Murder Most Foul: Mickey Kane murder mystery relived
BENNINGTON — Questions still come up regarding the facts of an old but real murder mystery.
That was evident Sunday when nearly every seat set up in Bennington Museum's Ada Paresky Education Center was filled with people wanting to see Bennington Historical Society's "Murder Most Foul," a presentation on Mickey Kane's death.
"He was a taxi driver and owner of a taxi in Bennington for almost 20 years," said local historian Joe Hall. "And he was murdered in 1930."
Hall said his mother would tell Kane's story. He also used information taken from the Troy Record and the Bennington Evening Banner.
Kane, who was born in Ireland in 1885, ended up settling with his family in Bennington by the age of 3. For nearly 20 years, he was a well-known taxi driver. His stand was set up on the corner of Main and South streets downtown near the clock.
Kane never married and lived with his mother on McCall Street.
"He was a very friendly, outgoing individual with many friends. He was known to stand on the corner and chat with anyone who happened to walk by," said Hall. "It was said he was a grown man but a boy at heart."
The taxi driver had a habit of carrying a "huge wad" of cash and wearing expensive jewelry. Hall said Kane's friends would advise him against the extravagant display of wealth, saying it could make him the target of a robbery. But he didn't want to hear it.
In addition to carrying a hand gun, Kane was a boxer in North Adams, Mass.
"He felt he could take care of himself," said Hall. "People in Bennington wondered where he got all the money and was he somehow involved in the underworld?"
Kane, known to travel to the Canadian border for vacations, also would frequent New York nightclub spots in downtown Albany and Troy. Hall said Kane would boast about his ability to get from Bennington to Troy in just over a half hour.
"It's no wonder he went off the road," said Hall, mentioning multiple incidents of Kane going off the road in the same spot.
On the morning of July 26, 1930, Kane had tire trouble and he took his Buick to Marshall Garage on South Street. Hall said the building is currently owned by Jack Appelman. But Hall recalled an upper floor where cars could drive up and onto. His father owned a station wagon that was serviced there.
Employees had told Kane his tire couldn't be repaired by 1 p.m., which he had requested. When Kane returned a little after 1 p.m. with a man dressed in a dark blue suit and Panama hat with the brim turned down, he was upset that his car would not be ready. He ended up fixing the tire himself with help from another local resident well known for his auto-body repair work.
Hall said Bennington Police Department's chief at the time was standing on the corner. He had seen this "strange man" sitting in the back seat.
"As part of the murder plan," said Hall, "a 1926 Chevrolet car owned by Harry Pincus was waiting at the intersection of Route 22 and Route 7."
Although this part is disputed, it is believed Kane was murdered when the man in the backseat shot him in the head then hit him hard on the head. Hall said the murderer grabbed the steering wheel and guided the car through a wooden guardrail down an embankment and into a growth of a small hemlock tree.
Two accomplices were waiting in the Chevrolet.
"Don't be looking for it when you're driving," Hall said of the specific location. "It's a pretty busy road."
Kane was discovered dead by a beekeeper and a resident Hoosick Falls, N.Y., while suspicion regarding the three people involved in the murder plot prompted a couple to call police.
Pincus became a wanted man.
"New York officials remained active on the case with little results, which caused many frustrations," said Hall. "Over two years after (Kane's death), a marble stone was placed at the side of the road. Today, the stone still marks the spot of this terrible event."
Hall said police got their lead after Jean Mack was "crying in her beer" and an informant listened on carefully. The developments lead to the arrest of Mack and her ex-husband William Franco. They were prosecuted in Troy. The trial ended in March 1937 after Mack turned state's witness and Franco was found guilty of first degree murder.
"The jury took only one and half hours," said Hall. "Apparently, the evidence was pretty clear."
Hall said Franco was held on death row before his sentence was commuted to Attica State Prison. Eventually, he was paroled in 1963.
Pincus' whereabouts were unknown until he reappeared in 1940, Hall said. A member of the homicide squad in Newark, N.J., was following the story. A man looking for help with his daughter was soon determined to be Pincus. Moving from Brooklyn, N.Y., marrying a woman and adopting a daughter, he had also taken up a new name. His job as a window glazer was informed by previous experience with his brothers' Pittsfield, Mass.-based business, the Berkshire Glass Company.
After being escorted to Troy by police, Pincus' brothers greeted him by his real name and the jig was up.
"They had no idea where he had been for 10 years," Hall said of Pincus' brothers.
Pincus was convicted of first degree manslaughter and was given a seven to 15-year sentence while Mack ended up in a situation similar to Kane's. After a likely plea agreement, Hall said she had moved back to New York City, where she was arrested for prostitution along with a coal barge captain known as Charles Wolford.
Hall said Wolford was a heavy drinker who referred to Mack as his common-law wife. Later, the couple had gotten into a dispute while inside the cabin of a boat.
"He went to sleep after smacking her," said Hall. "She died after her skull was fractured."
Mack's naked body was tied to an anvil, he said, and she was thrown overboard into the Hudson River.
"(The body) floated to the surface almost alongside his boat," said Hall. "As reported by police, Charles (Wolford) was constantly haunted by her face, causing nightmares day and night."
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