Eve, Spring, Flowers: Notes on a Murder 36 Years Unsolved


Eve Helene Wilkowitz, 1959-1980

     In the spring of 1980 I’d just begun to live as a writer (age 25) in New York City. “Up until that age, I had no development at all,” said Herman Melville: “I date the beginning of my life from that year.” In central ways over three decades since that spring, I have felt the same thing.

New York! The breathing howling dynamo of American literary tradition, grimy, grand and alive to the last hidden street-corner. You stepped out your door every morning and swam out into living, and if one sense was shocked by some revolting daily revelation of human being, the other four senses didn’t care—they were drunks getting drunker by the breath on every sight, smell and sound, all of it reverberating intensified off the city’s endless canyon walls. Every mile each day was different, every person seemed to belong in a movie, and sometimes the whole packed-in human river flowed along almost in silence—until the next few minutes of utter pandemonium exploded into any hour, a convincing reminder of the madhouse under the imperial city of the world.

Drop something while you walk to your first freelance-writing job, it’s gone. Leave a door open, a key unaccounted for—forget it. Miss those signs that you’re starting to stick out like a mark and you’ll become one. And that’s the way it is: New York as usual the most intense example of whatever you want to talk about.

So here’s the mystery posed to me one Spring Friday night in 1980:

Having dinner with Eve Helene Wilkowitz, then a near-21-year-old publishing secretary working through school toward social work—a vibrant, charming, warm-hearted woman with dark eyes and long strong legs who loved her younger sister and was helping her to survive the recent death of their mother at a young age.

We eat, see a movie, walk the midtown city night holding hands and talking, talking. There’s no doubt we’re in love for the six electric weeks behind us. In fact we’ve just said it aloud to each other for the first time, and already talked some plans about moving in together. Under that, there’s more, and a ringing in my ears: The One. The One.

So there we are back at my midtown mouse-hole of a place, late, the city thrumming and quiet all around while those first exquisite deep kisses of a new beginning married us to Spring. In fact, I wanted Eve to stay the night with me instead of her usual—a ride on the night’s last Long Island Railroad train, back out to her then unhappily-shared apartment in Bay Shore.

I made it gently truly clear that I meant Sleep, and Eve believed me. So, she told me her real reason for why she had to go. She was not feeling well at all, with her ongoing period just then—she needed rest before she had to face some Saturday responsibilities. Then, she smiled, she’d be back to spend the rest of Saturday with me. Very promising, that smile.

So there we were, still making out as the near-midnight time for that last train kept approaching. I could not kiss Eve enough, and the funny thing from there is that while I did so, she proved so needful of real sleep that she was starting to nod off right there in my arms. Completely vulnerable, warm, tender, breathing deeply, resting. Safe.

I could respect her wishes, and wake Eve up in good time to take her across town in a taxi to Penn Station. She had never allowed me to ride the train all the way home with her—it was a beastly journey and Eve the work-commuter and NY native felt absolutely in command of it: there was “no need. I know everybody.” Still I always pressed to go till I nearly made her mad.

On the other hand, counseled my amorous 25-year-old New York writer’s intensified brain, I could pretend to fall asleep too. Just until the last train was sure-gone. Then she’d discover what a paragon of loving patience I could often pretend to be.

I woke Eve up and took her to the train. She slept with her head on my shoulder while the taxi tossed and rattled both of us, driving insanely down empty late-night Thirty-Fourth Street for the Station’s West Side.

The little argument about riding out with her erupted again right on the platform, and that was that. There were, after all, people around—a minor flood in the Station basement was tangling up a home-bound crowd from some Madison Square Garden sport event. I let her go.

Down the stairway Eve stepped, and she disappeared.

So have I wondered these 32 years: what was right? If I had not done as Eve had asked, not awakened her to take that train, she would be alive. I respected her wishes, and she isn’t.

No hope of anybody knowing where she was all that following weekend. No hope of filing a Missing Persons for at least 24 hours and till all known contacts were exhausted. So, I waited and chewed myself to pieces, until the following Tuesday morning.

“Mr. Dempsey, this is Detective Palumbo with Suffolk County Police Department out on Long Island. We’d like you to jump on the train and come out here today, while we work on this Missing Persons.”

