Authorities unearth the body of
Hyman Yuran in Loch Sheldrake
in April of 1940.
by John Conway
April 18, 2014
THE BODY IN THE SWIMMING POOL DRAIN
It was on a dreary Monday afternoon in April of 1940 that the last of the bodies linked to Murder, Inc. turned up in Sullivan County.
That day, law enforcement officials, piecing together information provided by a number of mob stool pigeons, dug up a shallow grave in a hotel swimming pool drain in Loch Sheldrake, and found the body of garment industry executive Hyman Yuran, who had disappeared from a Fallsburg hotel more than a year-and-a-half earlier.
On August 21, 1938, Yuran had been vacationing at the Ambassador Hotel when he took a phone call, walked down to the front of the hotel, and got into his own automobile, driven by a mysterious blonde woman. He was never seen alive again.
Just hours after Yuran had left the Ambassador with the blonde in his car, his wife showed up with two detectives who were working with special prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey. Dewey was in the midst of putting together a case against public enemy number one, Louis "Lepke" Buchalter, and had expected that Yuran could be a valuable witness. The garment exec would never get to testify, even if he had been so inclined.
In fact, Yuran’s disappearance would remain a mystery until that rainy spring afternoon in 1940, when mid-level gangster Abe Reles and several lesser hoodlums began to feed prosecutors information about hundreds of murders in an attempt to save their own skins. Yuran’s killing was one of the unsolved cases officials were able to close due to details provided by these gangsters turned stool pigeons.
Although Reles provided prosecutors with the initial information about the Yuran hit, it was one of his henchmen, Sol "Sholem" Bernstein, who finally gave authorities what they needed to close out the case– the location of the body.
"Perhaps Sholem’s most notable contribution was in elaborating on the execution of Hy Yuran," Burton B. Turkus and Sid Feder wrote in their 1951 expose on the mob, "Murder, Inc."
"Yuran was a dress manufacturer of some affluence. Lepke, invading the garment industry, used Yuran to such an extent that the manufacturer was almost as involved as the mob boss. When Lepke’s extortion trial was approaching, Yuran was recognized as a prime source of information against the nation’s czar of industrial rackets. Yuran was vacationing in the Catskills at the time. Lepke ordered a ‘varsity’ firing squad to the spot immediately. Sholem was in the area and the staff specialists looked him up."
The execution squad included Harry "Pittsburgh Phil" Strauss, Jack Drucker, and Allie Tannenbaum, as well as Bernstein. And the blonde was an unwitting accomplice, too.
First acting on information supplied by Reles, who had overheard his colleagues discussing the murder, authorities had begun digging for Yuran’s body on the grounds of the Rosemont Lodge on Anawana Lake Road outside Monticello, but found nothing and finally gave up. While Reles had not actually been involved in the kill, Bernstein had, and he knew the whole story, which Reles– his photographic memory notwithstanding– did not.
Apparently Yuran had been killed by Strauss and Tannenbaum, and the pair had met Drucker and Bernstein at the Rosemont Lodge to dispose of the body. They tried in vain to dig a grave there, but the ground was too hard.
"They had, however, selected a rough cemetery," Turkus and Feder wrote, "The spades glanced off rocks and thudded into shrub roots."
Pittsburgh Phil finally decided to try another location, and he sent Tannenbaum and Drucker to find a suitable spot. Tannenbaum chose his parents’ hotel, the Loch Sheldrake Inn, just off Route 52, where they had just dug a swimming pool drain and the ground was still soft. So Yuran’s resting place was moved a few miles down the road.
"The rotting remains of an underworld gangster came out of a shallow grave in Loch Sheldrake late Monday afternoon to haunt somebody still alive who sent him to his death because he knew too much," the Liberty Register reported in its April 18, 1940 edition, a few days after the body had been found.
"The grave had been made in a trench that had been dug at the time to extend from a nearby swimming pool. Apparently it had been easy then, in 1938, to dig into the earth thrown back after construction excavation, and then to replace it without having to worry about it attracting much attention. Since then, nearly three (sic) years ago, men, women, and children have disported in the waters of the pool, only a few feet from where the lime-eaten body lay, and scores of hotel guests have played on the ground above."
Yuran was the sixth and final victim of Murder, Inc. whose remains were found in Sullivan County between 1930 and 1940, beginning with the discovery of Dave Siegel’s bullet riddled body along the road between Monticello and Fallsburg in 1930 and the corpse of Charles "Chink" Sherman in a shallow grave in the Drucker barn near Hurleyville in 1935. Authorities would also find the shot and stabbed body of jitney driver Irving Ashkenas hanging from the running board of his Lincoln at the Paramount Manor Hotel in 1936, the ice picked corpse of Walter Sage, tied to a slot machine frame and tossed into Swan Lake in 1937, and the body of Maurice "Frenchy" Carillot, found floating on the surface of Loch Sheldrake in 1939.
It is believed that at least two other bodies have never been recovered, including that of Sol "Jack" Goldstein, who was killed by Strauss and others, trussed up, and thrown into Loch Sheldrake in August of 1936.
John Conway is the Sullivan County Historian. Visit his website atwww.sullivanretrospect.com and e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org .