Case File: Joseph Force Crater - 626DMNY
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Joseph Force Crater
Physical Description** Listed information is from the time of disappearance.
Clothing & Personal Items
Circumstances of Disappearance
Joseph Force Crater was an associate justice on the New York State Supreme Court in 1930. He was associated with several organized crime members and had a few suspicious financial dealings.
Crater was married to Stella Wheeler in 1917. They were residing in their summer house in Belgrade Lakes, Maine in June 1930 after the courts recessed. Crater received a phone call in Maine in late July and told his wife he had to travel to New York City. He returned to Maine by August 1, after apparently stopping in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Crater traveled to New York City again on August 3 and stayed at the 5th Avenue apartment he owned with his wife. He reportedly spent two hours in his office during the morning hours of August 6. He removed several files in locked briefcases and brought the papers back to his residence. Crater's assistant told authorities that his employer cashed $5,000 worth of checks later in the day before dismissing him.
Crater purchased one ticket for the Broadway performance of Dancing Partner at the Belasco Theater later that night. He arrived at Billy Has' Chophouse on West 45th Street during the evening hours and met his friend, attorney William Klein. Showgirl Sally Lou Ritz, was also at the restaurant. Witnesses stated that Crater departed from the restaurant at approximately 21.10, which was after the start time of the play he planned to attend. Crater hailed a taxi on West 45th Street and disappeared. He has never been heard from again.
Wheeler became concerned about her husband when she failed to contact him by August 16, 1930, ten days after he was last seen. Authorities initially believed Crater would return to New York in short order and did not begin an investigation. A search was initiated on August 25, when Crater failed to appear at the opening of the courts. A grand jury was convened in October 1930, nearly two months after Crater's disappearance. Substantial evidence was collected during the investigation, but the jury members could not decide if Crater was deceased.
Wheeler sued several insurance companies in 1937, seven years after her husband vanished. She claimed that he had been murdered by members of organized crime. The companies won the lawsuits, but Wheeler continued to maintain that Crater was a victim of foul play due to his political and criminal connections.
Crater was declared legally deceased in 1939. His case was officially closed in 1979.
In 2005, a woman in Queens named Stella Ferrucci-Good, left behind a letter marked "Do not open until my death." In the letter she claimed that her late husband, A NYPD officer, and a cab driver (the police officer's brother) were responsible for the death and disposal of Crater. The letter also stated that Crater was buried in Coney Island under the boardwalk near West Eighth Street, which is the current location of the New York Aquarium.
No records have been found to indicate that human remains were located at the site when it was excavated in the 1950s.
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Added: Prior to 2011; Last Updated: 4/5/15 By: BR / Missing Persons Coordinator
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