NJ Cold Case
Wendy Sue Wolin Fleischner
Elizabeth, Union County, NJ
This case has a lot of information so this will be an extensive write-up.
Wendy Wolin Fleischner was a 7 year old girl living in Elizabeth, Union County New Jersey on Irvington Avenue with her mother, Shirley Fleischner. On Tuesday, March 8, 1966 at 4 p.m, the mother and daughter planned to leave their Pierce Manor apartment to run errands and pick up Wendy’s older sister Jodi from Hebrew school. Shirley told her daughter to meet her at the corner of Irvington Avenue and Prince Street while she got her car from the back parking lot. As Wendy made her way to the corner, a man approached her, crouched down and stabbed her in the stomach, through her coat, with a knife. As Wendy fell to the ground and cried out in pain, the man kept on walking in the opposite direction. A few witnesses to this, three little girls, ran into the fire department across the street and told Director Edward F. Deignan what had just happened. The 7 year old was taken to the fire station. When police showed up and realized Wendy was bleeding, they rushed her to Elizabeth General Hospital where she passed away due to shock and hemorrhage from a punctured liver, shortly before 5 p.m.
Witnesses who had been there stated the man who stabbed Wendy was 6 feet tall, wearing a green/grey/blue Fedora, a corduroy coat, and tan baggy trousers. His weapon was a hunting knife and it was later found at the scene.
The police launched a massive search for the perpetrator, said to have been a white male in his mid-to-late-40s with pale skin, white hair and a muscular frame, about 220 pounds. He was also said to walk with a “stiff leg.” As officers searched door to door, it left no results to the man’s identity. Thousands of people were questioned, including a “boat load of Vietnam-bound troops aboard a ship in the Port of Elizabeth Harbor.” Trains and buses were boarded and searched. Police Chief Michael Roy happened to look similar to the apparent attacker, so he agreed to let makeup artists lighten his complexion and whiten his hair so a picture of him could be used for Wanted Posters to be distributed. A special phone line was installed to handle the tips that poured in from other potential eyewitnesses and concerned citizens.
Still, the killer was never found.
It is speculated that the killer was the same man who had attacked two other girls earlier on that same day. 10 year old Patricia Lavolpe had been wounded on the buttocks by a man with a sharp object. She was also rushed to the Elizabeth General Hospital, fortunately she made a full recovery. 45 minutes before this attack, a 12 year old girl named Diana De Nicola was struck in the face by a man while standing in front of a department store. She too was then taken to the Elizabeth General Hospital, suffering from a bruised right cheek and eyelid. She too made a full recovery.
As time went on, there were several tips and numerous suspects that were thoroughly investigated. In 1995, a tip was received by a woman who stated she had seen something which had turned out to be significant in the investigation. She said she assumed it was a piece of information that was no longer relevant since so much time had passed. The woman named a suspect, however he had already been questioned. This tip caused an outpour of other phone calls from people with potential information. Investigators encouraged any of the original witnesses to please come forward so they could be shown photos of the new potential suspects to see if they were identifiable.
The Union County Crime Stoppers Program offered a reward of $5,000 for information leading to the arrest of Wendy’s killer.
Sadly, all new leads did not pan out. This man was never identified. Police believe that the only way they will receive any closure for Wendy’s family is if a deathbed confession occurs. Otherwise, they have little hope of ever finding her killer.
In 2016, as per the 50th anniversary of this incident, the site where she was attacked was used as a memorial to Wendy.
The Elizabeth Police Captain, Todd Mooney, decided to post on social media about Wendy’s murder to pay tribute for the anniversary. He included a composite sketch of the suspected killer. Someone responded, they did recognize the face, but not in connection with Wendy. It involved the killing of another littler girl in the neighboring Highland Park, the year before Wendy’s murder, in 1965.
A woman named Beth Moroney notified investigators that she is certain she saw Wendy’s killer on her block, the day her neighbor, 11 year old Mae Rubenstein, was stabbed more than a dozen times inside their home on South 3rd Avenue in February of 1965. Mae’s mother was also murdered by the unknown intruder after catching him in the act of killing her daughter. Beth said that right after the killing she described the man to police but there was never a follow up and no composite sketch. She still wonders whether Wendy’s death could have been prevented if police had taken her seriously. Authorities have never made an official connection.
Eventually, there were even more bizarre coincidences established in the two cases. When the Rubenstein’s were killed, Wendy and her sister Jodi lived one block away in Highland Park in their grandparents house. Strangely enough, the grandparents last name was Rubenstien, but there was no relation to the murdered mother and daughter.
Jodi Wolin now reveals that her mother suddenly moved the girls to Elizabeth just 11 days after the Rubensteins died, with no reason given. Jodi also stated that she had never heard of the Rubensteins murder until Facebook. A theory of mistaken identity was brought to light. Jodi also informed investigators that her grandfather did owe money to the mob and other powerful people.
In 2016, DNA from Wendy’s coat was being tested but Mr. Todd Mooney said the evidence is so degraded, it will likely not produce any results.
There was no DNA to use in the Rubensteins case because the blood at the scene was cleaned up very early on in the investigation.
As of January of 2021, both of these cases are still unsolved.
Below is a picture of Wendy, the knife used in the killing, and a composite sketch of the perpetrator.
I have written about the Anne and Mae Rubenstein case previously, and I have linked the case as well.
If you have any information about this crime, please contact the Union County Police at (908)-654-9800.