Looking back...and another Montvale mystery or two
October 17 2006 at 8:51 PM
I have had a longtime interest in this case. I grew up in Park Ridge, though I was just about 2 when this incident took place. Most of what I know is from news stories and accounts of people who are familiar with the case. I read Anyone’s Son about 10 years after the fact (1986 or so- had to sneak it, my parents weren’t happy but I read it through in almost one sitting) though I first heard about the murders in a story in the Bergen Record referencing Harry De La Roche a few years before. Although I did not go to Pascack Hills, I knew a few of his former teachers and they basically backed up the allegation that Harry’s father was demanding, verbally (if not also physically) abusive and difficult to get along with both at Pascack Hills and as a MAL coach. Harry was often a target of ridicule and tried hard to please his father according to some, but felt like a failure.
A few people that I have spoken to (including one who was in law school at the time and followed the case) think that while Harry was probably factually guilty of the homicides, there were a number of problems with the prosecution of the case and that he was basically “railroaded into Rahway”. His mental state, they thought, should have played a larger role in his sentencing.
Growing up this was a bit of a campfire urban legend and the details became a tall tale a little larger than life in the minds of teenage boys sitting out in the woods on Scout trips. I think it held some allure because the story was better than Stephen King (whose stories we weren't beyond swapping and retelling either)- it was real, and it happened in our backyard. Fortunately we had fathers with us who were willing to set us straight on the facts and actually told us the reported truth about what happened and where the house was.
It’s great to see the names of some long-gone area places in here…seems like there are some people who have some good information on Montvale in that time period. I was wondering about another “mystery” and local "tall tale", that of the 1982 Jerry’s Villa fire (corner of Summit and Spring Valley Roads). As I remember it was undergoing renovations at the time and a propane tank explosion was listed as a possible cause, but others suggested more sinister motives, including the fact that the fire might have been going pretty well before it was reported. All I remember is that the fire started about midnight on a Friday in January and the place burned all weekend (will never forget going into the parking lot of the Garden State, across the street from Jerry’s Villa, and seeing all the smoke coming out of it that Friday afternoon…btw between that and Westwood’s 5 Corners in May, the area had some nasty fires that year). As I remember, conditions that night were horrible with subfreezing temperatures and lots of ice. I’d appreciate hearing from anyone from the Montvale PD/FD with information they’d be willing to share.
As for the two bodies in the woods by the Ramada Inn, I've never heard that story, nor am I aware of the septic tank skeleton though that seems to me that could be a very old, cold case. As for the incident by Davey's Locker, I seem to remember maybe about 1983 or 84 2 men were found dead in a car out back. Also, don't forget the well-covered case of Joan D'Alessandro back in the 70's. But besides a few fatal domestic incidents over the years, this is a fairly safe area.
Most people from Montvale will tell you that the fire that burned down this restuarant was not an accident. I am pretty certain myself that the new owners wanted to collect the insurance money and the town wanted the land.
The owner was believed to be in the waste disposal business.
Re: Looking back...and another Montvale mystery or two
November 14 2006, 11:12 PM
Your are right about Jerry's Villa...it was "Lighting" as they call it. And the 5 Corner's in Westwood was the same thing too...and the owner of the buildings (Karl Thuerer)received a phone call that something bad would happen to him during the day. I was with the FD at the time and yes, the water did freeze faster that it put out the fire. There were actually 2 fires there within 2 yrs. And I do remember the Joan D'Allesandro murder like it was yesterday..I lived 3 blks away from her house and my sister babysat for family. You have to give alot of credit to HPD Chief Versico and Mr. Collier for solving that case in a matter of days(without the DNA, etc. that's available today)
Re: Looking back...and another Montvale mystery or two
November 28 2006, 1:55 PM
Karl Theurer owned which building... Jerry's Villa or 5 Corners? What kind of threats did he get?
From what I remember about 5 Corners, evidently it started in a dumpster behind the Town Center Diner late at night (guess it wasn't a 24-hour diner) and jumped a small gap to the wood-and-brick row of stores adjacent where it raced through the common cockloft. Going on weak memory, wasn't the alarm from a Westwood cop passing the stores and noticing that 5 Corners Toy and Gift was on fire (a good 3 stores down the row)? What was the supposed motive for the fire anyway?
2 fires within a few years- again, Jerry's Villa? The first one was obviously not as big. How long was Jerry's Villa closed before it burned.
Westwood was pretty hard hit with Westwood Furniture (electrical) (could have been 1980?), 5 Corners 5/82 (cause??), Struncks/Purity (electrical) (12/82?), and the Army-Navy store across the street within a year, which was arson and the perps were convicted. They were dumb enough to take merchandise out of the store in plain sight before torching it and witnesses recalled that after the fact.
Would love to talk about these topics, if you'd like to take it off the board, you can email me at email@example.com
There's probably no real point to this message, other than my surprise while "googling" old names. I lived on Maple Leaf Drive in Park Ridge, and only lived there until the age of about 7 or 8 (1967). I used to play with Doreen and Tony. I remember their younger brother (though I don't remember his name). I also remember how abusive the household seemed; for instance, I believe it was Doreen who had a burn mark on her leg from her younger brother placing a hot iron on it. The entire imprint of the iron could be seen. I remember feeling very uncomfortable when either of the boys were there, and especially when their father came home. I would leave immediately. The younger brother (Harry is it?)once placed tar in my hair (the tar was from the road), and I just sat there in fear until he was done. When I went home, my mother was horrified, but just cut all my hair off to be rid of it. Remembering this incident years later, I just figured it was a typical boyhood act... though I know a child behaving in such a manner is certainly something to be concerned about... abusive, and at such a young age. In anycase, I had no idea of this story called, "Anyone's Son". I'll have to check it out. So sad.