So, I went, afraid as I was to leave the phone. And after a whole day of dark faces and riding-around’s to many locations never seen before, nor understanding why I was seeing them, they sat me down where I looked at Eve’s own chaotic kitchen for the first time, and told me she was dead. They watched the blood fall out of my face.

Eve “went missing” somewhere along her long route—from Pennsylvania Station, through Babylon and out to Bay Shore, Long Island, where at the station she always counted on a local taxi for the last leg of dark streets home. She was held alive for three days, and then murdered early that next Tuesday morning—and her body, her killer(s) dumped in the backyard of a suburban-style family home not three blocks from the place where Eve had lived.

When I got back to my room that evening I sat still in the dark all night. When the sun came up I started writing out every breath of our six weeks. In two days it was 86 long-hand pages.

As the last friendly face Eve probably saw, I was in the prime suspect category for awhile. By chance, a medical student who’d sold me his used stereo showed up to deliver it, with his father, early that Saturday morning of Eve’s disappearance, and they described my disheveled crawl out of bed to meet them. Later, a lie detector test wrapped me in cables and mirror-windows—and years later in the 90s, two further New York detectives simply appeared one afternoon in the driveway of my home north of Boston. We talked the case all over again, which is to say they helped me talk and gave out nothing, and they swabbed my mouth for a DNA sample. I was amazed and grateful that they were still in action about this.

And yet—nothing. Except everything. It’s good to observe how their science and these humanities converge: upon the value of a single human life. Eve made me a man. And a writer.

I’m now—or rather, for 15 years I have been—writing a second novel that takes my old Minoan Cretan tribespeople of Ariadne’s Brother into the larger ancient world, where as we now know, they came face to face with the Israelites in the days of their emergence into history—the time of Samuel, Saul and David. Not one single agent or publisher will so much as go near this, the story still bleeding in the lines of our daily news. And yet this thing day and night will not let me go, undone.

For all the guidance Eve has given me these years since that broken Spring, I feel her with me now like a protectress—because from having loved her as I have, the world will know there is not one single bone of anti-Semitism in my being. I am going to interrogate my tradition, fact with fiction, fiction with fact. And where have you been, O my fathers, my tradition, to say or do one thing for this your daughter? What honors were bestowed on woman in her name? What tigers walk our nights born and growing from your insane imaginations against Life?

Here is something “final” I know. For all the walls I’ve walked and worked through in this life of mine now doubled, It—the matter of Eve—stands. A cosmic iron wall. It will never be gone. It will never be comprehended, and never be rectified. As Oliver LaFarge’s Laughing Boy sang out to the canyons of his grief: Time will not change it.

When I breathe, it’s a spear in my chest that makes shattering music. When I laugh in sorrow’s face, we win. When I talk, it is listening. When I walk it guides me. When I read it offers footnotes. And when I remember, I know how much I can love no matter how hard things can be.

In the Spring of 1980 I began to cry every day for about two years, and one day I just seemed to crack completely open. “I” dissolved. It was the highest joy I might ever experience, with a kind of deep rolling ocean of sorrow underneath it. It was the furthest reach ever of my capacity to care about another person. I remember sheer amazement, a sense of infinite connection, with every luminous speck of dust precisely in place, and most of all gratitude. Seems that I’ve measured “eve”-rything else in life by that time and moment.

Is poetry defiance of death? So are flowers. The first below (al qui quiere!) came out of living alone in Crete in the 1990s. As I took off from home and family to write again, my loving father smiled as if I cut the throat of his happiness, in going, and I went. A harrowing time, first affiance and book-contract both in wreckage, and absolutely on track still through 15 years and 2,000 crazy pages of Minoan manuscript. The second poem—what I still feel every Spring with crocus at my feet.

To Life! I hope they help put murderers in jail.

***

She Is [circa 1991]

The name by which I reach toward Forever,

the Earth beneath me and the Star above,

the strength I find still there through every weather,

the memory that we are born to love.

I died with her. We were reborn together,

she within my heart, and we live on.

This must be why so sweet, and bitter

it is to burn like sun and moon in one.

Eve means Life; and now I cannot lose,

because to feel this fire is to have won.

