It's a cold case 15 years in the making. A popular deli owner was murdered -- his killer never found. As his family and friends come together to celebrate the opening of the newest 2nd Avenue Deli, they remember the man killed in cold blood.
Fifteen years after the brutal murder of the owner of the iconic 2nd Avenue Deli, police are still searching for the killer.
Abe Lebewohl's 1996 murder has become a cold case that has frustrated detectives and family members who continue to seek closure and justice after all this time for the man they so deeply loved.
"When someone walks in and says, 'Ah,' this is just as good as how my uncle made it, that makes me smile," said Lebewohl's nephew, Josh, who now runs the family business with his brother Jeremy. "He would have been proud."
On Tuesday, the Lebewohl family opened a new 2nd Ave. Deli restaurant -- a second location. It is a tribute to Lebewohl, who opened up the original kosher Jewish deli on 2nd Avenue and 10th Street in 1954.
In March 1996, Lebewohl was walking to a nearby bank to make an $11,000 deposit. He was robbed and shot to death in broad daylight.
"It was a horrible, shocking day," said Josh Lebewohl.
New York City Police Detective Jimmy Piccione was assigned the case and worked diligently to solve it. After more than a decade later, he had not found the killer. He retired this year with a heavy heart.
"It was during the day, but it was a cold day, and there weren't that many people on the street," Piccione said, recalling the day of the slaying. "The people that were on the street were bundled up. It was hard to find good witnesses."
Police have questioned "persons of interest" over the years in connection with Lebewohl's murder, but no one was ever arrested. Authorities are hoping a new tip that will lead them in the right direction.
The pride the family feels over the new restaurant opening has prompted them to rededicate themselves to finding Lebewohl's killer. They upped the reward money to $150,000 for information that leads to an arrest in the case. Lebewohl's brother, Jack, says he made the decision to increase the reward the evening before the new opening.
Meanwhile, the family has focused on cultivating the business and Lebewohl's legacy. They have put their faith in God, resolving that the case will be solved eventually.
"I am confident that at some day, at some time, there will be justice," said Jack Lebewohl. "The only thing we can do is hope."