They were murdered more than a generation ago, before a fair portion of the city’s adult population was born. But the cases of Cornelia Crilley, murdered in 1971, and Ellen Hover, murdered in 1977, remain unsolved–for now, that is.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance recently announced the indictment of a serial killer and sex offender, Rodney Alcala, for the murders of Crilley and Hover. The indictments were the result of determined police work and a prosecutor who was unwilling to allow a brutal crime to remain unresolved, even though the suspect is on death row in California for murders committed there in the late 1970s.
The red tape and expenses involved in extraditing and trying the suspect are not inconsiderable. But Mr. Vance is absolutely right to argue that no murder case, no heinous crime, should remain unresolved if a suspect can be identified and tried. All the state can offer the victims and their loved ones is justice. Mr. Vance promises to deliver on that obligation.
Last year, Mr. Vance took over from one of the 20th century’s great New Yorkers, Robert Morgenthau, who served as district attorney of New York County for nearly 35 years. Mr. Morgenthau was the only DA many Manhattanites ever knew. His retirement, at age 90, in 2009 naturally led to concerns about the office’s continued leadership under its first new boss since Mr. Morgenthau succeeded Richard Kuh on Jan. 1, 1975.
Mr. Vance has put to rest those concerns. Without a great deal of fanfare, he has invigorated the office and maintained its close, productive relationship with the Police Department and other law-enforcement agencies.
Cyrus Vance found himself in the unenviable position of succeeding a living legend. But Mr. Vance has proven more than equal to the task. New Yorkers will never forget Bob Morgenthau, but his replacement is off to very promising start.