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Why the grisly murder of Patrice Leary stood out in 1970 New York City when crime was king

Patrice Leary arrived wide-eyed and ambitious in New York in the summer of 1970, a 22-year-old Iowa girl by way of Smith College.

Like so many newcomers here, Leary carried big dreams.

She grew up in Des Moines, where she was student council president at St. Joseph Academy.

Before college, in 1965, Leary had won a trip to New York sponsored by Seventeen magazine. She couldn’t wait to get back to the Big Apple.

“She was very pretty, reserved and extremely intelligent,” her uncle Robert Keir told the Daily News’ Harry Stathos. “She liked New York.”

Just before Labor Day in 1970, Leary and a Des Moines friend, Katherine Duchen, paid $165 to sublet a fourth-floor apartment in a brownstone at 310 W. 73rd St., just up from Riverside Park. They shared a bedroom, sleeping in bunkbeds. Another friend, Betsy Paull, camped on the sofa.

Duchen worked as a student nurse. Leary took a job as a second-grade teacher’s aide at the exclusive Brearley School on E. 83rd St., where headmistress Jean Mitchell described her as “an eager, intelligent and earnest young lady.”

Leary hoped to earn a master’s degree in history and use her education to teach poor Native American children. She enrolled in night classes at both the New School and Bank Street College.

Thursday, Oct. 29, 1970, began like just another day in the busy lives of the young women.

Duchen was out the door at 7:20 a.m., headed to the hospital. A half-hour later, Leary caught the crosstown bus to Brearley.

She worked a half-day, then headed back to W. 73rd, stopping to pick up groceries. She got home at about 2 p.m.

 

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