Harold A. Rose

Mas­ter de­tec­tive and Kennedy as­sas­si­na­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tor who found no con­spir­acy also en­joyed duck­pin bowl­ing

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - OBITUARIES - By Jac­ques Kelly

Harold Aaron Rose, a re­tired Bal­ti­more City Po­lice De­part­ment homi­cide de­tec­tive who in­ves­ti­gated 1960s mur­der cases and the as­sas­si­na­tion of Pres­i­dent John F. Kennedy, died Nov. 25 at Sea­sons Hos­pice Cen­ter. The Ca­tonsville res­i­dent was 91 and had suf­fered a fall in his home.

He was born in Bal­ti­more, the son of Sam Rose, a Rut­ter Street neigh­bor­hood tav­ern owner, and his wife, Lena. He at­tended Bal­ti­more City Col­lege and left school at 16 to work for the So­cial Se­cu­rity Ad­min­is­tra­tion at its Can­dler Build­ing lo­ca­tion. He later got an ed­u­ca­tional equiv­a­lency diploma.

He joined the Bal­ti­more City Po­lice De­part­ment in 1948 and be­came a much­praised in­ves­ti­ga­tor of crimes.

He mar­ried at­tor­ney San­dra A. O’Con­nor in 1976. They met each other at the court­house when each was try­ing a mur­der case.

“Harold was ini­tially not en­thu­si­as­tic about me,” she said. “He said he did not like a woman try­ing one of his mur­der cases. That was the be­gin­ning our 43 years to­gether.” Ms. O’Con­nor later be­came Bal­ti­more County state’s at­tor­ney.

A 1979 Bal­ti­more Sun ar­ti­cle de­scribed Mr. Rose as a “crack homi­cide de­tec­tive” and listed sev­eral of his high-pro­file cases, in­clud­ing the mur­der of Cur­tis Bay res­i­dent El­iz­a­beth White; the 1969 death of the pop­u­lar Green­mount Av­enue tav­ern owner, Martin “Mickey” Grif­fin, who was gunned down in a rob­bery; and the ex­e­cu­tion-style mur­ders of Howard Street shoe store own­ers Robert and Marie Jor­dan.

While in the po­lice de­part­ment, he made a cameo ap­pear­ance with ac­tor Lee Marvin, who was film­ing a 1964 show, “The Law­break­ers,” in an episode about a Bal­ti­more County cat bur­glar.

He also in­ves­ti­gated the 1969 dis­ap­pear­ance and death of 11-year-old Es­ther Le­bowitz, a stu­dent at Bais Yaakov School for Girls, who dropped out of sight from the Park Heights Av­enue shop­ping dis­trict in North­west Bal­ti­more.

News ac­counts said her body was found days later in a field off the side of a road. The med­i­cal ex­am­iner said she had been killed with a ham­mer. Part of her body was cov­ered in sand and blue paint, which led po­lice to a trop­i­cal fish store in Park Heights where Wayne Steven Young worked. Con­victed of the girl’s mur­der, he died in 2016 while still in­car­cer­ated.

Mr. Rose was work­ing when Sis­ter Cather­ine Anne “Cathy” Ces­nik was re­ported miss­ing in 1969 from her North Bend Road apart­ment near the west­ern Bal­ti­more City line.

“He got the first call she was miss­ing, and I as­sume they di­rected it over to homi­cide,” said his wife.

The un­solved death of Sis­ter Cathy be­came the sub­ject of the se­ries “The Keep­ers.”

Mr. Rose re­tired from the de­part­ment in 1973. He was then named chief in­ves­ti­ga­tor for the Of­fice of the Bal­ti­more City State’s At­tor­ney.

In 1977, he was cho­sen to be an in­ves­ti­ga­tor on a House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives com­mit­tee in­ves­ti­gat­ing the as­sas­si­na­tions of Pres­i­dent John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He was as­signed to the Kennedy case.

“It was one of his great­est ca­reer mo­ments when he was ap­pointed,” said his wife.

Ac­counts in The Sun said Mr. Rose went on to spend nearly two years re­view­ing the Kennedy as­sas­si­na­tion and go­ing over ev­i­dence that had been re­ported ear­lier in the Warren Com­mis­sion re­port.

He in­ter­viewed mem­bers of the Se­cret Ser­vice, the Dal­las Po­lice De­part­ment and right-wing mil­i­tants.

“The only thing you can do with a 16-year-old mur­der like this is to re-interview ev­ery­one and try to find peo­ple who have never been in­ter­viewed be­fore,” he said in a 1979 ar­ti­cle.

He also said, “I don’t think the peo­ple in this coun­try or in the world will ever be to­tally sat­is­fied, re­gard­less of what is found. Any­time you have a man killed and his mur­derer is mur­dered and the man who does that is dead, all you have is a mys­tery,” he said of as­sas­sin Lee Har­vey Oswald, who was shot and killed by Jack Ruby two days af­ter the Kennedy death.

He be­lieved that a mys­tery sur­round­ing the Kennedy as­sas­si­na­tion was cre­ated by crime writ­ers and that what­ever facts he turned up, skep­tics would never trust his in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“I don’t think you will ever con­vince peo­ple who are hard-line that this is not a con­spir­acy,” he said.

He de­scribed stand­ing at the win­dow where Lee Har­vey Oswald is widely as­sumed to have fired at Pres­i­dent Kennedy in Dal­las. He also stud­ied Dealey Plaza, where the as­sas­sin’s bul­lets struck the pres­i­dent.

“He went into the in­ves­ti­ga­tion think­ing there was a con­spir­acy and came out be­liev­ing it was a sim­ple case of mur­der,” said his wife.

In re­tire­ment, Mr. Rose en­joyed fol­low­ing pro­fes­sional sports and col­lege sports. He was also a duck­pin bowler.

“I was work­ing the Turk Scott case, ” said his wife. “There were threats, and I was given a ride home from the po­lice af­ter the end of the day at that trial. Harold said he would drive me, ev­ery night but Thurs­day. That was his bowl­ing night.”

A cel­e­bra­tion of life is pri­vate.

He leaves be­hind his wife of 43 years; a son, Robert O’Con­nor of Reis­ter­stown; a daugh­ter Kelly O’Con­nor of Chicago; a sis­ter, Shirley Ka­menitz of Greens­boro, North Carolina; and two grand­daugh­ters.

Harold Rose was a “crack homi­cide de­tec­tive” who had sev­eral high-pro­file cases.

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