She’s past them: I, not yet; but O my Rose,

You will prevail by what our lives have done.

***

Equinox ‘04

Three days through an underworld of rape,

this was the blue dawn hour

when my Evie left the world,

twenty-four years

this morning.

I have curled my strength

around her sleep,

I will kiss her

hands and eyes

until they trust the world again.

*

Royal-purple crocus breaking

tender through the snow.

This morning we found

Eve Helene lying on the ground.

No thought,

no word

is adequate for either.

But

gentle things will rise,

however hard the vernal day,

however cold the sun.

 

***

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About Dr Jack Dempsey

Always good to hear from you! A life-long freelance writer/editor, Brown University Ph.D. (in Native & Early American Studies)---novelist ("Ariadne's Brother," "People of the Sea"), historian and biographer ("New English Canaan," "Thomas Morton," "Mystic Fiasco" and more), producer ("Nani: A Native New England Story"), Book Editor/Public Speaking Coach: Bentley University Adjunct Assistant Professor of English, Media Studies & Communications (Best Part Time Prof 2010). Latest works? Scientific nonfiction on the lunar/solar calendar of ancient Minoan Crete---"The Knossos Calendar: Minoan Cycles of the Sun, the Moon, the Soul & Political Power" (Iraklion, Mystis 2016), based on lectures drawn from "Calendar House: Clues to Minoan Time from Knossos Labyrinth" (2011). Come and enjoy multimedia resources including filmed Native American interviews at ANCIENTLIGHTS.ORG
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29 Responses to Eve, Spring, Flowers: Notes on a Murder 36 Years Unsolved

  1. harrietellenberger says:

    Thank you for putting “Eve, Spring, Flowers” out there. It’s beautiful, passionate, full of integrity, and just makes everyone who reads it want to live — really live.

  2. Gwen Brailsford-Cato says:

    How often I have thought of Eve over the years, and wondered if her murderer had ever been found. I was an employee at Macmillan where Eve worked, and can still remember her sweet smile. I have been thinking of her a lot recently, and today I decided to see if there was any information on the web. I read your beautiful tribute to Eve who had a beautiful spirit. Thank you for keeping her memory alive.

  3. Nadine Corney says:

    Hello Jack,
    Eve passed through my mind a little while ago. I’ll always remember what a sweet person she was. Ironically, I had lunch with her on that Friday. I was sitting alone in Macmillan’s cafeteria that afternoon and she asked if she could join me. We had a lovely lunch together, talking about “stuff”. We joked about running into each other a lot all day, because we were on the same elevator when we left work that night. Some memories have a way of staying with you; just knowing Eve was one of my best ones. Thanks for your beautiful words.

    • Hello Nadine, and thanks for writing to share your thoughts and memories about Eve—It is remarkable (but, knowing Eve, not surprising) that people still remember and feel as they do. At my main website Ancient Lights, where there is another page about Eve, people also visit quite a few times per month, and I’m glad to say that it feels a little bit like a vigil, or like a sign that many of us still have a hope to see justice and to know the truth of what happened that terrible weekend in 1980. Macmillan at that time was a really fun and productive place to work: I remember how much laughter and socializing there was, and that even so (or, because of it!), the company’s schoolbooks were always beating their competition. Imagine, we were all still working on typewriters then! Meanwhile, Eve’s younger sister Irene has her own lovely family today, and I know she appreciates that people still hold her sister in their hearts. It gives me hope about human beings to see how they do not forget Eve’s simple kindness and warmth—God bless you and all our mutual friends who carry those memories along.

  4. Susan Dangelo-Guglietta says:

    I worked with Eve, as well,at Macmillan in the early 80’s. I remember all the drama at that time during the investigation. She was a lovely person; your compassion is a true reflection of your love for her.

