New Year’s Eve, 1946 was the occasion of a classic weird crime.
19-year-old Pearl Lusk thought she had been employed to do some detective work by Allen La Rue, whom she had met on the subway. He told her that he was an insurance investigator. Her mission was to track a suspected jewel thief, Olga Trapani, and collect evidence to build a case against her.
Lusk trailed Trapani for a few days, and then La Rue added a new twist to the assignment. He gave her what he described as an “X-ray camera” camouflaged as a gift-wrapped package and instructed her to take a picture of Trapani with it. The resulting photo, he said, would reveal the jewels that Trapani kept pinned inside her dress, around her waist.
Lusk dutifully followed Trapani into the Times Square subway station, pointed the camera at her, and pulled the trigger wire. A shot rang out and Trapani collapsed to the ground.
It turned out that the “X-ray camera” was really a camouflaged sawed-off shotgun. And Trapani was really La Rue’s ex-wife, of whom he had grown insanely jealous. La Rue’s real name was Alphonse Rocco. He had been stalking his ex-wife for several months.
Lusk was totally clueless about what she had done. As the subway police rushed up after the shooting, she told them, “I just took this woman’s picture and somebody shot her.”
Rocco fled to upstate New York, where he died in a shootout with the police several days later.
Trapani survived, but lost her leg. She and Lusk reportedly became friends after the incident.