A New Years Resolution: Find out what happened to my grand uncle, Eddie Stephan McCullen. Family legend, passed down by family historian Judy Herbert, has it that he was murdered in the streets of Manhattan on August 18, 1953. A very high level of probability is attached to this lore.
Eddie’s uncle, Judge Edward J. McCullen, apparently sealed the court records surrounding the homicide. When this intrepid genealogist attempted to gain access to them earlier this year, he was given the proverbial run-around by city employees.
An official with the Court of Records first said she couldn’t find the file unless I knew the exact date Eddie was murdered. When I provided that–it’s listed in his military record, and I have his funeral card–that suddenly turned out to be not enough. Manhattan is large, she said; she would also have know the neighborhood in which Eddie met his maker. How was I supposed to know that without access to the file?
When I pleaded my case–this man was my great uncle, and I need to know how he died!–the official took enough mercy on me to confer with her superior. She returned a few minutes later to tell me that I would need to obtain a subpoena to open the court records. Wow. This isn’t going to be easy. I’ll need a lawyer, and some money.
Very little is known about the life of Edward Stephan McCullen, my grandmother Mabel McCullen Simmers’ younger brother. Born in on May 5, 1909, Eddie was the youngest of John McCullen and Margaret Wigmore’s eight children. He was only six years old when his father, a painter, died. Eddie left high school after two years.
In 1930, at the age of 21, he lived with his mother and his step father in the Bronx.
During his 20s, Eddie worked as a plumber, a gas fitter, and a steam fitter. That’s according to his Army enlistment papers. He enlisted during World War II at the age of 32 as a warrant officer. He was married and lived in Queens at the time. At some point, he worked as a steam fitter in Argentina. I have a picture of his passport.
A search of the New York papers in the New York Public Library turns up nothing about the murder. Zilch. Not even the tabloids, which you would think would be all over this kind of thing, covered the story. The murder must have really been hushed up.
The lack of information leads to rampant speculation. Judge Edward McCullen, who was known for his strict sentences, and was part of the Tammany Society, sent several hoodlums to jail in the years prior to Eddie’s death. Was Eddie murdered in retaliation?
Eddie had a family reputation as a drinker and a lady’s man. Did he go too far? Could he have been murdered by the cuckold? Was the murderer a person of stature?
There must have been some reason the case was sealed. Inquiring minds want to know. Please forward any information on the demise of Eddie McCullen.