  5. Hello Susan! or I should say “Hello again” because with a smile I remember you very clearly from those days at Macmillan long ago—it was quite a place filled with so many unique, lively and talented people. And again I’m very glad to see how many people still remember Eve, and so fondly. She was indeed a lovely person. It can be hard even for me to believe that for 3 decades I’ve been working on a book that includes a great deal of her, but found along the way that several other books had to come first to do it right! So hearing from you helps me to keep faith, faith in possible justice and faith in our persistent human memory (sometimes it’s hard to remember how much the latter can do in defeating the worst kinds of evil). Thank you very much, Susan, for reading this work and for taking the time to write. And, very best wishes to you—

    • Susan Guglietta says:

      Hello Jack,
      I was just thinking that sometime soon in March is the untimely anniversary of Eve’s death.And I was right because her anniversary is March 29;. so many years ago when I was just beginning my secretarial career in Manhattan. How many, many murders are committed in New York that still go unsolved. There was quite a bit of drama in my own neighborhood last year with the death of Karina Vetrano on August 2, 2016, the young girl, who lived around the corner from me in Howard Beach and was brutally murdered. I went to grade school with her mother and we had seen each other frequently in the neighborhood. It was by chance that the young boy of 19 years old, who murdered Karina was captured just a month ago. Such a horrible time for the family and the whole community of Howard Beach. Eve comes to mind so often as I remember short years I worked at Macmillan Publishing and of so many wonderful people that I met there.

      Susan D’Angelo – Guglietta

      • Hello again Susan—Very good to know that you, like many of Eve’s friends and peers, remember her: maybe it’s for the same reason we felt as we did about her in life, because the goodness of her nature reminded/reminds us of our own, and I think she would be happy to know that because she wanted to make this world a better and more human place. (She disappeared on Friday March 21 and passed away March 25.) It’s all too true that as you say, Eve’s tragedy is still happening eve-rywhere, eve-ryday: we live in what a poet-friend of mine (Harriet Ellenberger) calls Terminal Patriarchy, where the only thing that seems to matter is the constant ridiculous and futile demonstration of some Wanna-Be-Big-Man’s hollow and life-hating “power.” (You can see a lot more about this and about Eve in the recent post here called “People of the Sea: Life Beyond the Catastrophe Cycle.”) I never stop wondering what it’s going to take to break us free of so much stupidity and waste, but maybe it begins with what you do naturally from the heart, remembering in the love of people like Eve that we do indeed still know better. I’m very grateful to be able to stand in solidarity with you, Eve’s sister Irene, and all our mutual friends for that change. Wishing you many smiles and warm memories that will reach out into this world with the kind of healing love that Eve carried in her heart….Fondly yours, Jack

      • Susan Guglietta says:

        Hi Jack:
        Thank you for your quick response. It appears as if you have devoted your whole life to the memory of dear Eve; such a lovely and gracious remembrance. I understand that you live in Boston. My high school chum and I have been visiting in August for about 5 years now. We enjoy the Italian feasts and all the fun. Maybe someday we can say hello. If you like, please send me your cell# in my e-mail.

        The Best.
        Susan Guglietta

  6. Naomi Vilko says:

    I am one of Eve’s cousins, Naomi Vilko, My father William Vilko (Vilkovic, Wilkowitz) was Eve’s grandfather’s younger brother. I was looking for information about our family when I found Eve’s picture and your beautiful essay. I would love to speak to you and/or Eve’s relatives. I remember her dad, Alfred and her grandparents. My dad died in 1962, when I was 10. I am a Psychiatrist in Princeton NJ. My mom still lives in NYC.

    • How do you do, Naomi, and thanks for getting in touch—I met Eve’s kind father Alfred only once back in 1980, but just a few years ago was back in contact with Eve’s younger sister Irene, who is doing well with a family of her own. I’d be happy to talk with you and help you to contact Irene if you so wish, so please do feel welcome to get in touch when you can. My cell phone is 781 438 3042 (early evenings are best), and my personal email is jpd37@hotmail.com . With warmest regards, Jack Dempsey

  7. Pat Dragotta says:

    Hello Jack, My name is Pat Dragotta and I went to High School with Eve. We were friends during our junior and senior years at Connetquot High School. There was Connie Dempsey, Fran Longo, Lauren Mara, Eve and me. I moved to Los Angeles in 1979. I heard of Eve’s murder “through the grapevine” as it were, and, unfortunately, the facts were not correct. I was so deeply saddened and troubled by the news. Eve came up in a conversation – a comparison to a story my daughter was telling to my mother (my mother is nearly 80 and her version of things is never correct), so I decided to search the web for Eve’s name and came upon your essay. I was so deeply moved, and grateful for factual information, I have been thinking of her all day. I don’t have a single picture of her face, only the back of her head, I have always regretted that, but now I can see her face again, here. I hope and pray that it is. I am so very sorry for your loss and I simply cannot believe that this crime has not been solved. I am so happy that she found a wonderful love in you. I will keep you and Eve and all of her family in my prayers. Bless you, Jack. With deepest sympathy and heartfelt regards, Pat Dragotta.

