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The corpse in the custom-made suit

John Conway
Posted 5/31/24

Decoration Day, Tuesday, May 30, 1939, turned out to be a day Melvin Holt and George Dubner, two boys from Brooklyn vacationing with their families in Loch Sheldrake, would never forget.

Holt …

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The corpse in the custom-made suit


Decoration Day, Tuesday, May 30, 1939, turned out to be a day Melvin Holt and George Dubner, two boys from Brooklyn vacationing with their families in Loch Sheldrake, would never forget.

Holt and Dubner had decided to take a rowboat out on the lake early that morning, hoping to catch a few fish, but what they reeled in that day was something quite different.

Once out on the water, the pair spotted something bobbing on the surface of the lake, and upon closer inspection they found that the dark and slimy clump was actually the body of a dead man.

The boys immediately reported their find to town constable Harry Gardner, who contacted New York State Trooper Thomas J. Mangan, who arrived on the scene promptly.

Mangan, who had helped arrest public enemy number one Waxey Gordon in White Lake several years before, had been present in July, 1937 when the body of another man – later revealed to be Walter Sage, overseer of Sullivan County slot machines for Murder, Inc. – was fished out of Swan Lake. While Sage’s body had been weighted down with a slot machine frame and a 30-pound rock, this one had four sash weights attached to the left wrist. Remnants of cord indicated that similar weights had been attached to the other wrist and both ankles. 

The man was about 5-feet-8 inches tall, and looked to be well over 200 pounds. He was impeccably dressed in a tailor-made suit and a light topcoat. Mangan could see that he had been shot more than once. Further examination would reveal five bullet holes and seven stab wounds.

Dr. Harry Jacobs of Hurleyville, town health officer, examined the body next. Jacobs estimated it had been in the lake for several months. Mangan agreed, noting that the topcoat supported the contention that the murder had taken place the previous fall.

A receipt from a Manhattan dry cleaner and a telephone number found in the man’s clothes identified him as being from New York City. Sullivan County Deputy Sheriff Jay Lass and Corporal Carl Lawson of the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation were dispatched to the city to follow up on the clues.

Meanwhile, Monticello physician Dr. Ralph Breakey performed an autopsy at Laidlaw Funeral Home in Hurleyville. Sheriff Harry Borden and Trooper Mangan were also present.

Police found nine slot machine tokens in the victim’s pockets, along with $15 in cash, a pair of eyeglasses, and a pen and pencil. Lass and Lawson traced the dry cleaner’s receipt to an Audubon Avenue shop in upper Manhattan, where two expensive suits awaited “M. Carroll.”

The dead man was soon identified as Maurice “Frenchy” Carillot, a dope peddler and fugitive from justice. The previous August, federal agents had raided a nightclub in Philadelphia, arresting four men they believed to be the ringleaders of a narcotics distribution racket. That October, those four, and Carillot, who apparently headed up the sales end of the operation, but was never apprehended, were indicted on drug charges.

Carillot remained on the lam, splitting his time between New York City and Sullivan County. He was in the mountains when a mysterious phone call lured him to a meeting with hired killers, acting on behalf of others in the narcotics ring -- including, police believed, the current public enemy number one, Louis “Lepke” Buchalter – who did not think the Frenchman could be trusted to keep his mouth shut. 

Lepke was paranoid about underlings talking to the authorities about his nefarious activities, and many in his employ had found it unhealthy to be under suspicion from the boss. In Carillot’s case, a trip to the bottom of Loch Sheldrake followed.

It wasn’t until June 11, 1940 that an indictment was obtained in the murder of Maurice Carillot. That’s when prosecutors, acting on evidence provided by stool pigeons Abe “Kid Twist” Reles, Anthony “Dukey” Maffetore, and Abe “Pretty” Levine, charged Hurleyville resident Jacob “Jack” Drucker with first degree murder in violation of Section 1044 of the Penal Law of the State of New York.

Drucker was somehow able to evade arrest until December of 1943, and never stood trial in the Carillot murder. He was tried in 1944 for the murder of Walter Sage, convicted, and sentenced to from 25 years to life imprisonment. He spent the rest of his life in prison, first at Clinton State Prison at Dannemora, and then at Attica. He continually proclaimed his innocence, and with the representation of Lepke’s high-priced counsel, Hyman Barshay, filed numerous motions and appeals, all to no avail. 

Like Walter Sage two years before, Maurice Carillot’s body went unclaimed, and he was buried in the potter’s field section of Liberty Cemetery.

John Conway is the Sullivan County Historian and a founder and president of The Delaware Company. Email him at jconway52@hotmail.com.  


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