The story of the Glicksteins of Brooklyn, New York, serves as a grim example of what can happen to a family when a beloved member is murdered.
In December 1921, Lillian Raizen, 29, visited the office of Dr. Abraham Glickstein. With three patients sitting in the waiting room and Glickstein’s wife standing expectantly near the street entrance of her husband’s office, Lillian walked directly into the doctor’s operatory, approached him and fired three shots from a revolver she had hidden in a cheap skunk muff she carried.
Lillian then turned and calmly walked out of the office and was lost in the crowd before anyone knew Glickstein had been hurt. Because the muff muted the sound of the gunfire, no one realized that the doctor had been shot. In fact, until they examined him, the witnesses assumed he was having a heart attack or stroke. The witnesses could only give a basic description of Raizen.
The doctor stumbled out the exam room and fell in the doorway. His last words were “For God’s sake, get help.”
The second tragedy touched the Glickstein family literally hours later as the family mourned the death of Abraham. His body was resting in his home prior to its journey to the doctor’s final resting space.
Although the New York Times reported that some 2,000 people “drawn by morbid curiosity” were standing on Bedford Avenue outside the home, in keeping with Jewish tradition the Glickstein house was only occupied by mourning family members when Abraham’s widowed mother, 68-year-old Lena Glickstein, arrived to view her son’s body for the first time. She had not been told how her son died, only that it had been sudden and unexpected.
“Mrs. Glickstein, who had been in failing health for several years, showed unmistakable signs of feebleness,” the Times reported. “The aged woman became excited when she observed the large crowd, and by the time she was ushered into the room in which the coffin rested she was on the verge of collapse.”
According to witnesses inside the home, Lena Glickstein was led into the parlor by two granddaughters and slowly made her way to the simple wood casket where her son lay.
“Abraham, my son, you ought to be going to my funeral,” she said, kissing her son’s forehead. “Instead, I am going to yours.”
Whether she actually made her next statement is unknown (it makes for a much more dramatic story), but the end result is not in doubt.
“She slowly lifted her eyes to several relatives weeping at the head of the coffin, and continued: ‘I wish to God I had died instead of my boy. I must go with him,'” according to the Times reporter.
Lena then collapsed on the carpet, dead.
“Dr. Samuel Swetnick by that time was standing beside the aged woman, but was not quick enough to catch her before she fell,” the reporter wrote. “He, with the other physicians, leaned over her and after a cursory investigation, announced that she had died of heart failure due to the strain occasioned by her grief.”
The Times said that Abraham’s widow, Anna, and several other female relatives fainted following the tragedy.
After a delay of three hours while authorities sorted through the chaos created by the tragedy and the rabbis conferred about how to combine the ritual mourning of Lena with that of her son, the funeral of Abraham was completed.
At the time Abraham and Lena were buried, New York’s finest were running down clues as to who the shooter might be. Even based on the vague description of the shooter, police were looking for Lillian. The Glicksteins had known Lillian and her family for more than 20 years, one of the doctor’s brothers said
“After I heard her described, I thought it must be Lillian,” he said.
The manhunt did not last long. As calmly as she did when she shot Dr. Glickstein, Lillian Raizen walked into the office of Brooklyn District Attorney Harry E. Lewis on December 14 and promptly confessed to the shooting. Not surprisingly, she claimed temporary insanity.
Lillian told investigators that she and the doctor, who looked after her family, had carried on an affair for six years, beginning when Lillian was 21 and continuing until shortly before Lillian wed Charles S. Raizen, described in the press as “a toy manufacturer.”
“He destroyed my life,” Lillian swore. “And I decided to kill him. I had confessed our relations to my husband on our honeymoon last May and he forgave me. But the knowledge of our intimacy preyed upon my mind. I feared I was becoming insane.”
She told police that she purchased a .38 pistol from a man in Jacksonville, Florida, where she had been sent by her family in an attempt to cure the melancholia that was taking over her mind.
“I looked at him for fully two minutes without a word. Then something happened. I remembered the pistol…I had it in the fur scarf which that afternoon I had sewed into the form of a muff,” she confessed. “I took a firm grip on it and while Dr. Glickstein stared in amazement at me I tried to pull the trigger,” she went on. “I don’t know whether he spoke to me. In fact I don’t know what happened. I must have pulled the trigger, for I saw him fall.”
Lillian said her motive for killing the doctor was to rid herself of the strange hold the doctor had on her.
“Dr. Glickstein knew me when I was a little girl. Advice from him is virtually a command. He dominated me,” she wrote in a statement released the day before her trial. “Afterward, I was never able to escape the strange influence he had over me. Even after I married Charles Raizen, one of the best men, this doctor tried to draw me back to him.”
Not surprisingly the family denied any sign of untoward behavior by the head of the household.
“We are exceedingly surprised, however, with her story regarding the motive for the killing,” Abraham’s son-in-law told reporters. “There was never the slightest indication on her part in her friendly intercourse with the family of Dr. Glickstein that his conduct had ever been anything but that of a friend and a physician toward a patient.”
