Focus on History: Double murder in Amsterdam in the spring of 1951

Thomas J. Mullarkey, 22, came home to Fifth Avenue off Chapel Place in Amsterdam in the spring of 19

Thomas J. Mullarkey, 22, came home to Fifth Avenue off Chapel Place in Amsterdam in the spring of 1951.

Mullarkey had served four years in the military, an enlistment in the U. S. Navy and most recently was in the U.S. Air Force. He was reported to have suffered from headaches while at his air base in Wilmington, Del. He came home on a 15-day furlough, telling his military superiors he was going to Amsterdam to get married.

The evening of Friday, May 4, Mullarkey boarded a bus near his home, according to a bus driver, who later told police the Air Force corporal got off in downtown Amsterdam. Mullarkey told his lawyer he had missed the bus, walked downtown, blacked out and remembered nothing until he came to his senses inside Morley’s Sports Store, at Division and Wall streets, a knife in his hand and the bodies of two men on the floor.

It was 9:45 p.m. when police were called and told there had been a fight in Morley’s store. Two officers entered the store and saw proprietor Percy Morley dead. Morley’s friend, Aniello DiBlasi, was dying and unable to speak.

Before police were called, a 6-year-old girl had been sent downstairs from Morley’s apartment over the store to see why he did not join those upstairs. The shocked youngster summoned a woman from upstairs, Mrs. Roland Hilaire, who later told authorities she had seen a man leaving the store, bleeding from the right hand and carrying a knife. A 15-inch length of pipe with bloodstains also was found near Morley’s Sports Store, but laboratory reports were not made public. It was not clear what happened to that day’s store receipts.

Police followed a trail of blood that ended on Mohawk Place. Mullarkey had gone to the home of a girl, not identified in newspaper accounts. Mullarkey’s family was notified and his father picked up his son and took him to their home. Police said information leading to Mullarkey’s arrest the next day came from the girl or members of her household.

On Saturday, May 5, police took Mullarkey from his home to a hospital, where cuts on his right hand were dressed, and then to the office of District Attorney Clinton Cole for questioning. Charges of first-degree murder were filed. Mullarkey pleaded not guilty. Psychiatrists ruled he was mentally able to stand trial.

Mullarkey had no recollection of what happened to the knife, which physicians who performed the autopsies said was probably five or six inches long with a “keen” blade. Mullarkey told authorities he had thrown bloody handkerchiefs from the bridge into the Mohawk River and that he possibly tossed the knife into the river as well. Police dragged the river with an electromagnet for about two weeks but never recovered the weapon.

State Supreme Court Justice Andrew Ryan had scheduled a hearing for Saturday, June 30, to hear defense motions in the Morley-DiBlasi murder case. Members of the defendant’s and victims’ families were unexpectedly summoned to meet with the judge in his chambers. When court began without a single spectator present, the defendant withdrew his not guilty pleas to first-degree murder and pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder. If convicted of first-degree murder, Mullarkey could have faced the death penalty.

Instead he was sentenced to two concurrent sentences of 20 years to life at hard labor at the state prison in Dannemora.

Mullarkey’s attorney, Harry V. Borst, said at the sentencing, “There is no apparent reason for these crimes.”

According to a reliable source, Mullarkey was released from prison years later to the town of Glen, where he died perhaps 10 to 15 years ago.

Categories: Uncategorized

Leave a Reply