    • How do you do, Pat—and thank you very much for writing about Eve. As you can see, many people remember Eve after so many years, and it’s great to hear that her high school friends do also. I remember once during our brief time together when she was laughing while she described going to a (senior?) prom with friends and their dates, and she seemed very charmingly amused and amazed at herself (and the whole gang!) in telling the stories. So I know Eve’s friends meant a very great deal to her, and I hope you and the others will always know that. (How curious that there was a “Dempsey” among you!) Please do wish me luck in writing more fully about Eve in the future, and who knows, maybe someday somebody who knows something will find the courage to come forward with the truth. God bless you, my friend—-Jack D

    • Hello again Pat—Sorry I sort of missed it before that you don’t have a picture of Eve. If in case you don’t know this, you can download a copy of Eve’s photo from here this way. A) Put your cursor on the photo and right-click. A little window will open with a menu. B) Choose “Save As” from the menu. C) Now you see a window where you can rename the file if you want, and then decide/choose where to save it on your computer: for ex. in “My Documents” or “My Pictures” etc. Click on that location, or do nothing and use your computer’s default location. D) When ready, click on “Save” in that same window—and you’ll have a nice JPeg file that you can even print out onto photo paper. Best regards! Jack

  8. Bill Mullady says:

    Hello Jack, My name is Bill Mullady and I live in Sayville, New York, just one town east of Oakdale where Eve grew up. I had the pleasure of meeting Eve through a friend of hers by the name of Jan Cioffi. It was probably sometime in the mid ninteen seventies. She was one of the sweetest people I have ever met. I always felt that she would contribute a great deal to society, as she had such a lovely personality and was such a nice person from deep within. Time passed and one day I picked up the Newsday and read about the horrible sensless murder of sweet Eve. Since that day I have never forgotten her. Today, as I write this letter to you, Eve came to my mind as I watched a show on television about unsolved murders. There was just something about her that was just so very special. I see that you felt the same way. I hope and pray that some day the person that is responsible for her demise will be brought to justice.

    • Hello Bill—Thanks very much for reading and writing. As you can see, more and more people seem to be taking the time as you did to remember Eve, and indeed we seem to remember her alike. You said well that her qualities, her kindness and happiness were things people recognized as coming “from deep within,” and that sure is the young woman I remember. Equally you felt that she had a lot to contribute to this life and it seems everybody saw her that way. I remember such a strong impression that nothing was going to get in the way of Eve’s developing herself, and that she was always dear to the group but not interested in petty games. It’s strange that with each new comment I imagine it’s “the one” that can bring some justice, and yet I know it won’t change a thing. I guess it’s all about how we live what we remember of Eve and what we remember about ourselves from her. Most grateful that you wrote and added to what everyone can share….

  9. Erin ( Mullen) Stack says:

    Hello Mr Dempsey, I appreciate that you are keeping Eve’s memory alive. Eve and I were close friends from junior high through her death. She and I spoke on the phone just a couple of days before she went missing. I grew up about four houses away from her in Oakdale. My mom still lives in the same house. Every time I drive by Eve’s old house I think about her and her family.Her death remains the biggest tragedy of my life. If anyone deserved a happy life it was Eve. Thanks again. Erin

    • How do you do, Erin? And thank you very much for writing. I hope that you and Eve’s many other loving friends are seeing here and elsewhere that she is very much alive in people’s hearts. And any memories that you might be willing to share would surely be appreciated by all (no doubt you know some of them who’ve posted here), including her sister Irene with whom I’m in touch from time to time. Meanwhile take comfort that, as noted in the essay, the police have not forgotten Eve either, even after so many years. I’m still working hard on the series of books laid out way back then which will culminate in one about Eve, and your contact was doubly appreciated, like another inspiring touch from her when the going has been difficult. God bless you and our mutual friends, and please do write any time you want to! Warmest regards, Jack D (jpd37@hotmail dot com).

