had a famous case called the "Career Girls Murder," two women in their twenties found horribly mutilated in their Upper East Side apartment. The newspapers played the story big, a random killer on the loose, meanwhile Tom and his precinct detectives had been unable to solve it.

Months after the murder, Brooklyn detectives declared the case solved; they'd taken a signed confession from a man with a low IQ. Their additional proof was a photo in his wallet; it was of one of the girls he killed, he said. The man quickly recanted, although that didn't much matter to the Brooklyn detectives.

As soon as he heard some of the details of the confession, Tom disbelieved it; the man didn't fit the profile. Needing to work quietly under the most difficult of circumstances, Tom sent out his own detectives to do the impossible: identify the girl in the picture. It had been taken in some sort of park setting. They first showed it to botanists, who recognized the type of trees in the background and where they grew. From that they could guess at where the park was. Targeting nearby high schools, the detectives then showed the photo to teachers to see if any could recognize the girl.

One did. When they found the girl, she asked, "Where did you get that?"

After all that impossibly good work, Tom and his detectives caught a break and found the real killer of the Career Girls. Until then, Tom said, he hadn't believed that police could make such mistakes. Afterward, as a result, New York State outlawed the death penalty. As well, this remarkable story inspired a TV movie and series starring a character playing Cavanagh's role. His name was Lt. Theo Kojak.

As a child, Brian Cavanagh had watched his dad's anguish throughout that situation. Now, he had a case that was remarkably similar--except that he was potentially on the wrong side. Once his confidence level in the guilt of one of his defendants dropped to a level of precarious uncertainty, Brian was in no-man's land. He couldn't continue with a prosecution he no longer believed in, nor could he easily admit he'd been wrong for so long. While his dad was still around to watch, Brian approached his own moment of courage. Could he prove that he was the equal of his father?

Product Details

ISBN-13:
2940016514581
Publisher:
Arthur Jay Harris
Publication date:
02/01/2016
Series:
Harris True Crime Collection , #4
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
422
Sales rank:
355,295
File size:
2 MB

Meet the Author

Arthur Jay Harris is the author of the investigative true crime books Speed Kills, Flowers for Mrs. Luskin, Until Proven Innocent, and the two-book series with a Single Edition, The Unsolved Murder of Adam Walsh, all stories that challenge the official findings by police and prosecutors. He lives in Florida.

For the Adam Walsh case, he has appeared on television many times: ABC Primetime; Anderson Cooper 360; Nancy Grace; Ashleigh Banfield; The Lineup; Inside Edition; Catherine Crier; Cold Blood, and on local TV in Miami and Milwaukee. He has also written stories on the case that have appeared in print in The Miami Herald, Broward-Palm Beach New Times, and Miami Daily Business Review.

In addition, Art has presented on television other crime stories he has investigated at length, including on the shows Snapped; City Confidential; Prison Diaries, Inside Edition, A Current Affair, and Hard Copy.

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Until Proven Innocent: Could the real-life Kojak help save a man from the electric chair? 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent true crime book. Author explores all the characters backgrounds thoroughly. Includes an epilogue as well. Long book, holds your interest the entire.time. Well worth the money.