There have been a number of femme fatale so dubbed a “Kiss of Death” girl. Lois Hardy in Nevada, Mary Margaret Collins in gangland Chicago, and Viola Morin from Pittsburgh are a few early twentieth century examples. This overview, however, will profile one in particular – a Brooklyn beauty who was, over time, close and comfy with four individual men, each of whom met a tragic end, with the last being a prominent hitman for the infamous enforcement arm of the national crime ‘Syndicate’- aka Murder Inc. The subject of today’s mob history article was also a person of interest – a material witness to be precise -during the Murder Inc. trials that took place in the early 1940′s.
The lady in question was Evelyn Mittelman. Her would-be suitors consisted of Hymie Miller, Robert Furer, Solomon Goldstein, and finally – a brutal and prolific killer: Harry “Pittsburgh Phil” Strauss. The prosecutor who kept tabs on Mittleman and co-wrote a book on the Murder Inc. story – Assistant District Attorney Burton B. Turkus.
Her deadly touch began when she was just seventeen years old, and continued to age twenty-five. 1940 would see New York’s legal system dismantle Murder Inc. and Mittelman making headlines as she played a pivotal role in the capital sentence her current boyfriend was facing.
Mittelman was labeled with the “Kiss of Death” moniker because of the obvious – each love interest died, allegedly, at the hands of each following love interest. In a commentary from an April, 1940 issue of The New Yorker, writers Ernest LaFrance and Wolcott Gibbs tallied up Mittelman’s deadly relationships in a contemptuous tone, “…she was insulted by her beloved, one Hymie Miller, & Hymie was shot dead by a rival. Later Evelyn was insulted by another beloved, Robert Furer, and he was shot dead by Solomon Goldstein, who was him self beloved until he insulted Evelyn & was beaten up by Pittsburgh Phil Strauss & taken on a one-way ride to Sullivan County. Now Evelyn is in jail as a material witness & as far as we are concerned, she can stay there.”
Evelyn Mittelman’s attorney tried, in vain, to convince the court that perhaps she knew nothing of the gruesome line of work her lover Pittsburgh Phil was involved in. According to the highly detailed account of Murder Inc., by Turkus and Feder, the court wasn’t buying the possibility and subsequently kept Mittelman in the Women’s House of Detention for six weeks (this was also for her own protection) while the prosecution compiled more evidence. The Kiss of Death girl kept busy with fellow female Murder Inc. associates while under lock and key and eventually saw the prosecutor’s ‘light’, agreeing to meet with Phil and try to talk him into doing what Abe Reles did… spill the beans. Phil agreed, but wanted a totally clean slate in return. As it turned out though, Harry “Pittsburgh Phil” Strauss would not receive a get-out-of-jail card and instead faced a judge and jury. Strauss, aka Pittsburgh Phil – strapped to the electric chair in 1941; Evelyn Mittelman – his last recorded visitor.
– Christian Cipollini