      • Erin ( Mullen) Stack says:

        I realize I should’ve addressed you as Dr Dempsey. My apologies. It is comforting to know that the police are still looking at Eve’s case. I’ve often been angered over the years wondering why Eve’s murder was not important enough to solve. I know the science wasn’t there back in 1980. I’ve googled Eve’s name many times over the years. Your blog always came up.I have to admit it was jarring to see Eve being spoken about so intimately by someone I had never heard about. In the early days I felt somewhat protective of her memory. Eve and I were not what anyone would consider popular in high school. She was rather shy and fragile. Life was not always good to her. After her death girls who were quite mean to her claimed to have been her friends. Now that so many years have passed it is nice to read what her work friends and other acquaintances have written about her. She seemed to have blossomed after high school. I will say that on the last phone conversation I had with her that fateful week she seemed the happiest I had ever known her to be. Perhaps that was due to you and her work friends? I’m thankful for that. It’s a tragedy that her life was cut off when it was finally falling into place. I also was visited and interviewed by the police right after Eve’s murder. I never heard from them again. I did contact Irene once some years back. I did not wish to interfere with her life. I just wanted her to know I think of Eve often. She was the most innocent and sweet person I have ever known. I’m happy to know that Irene is doing well and has her own family. God Bless.

  10. Hi Erin, and please do call me Jack! I know that Eve loved and cherished her friends like yourself, and that Irene greatly appreciates those who hold dearly to Eve’s memory. I remember Eve as you do—someone whose own heart was happy and bright as a bird’s but who could also be brought down by petty meanness in some of those around her. While there’s every indication that the police have not given up, I hope that all together we will keep alive the thought of truth and justice in Eve’s regard, and who knows, maybe someday somebody who knows something will come forward at last. Knowing her has shaped my whole adult life and anything I may have achieved has come directly out of that beautiful and terrible time. So we have a bond of gratitude for having known Eve, and I hope your love for her keeps bearing its fruit in this life, as it has for so many. Peace to you, my friend—

    • Erin ( Mullen) Stack says:

      Thank you again. I guess my 20 year old brain wanted to hold my friend close in my heart. My 55 year old brain wishes I could share her with the world. The fact that I can still sit in the dark and cry for someone, lost for so many years, says a great deal about Eve.

  11. Your expressions here about Eve make us feel the kind of person she was, and also say a great deal about why she wanted and wants to be close to you, Erin. I hope you’ll someday sit down with a pad of paper and share, pun intended, Eve-rything!

    • Erin stack says:

      35 years ago today. Eve was the first thought in my head this morning. It is gloomy out and the ground is covered in snow. It seems appropriate. I hope her birthday is a bright sunny day. That would be more in keeping with my memories of Eve. God bless.

      • Hello Erin—Keep the cycles of life in mind! There’s nothing winter can do to stop the turning of the world toward spring and before you know it little crocus plants will come out of the frozen ground again. Snow is coming down here and a big fat red cardinal sat in the tree at my window this morning, staking out his home and calling like a jazz player for mates to come find him. Maybe we loved Eve so because she knew how to be happy and she still reminds us that way. Be happy even with our heartaches, and we all win. Nothing can conquer or take that away.
        In 1980, March 21 was the Friday when I last saw her boarding the LIRR. She was found the following Tuesday March 25…but anyway it’s clear that all our thoughts come together round this time. Be proud of that—-Jack

      • Erin stack says:

        Yes. You are correct about the date. Today was the day our friend Lauren called to make me aware Eve was missing. At any rate, she was on my
        mind today and while I slept last night. Perhaps a little visitation from my friend. In the early years I had dreams about her all the time. She will be in my thoughts for the next few days and onwards.

  12. Lyn Metz says:

    Always & Forever In Our <3's

    • Erin stack says:

      By the way, I’ve read that cardinals were messages from our loved ones who have passed. I think Eve sent you a little sign.

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