Lillian’s alienist, Dr. Samuel A. Tannenbaum said his patient was suffering from “a slight form of mania.” Her family said she had always been hysterical and neurotic. Whether the intimacy was real or imaginary, consensual or rape, it consumed Lillian to the point of madness.
“Mrs. Raizen called on me three months ago,” he said. “She told me a story of her relations with Dr. Glickstein. She showed unmistakeable evidence of a homicidal mania.”
Charles Raizen stood by his wife throughout the ordeal, placing the blame squarely on the back of Abraham Glickstein. He said he received many letters from his wife as she rested in Florida, but they only convinced him that Dr. Tannenbaum’s diagnosis of “homicidal mania” was spot on.
“She told me that Dr. Glickstein when he heard of our engagement which led to our marriage, tried to induce her to break off with me,” he told the press. “She wept as though her heart would break when she told me how Dr. Glickstein attacked her and how she had to fight him off.”
The accused murderess was taken to Belleview Hospital for a sanity check, which eventually revealed she was competent to stand trial where a jury would determine if she was insane when she gunned down the doctor.
Five months before Lillian killed Dr. Glickstein, another high-profile murder took place in Brooklyn. The case involved allegations similar to those raised in the Glickstein case and would have a profound and crushing impact on the Glickstein family.
In that case, Olivia Stone, a Cincinnati nurse, traveled to Brooklyn to confront an attorney named Ellis Guy Kinkaid, whom she believed had wronged her by seducing her. The long trial contained lurid letters, including some written by Stone threatening Kinkaid’s life, as well as dueling alienists.
During her trial for first degree murder, the Times reported that her defense was “temporary, transitory emotional insanity, also termed ‘Brain Explosion,’ a mental condition, in which, it was maintained, was predicated on acts of the slain man.”
The prosecution, citing the threatening letters and Stone’s trip from Cincinnati to Brooklyn, asserted premeditation. The jury disagreed. Amid a joyous outcry from the gallery, Stone was acquitted.
“The cheers which greeted the acquittal drowned out the voice of the clerk as he started to poll each juror,” a courthouse hack wrote.
Not surprisingly, Anna Glickstein watched the Stone case closely and became despondent when the defendant was acquitted, fearing her husband’s killer would receive a similar verdict.
During Passover, one of the most joyous Jewish holidays, Anna and her daughters visited the home of her parents, but the Seder was subdued.
“There is no justice,” people would later report Anna as repeating over and over.
After the dinner Anna and her youngest daughter, Frances, retired to a guest bedroom in preparation for bed. Shortly before dawn Frances was awakened by a loud crash below her window.
“Louis Lebowitz, who lives on the ground floor, looked out and saw Mrs. Glickstein lying on her back, her arms stretched wide,” the Times reported. “She had fallen on a heavy iron post, which had been knocked from its base by the blow. In her hand was a silk handkerchief.”
The Glickstein family insisted that Anna had accidentally fallen, but it was apparent from the evidence that she had launched herself out the window so she fell in such a way that an accidental slip could not explain.
When advised of the tragedy, Lillian, held in lieu of bail, broke into tears.
“I am the cause. I am to blame,” the warden of the Raymond Street Jail told reporters Lillian had cried. “If I had been in my right mind, I would never have shot Dr. Glickstein.”
The trial of Lillian Raizen for the murder of Abraham Glickstein began before Justice James C. Cropsey on February 12, 1923 to a full gallery of curious court watchers and reporters.
As far as trials go, it was a typical affair for cases like this. The only issue to be answered at this trial was whether Lillian was sane when she shot the doctor, and if not, what degree of murder was the crime.
It was necessary for Lillian to take the stand, and for her part, Lillian played the role of the mentally unsound defendant quite well. She talked of her “urge to kill” and her need to force the doctor to “return her to the way she was.”
On February 19, 1923, after 12 hours of deliberation, the jury returned a verdict of guilty of second-degree murder against Lillian Raizen. Lillian, confident of acquittal, was rendered speechless by the verdict at first, but then shuddering, she blurted out: “Oh, my God! Oh, My God, how miserable I am.”
Then she blotted her eyes with her handkerchief as she was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
The damage she wreaked on the Glickstein family lingered on long after Lillian was locked up in Auburn prison.
The New York Times, on August 19, 1927, ran the following brief:
Laura Glickstein, 26, was taken to the Kings County Hospital yesterday for treatment as a drug addict, following her arrest the night before on charges of possession of morphine and forging prescriptions to obtain narcotics. According to the police, she admitted the use of drugs, which she said she had begun following the murder of her father, Dr. Abraham Glickstein, by Mrs. Lillian Raizen and the death of her mother and grandmother.
Although Dr. Glickstein had been reputed to be wealthy, his estate dwindled down to almost nothing, Miss Glickstein told police. She said that she was unable to sleep following the crushing series of misfortunes that had followed her and in despair began to use drugs.
There are no records of what happened to Laura Glickstein, but her future was exceedingly dim.
In “Women and Addiction in the United States — 1920 to the Present, Stephen R. Kandall wrote: “Facing limited treatment options, women addicts lived almost totally dependent on men for their drugs, with little belief that America’s hard-line approach held any hope for them.”