It was a case that stole the innocence of a community: the fatal stabbing of a little girl in Elizabeth, New Jersey, on March 8, 1966, a slaying in a safe neighborhood in a safe town.
Seven-year-old Wendy Sue Wolin was stabbed to death in daylight waiting for her mother outside their upscale apartment building. In spite of a detailed composite sketch of the male suspect and one of the largest manhunts ever in the state, the case went cold.
It haunted many, including Elizabeth Police Captain Todd Mooney, who decided to unofficially reopen the case a few years ago. Mooney told the I-Team he was the same age as Wendy, lived in the neighborhood, and said the case, “always stuck with me. I saw the blood.” He posted this on Facebook:
“March, 8, 1966. Wendy Sue Wolin was murdered in front of her home on Irvington Avenue. Someone out there knows who did it.”
He had no idea his social media campaign would breathe new life into the case.
The post drew hundreds of responses from those who shared their memories of the moment that their lives changed. Elizabeth resident Grace Fusco connected. “It impacted my childhood, throughout my whole life,” she said.
Mooney also posted a composite sketch of Wendy’s suspected killer, hoping it might spark a lead. Someone did recognize that face, but not in connection with Wendy. It involved the killing of another little girl in neighboring Highland Park the year before.
Neighbor Beth Moroney told the I-team she is certain she saw Wendy’s killer on her block the same day that her friend, 11-year-old Mae Rubenstein, was stabbed more than a dozen times inside the family home on South 3rd Avenue in February 1965. Mae’s mother was also killed by the unknown intruder.
“I saw the face and I knew right away it was the same man,” Moroney said. “All I could do was scream. I just kept screaming, 'It’s him, it’s him.'”
Moroney said that right after the killing she described the man to police but there was no follow-up and no composite. She still wonders whether Wendy’s death could have been prevented had police had listened to her. Authorities never made an official connection.
But the I-Team has uncovered more bizarre coincidences in the two cases. When the Rubenstein’s were killed, Wendy and Jodi lived a block away in Highland Park in their grandparents’ house. Their last name was Rubenstein, no relation to Mae’s family.
Jodi Wolin, who moved to Florida several years ago, now reveals her mother suddenly moved the girls to Elizabeth 11 days after the Rubensteins died with no reason given. Jodi said she never even heard about the Rubenstein case until Facebook. One theory is that the Rubenstein’s may have been killed in a twisted case of mistaken identity.
Jodi said her grandfather did owe money to the mob and other powerful people, and she wonders.
“I’m just appalled at the coincidences," she said.
“They could have been looking for me or Wendy,” said Mae Rubenstein’s older brother, Elihu Rubenstein, who lives in North Brunswick. He added that he doesn’t believe it’s all a coincidence because there are just too many similarities.
Said Mooney, “I mean, listen, it would be a great movie or a great book if you could connect Highland Park and Elizabeth. Even Wendy’s story would be. It’s an unbelievable story.”
Both families said their goal is to keep the memories of the little girls alive and they appreciate all the support on social media. Jodi said: “I think about her every day. It was my job to protect her.”
The mayor of Elizabeth is planning a memorial service for Wendy in June. DNA from Wendy’s coat is being tested but Mooney said the evidence is so degraded, it will likely not produce any positive results.
There was no DNA in the Rubenstein case because police mopped up the blood.