Fascinating True Stories From the Flip Side of History

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Podcasting Since January 2008

A Little Boy’s Revenge (1953)

As I’ve mentioned before in the podcast, I spent nearly my entire professional career teaching high school science. There was this old joke in the school that I taught in that the teachers were always the last to know.  Somehow, the kids always seemed to learn what was going on before we ever did.  Sometimes it was simple things like the kids knowing before we did that they were going home early due to bad weather conditions.  But, at other times, they knew some of the more serious things like if there was going to be a major fight, etc.

This story which took place in Manhattan on Friday, March 13, 1953, is probably a good example of only the students knowing what was going on. It all started at [Public School] PS 90, which was located at 220 W. 148th Street.  Today, the majestic 1906 building is home to the National Dance Institute, plus a number of condos and apartments.

What the kids knew, and the teachers didn’t, was that three of the students had witnessed the murder and burial of his classmate, 8-year-old Ronnie Fears. What started with just a few students in the know, began to swell until it seemed as if everyone except the teachers knew what had happened.  That was until one unidentified student went to the main office and spilled the beans.  Principal William Lichtenstein was appalled by what he had just learned and immediately contacted the police.

Officers from both the Amsterdam Avenue and W. 135th Street stations raced to the school with sirens blasting. Members of Emergency Squad 5 arrived, picks and shovels in hand, to exhume the body. Detectives and other departmental brass assisted in the search.

It was 8-year-old Jose Bryant who told the officers what he had witnessed.  Six-year-olds Elia Williams and Brener Newman nodded in agreement as Jose told the story.  It seems that two days earlier, in the dead of the night, two other boys had strangled young Ronnie Fears to death, after which they buried the body in the rubble of a building being demolished near 145th Street and Edgecomb Avenue.

The officers quickly got to work.  They tossed bricks and other debris aside as they proceeded to dig several trenches in search of the victim. But there was no sign of the body.

Young Elia finally spoke up and said that the burial had been in “a different mountain,” and led two policemen and a detective across the street to Colonial Park, which was renamed Jackie Robinson Park in 1978. The men still found nothing.

While this was all going on, someone decided to do some checking.  Clearly, if Ronnie had been missing for two days, his family would have been in a panic trying to find him.  And that was when it was learned that Ronnie had, in fact, disappeared from the school, but for a totally different reason. About a week earlier, Ronnie and his family had picked up and moved Far Rockaway in Queens.  Yes, Ronnie Fears was still alive and doing well.

After being assured that he wouldn’t get in trouble, Jose finally admitted that there had been no murder.  There was no buried body.  And the other two boys had been witness to absolutely nothing. What had really happened was that about one week earlier, Jose had been hanging around that demolition site when an officer came up to him and told him to leave. He told Jose, “Get away, or you’ll have your head chopped off.” Jose got his revenge by making the officers spend two hours digging through the rubble for an imaginary corpse.

AI image of a boy investigating a crime scene
AI image of a boy investigating a crime scene that was created using the Bing Image Creator powered by Dall-E.
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