Merenda Box Grand Opening FridayMarch 22, 2023
Conshohocken’s Mysterious Cave-Ins – Do You Believe There’s a River Running Under Parts of Conshohocken?April 10, 2023
A Conshohocken Unsolved Murder Mystery
It Happened More Than Six Decades Ago
And Likely Will Never Be Solved
By Jack Coll
As I continue to restructure my Third Floor Library, (For those of you who know, I’m working less hours nowadays and spending more time in my third-floor office) and I continue to file and refile photographs, documents, and other things like notes I’ve taken over the years for newspaper articles, books and other articles. I came across a file of notes for an article that I wrote for the “Conshohocken & West Conshohocken—People, Places and Stories” book written by Jack and Brian Coll back in 2017, (SOLD OUT).
Looking through the notes, rather than piece an article together again I thought I’d share the article from the book. The article appeared in the chapter titled, “Murder, Mystery & Scandal.” I’m sure many of you would enjoy the “Scandal” section.
There seems to be a lot of interest in the “murder-mystery” channels on television today, I seem to watch the HLN channel, (42), a few of the other murder channels include, Oxygen—Dateline—Secrets Uncovered, REELZ and OWN, not to mention “Court TV.”
Today we chose to REPRINT a segment of the book titled “CONSHOHOCKEN MURDER MYSTERY,” a murder that happened more than six decades ago and the victim was a popular Fayette Street grocer.
“CONSHOHOCKEN MURDER MYSTERY”
In the early hours of a cold January morning back in 1959 a Conshohocken grocer was robbed of an estimated $1,200-$1,500. And beaten to death in a dimly lit alley behind his Fayette Street store, the murder has never been solved.
On January 17, 1959, forty-four-year-old Samuel Reidenberg, who operated the Conshohocken Fruit Market once located at 59 Fayette Street, (in later years the building served as Nick & Mike’s), was murdered by three men who were never captured.
Reidenberg who operated the Conshohocken Fruit Market for twelve years with his wife Miriam was a resident of Belmont Avenue in Bala-Cynwyd where the couple lived with their two children David who was 11 years old at the time and the couple’s seven-month-old daughter Rona. Miriam had worked on that Saturday and had departed the store for home Saturday afternoon, which was the usual routine for the couple.
Samuel followed his usual routine by locking up the store later and exciting out the back door into the alley known as “Samson Street, located between Fayette Street and Harry Street. Samuel kept his truck parked in the alley and on Saturday nights he would put the week’s receipts in a bag for the night deposit, get in his truck for the drive back to Bala-Cynwyd where he would make the deposit. (For a number of years, the Reidenberg’s lived above the store with their son David before moving to Bala-Cynwyd before the birth of their daughter Rona)
As Samuel stepped out of his back doorway into the Samson Street alley, the thugs were waiting for him. They bestowed a vicious attack on him with a tire iron and blackjack robbing him of the entire weeks’ worth of receipts. Samuel laid face down in the alley bleeding out his face and skull until the early morning hours when three children out playing came across his unconscious body and ran for help. At the corner of Fayette and Hector Streets the boy found Francis Moriarity, a borough streets employee who called the police for help.
Members of the Washington Rescue Squad led by Ken Chabaud responded and found Samuel face down next to his delivery truck with a fractured skull and many lacerations about the face. Samuel came to and had a clear moment in the back of the Rescue Truck telling medics that three men had beat him, it was the last time he spoke before passing away in the hospital nearly 48 hours after he was attacked.
Conshohocken Chief of Police Walter Phipps put Sargent Francis “Bunny” Blake in charge of the investigation along with officers Samuel Cardamone, John Mazur and Matthew Doughtery who joined forces with a couple of County Detectives.
The investigation into the murder was in high gear immediately following the grocer’s death. Suspects were immediately brought into the Conshohocken Police Station once located on West Hector Street, given lie detector tests and released. The Conshohocken Merchants Association headed by George Rafferty and Nicholas Romano posted a $1,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of the murders. That reward amount quickly grew to $2,000 when the Frankford Grocers Association kicked in $1,000 on top of the Chambers amount. (Remember $2,000 back in 1959 was nothing to sneeze at, keeping in mind that you could buy a Conshohocken house for about the same amount).
One of the suspects the police were looking at was a former employee who two years earlier stole $1200 from the store’s freezer, the employee served a six month sentence for the crime and for a short time was a suspect in the murder case. By August more than 200 suspects had been questioned about the murder case with five suspects still under surveillance by the Conshohocken and State Police.
Three years later in January 1962 Charles Marwood replaced Walter Phipps as Conshohocken Chief of Police and vowed to keep the murder of Samuel Reidenberg open and active. By the spring of 1962 officers were chasing tips on suspects across the country questioning a man on the west coast in hopes of leading to something, it didn’t.
By June of 1962 still other suspects were questioned including a man in Norristown claiming to have information on the murder. Conshohocken sent police officers to New Jersey State Prison in Rahway in July of 1962 to question a prisoner who claimed to have information on the case. Later officers went to Florida to chase down yet another lead, they all led to empty results.
In 2014, Michael Orler, Conshohocken’s Chief of Police who was appointed in 2009, was questioned about the Samuel Reidenberg murder, after checking files with both the borough and Montgomery County, Chief Orler reported that the case has never been solved and is still open but not active.
The robbery and murder of Samuel Reidenberg behind the Conshohocken Fruit Market on January 17, 1959 will apparently remain a murder mystery, and not likely to ever be solved.