Village Lawyer to Probe Jesus de Galindez Disappearance


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July 24, 1957, Vol. II, No. 39

Noted Village Lawyer Takes on Top Mystery

Morris Ernst last week was given an assignment unprecedented in the history of an independent country. He as retained by the Dominican Republic to investigate that government’s own role, if any, in the disappearance of Dr. Jesus de Galindez.

Mr. Ernst will be tackling not only the Village’s biggest mystery but the major mystery of recent years, and one which began only two blocks from where he lives. The Spanish scholar and the eminent lawyer were neighbors; the former lived at 30 Fifth Avenue at the time of his disappearance, and the latter at 2 Fifth Avenue.

The choice of Mr. Ernst to work on this particular case is considered a highly interesting one. A noted liberal and crusading “civil liberties” lawyer, he would, by that description, find himself automatically in opposition to the dictatorial government of President Rafael Trujillo. It is reported the Dominican government took the surprising step of asking Mr. Ernst to investigate in an attempt to clear up a situation which had become disastrous financially to the island republic. As an aftermath of the Galindez case becoming headline news early last year, there was a steady decline in revenues from American tourists who crossed the Caribbean island off their travel itineraries.

Although Mr. Ernst is said to have exacted a promise of full cooperation from the Dominican government, it is expected that he will face a very difficult task. Mr. Ernst has the advantage, however, of close personal ties with FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. The government of the little republic is not cooperating with investigations now being carried on by the Departments of Justice and State, and the New York City Police Department. The latter investigation has its focus at the Village precinct on Mercer Street, which has been on the case since the supposed victim dropped out of sight on March 12, 1956.

Mr. Ernst’s investigation, in which he will be joined by former New York Supreme Court Justice William H. Munson, will be further complicated by another disappearance, that of an American pilot, Gerald Murphy, who had on several occasions last year indicated to friends his belief that he had transported Dr. Galindez to the Dominican Republic. Dominican authorities claim that Murphy was killed last December in a drunken brawl with another pilot, who threw his body into the sea. The accused man is supposed to have committed suicide in prison.

[The Village disappearance of Basque nationalist Jesus de Galindez went on to become the subject of numerous books and movies, the most recent being Galindez, a 2002 Spanish-Cuban documentary.]

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