Forensic expert delves into disappearance of Stony Brook heiress
Reviewed by Rita J. Egan
The only thing more intriguing than a mystery is a true story that happened practically in the reader’s back yard. That’s the case with author Steven C. Drielak’s book Long Island’s Vanished Heiress: The Unsolved Alice Parsons Kidnapping recently released by Arcadia Publishing and The History Press.
Drielak tells the tale of the real-life kidnapping case of 38-year-old Alice McDonell Parsons, the heir to a vast fortune, who disappeared from Long Meadow Farm in Stony Brook on June 9, 1937. The accounts of three witnesses — her husband, the housekeeper and the housekeeper’s son — were reported in newspapers across the United States. It was a case where the Federal Bureau of Investigation stepped in to help solve, but despite countless interviews, crews combing and revisiting beaches along the north and south shores of Long Island, and the careful excavation of the farm, a body was never discovered.
For Long Islanders, the story will have added appeal with the familiar backdrop of Stony Brook and other local areas mentioned such as Huntington, Bay Shore, Glen Cove and more. While many may be familiar with the case of Alice Parsons, who reportedly was last seen getting into a large black sedan with a couple to show them a family estate in Huntington, there is so much more to learn as Drielak takes the reader on a trip into the past using articles from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, The New York Daily News, The New York Times, and the Chicago Tribune as well as FBI case files.
Right from the beginning, the author shows immense attention to detail as he takes us step by step through the infamous day starting at 6:30 a.m. as Alice Parsons’ husband, William, starts the morning feeding the livestock. He also describes what the Parsons’ Russian housekeeper Anna Kupryanova was doing that morning as well as Anna’s 10-year-old son Roy. We also get to meet Alice before her disappearance.
Early chapters give some background on the main players in this unsolved case. The reader learns of Alice’s privileged past, how William Parsons became involved in agriculture and events that led to Anna’s arrival to the United States. Delving into everyone’s pasts and characters, as well as how they interacted, helps the reader in understanding the possible motives of all the suspects in this case.
What many will find interesting is a case such as this one in the 1930s relied more on interviews and interrogations than forensic science as it wasn’t as developed as it is today. As the story unfolds, so do the clues, confessions and lies.
Making the story even more compelling is a disappearing chloroform bottle, paper found in the house that matches the kidnapper’s ransom note, a near confession and, to add even more to the intrigue, an affair that cannot be ignored.
What will leave the reader even more suspicious of Alice’s husband and housekeeper is the marriage of William and Anna in 1940 before the heiress is declared legally dead. The new couple never waited for a body to be found before starting a life together in California as husband and wife. Their relationship definitely raised eyebrows, especially since Anna was the last to see Alice alive.
There are also transcripts of recorded interviews between William and Anna that were part of the investigation. The conversations are interesting in that it seems as if Anna was dominant in the relationship, telling William he didn’t know what he was talking about when it came to a chloroform bottle being found. She also mentions that Alice is still alive. The conversations are an example of how difficult it was to solve how the heiress disappeared or if she was kidnapped or murdered.
Last but not least, the photos used in the book, many from the author’s personal collection and the Three Village Historical Society, are interesting to see. Local history buffs especially will enjoy them as some of the photos depict Stony Brook in the 1930s with William addressing reporters outside of his home, and volunteers ready to search the area standing outside The Stony Brook School. The photos drive home that this unsolved mystery happened right here in our own back yard.
Author Steven C. Drielak is an internationally recognized expert in the area of Hot Zone Forensic Attribution. He received his master’s degrees from John Jay College of Criminal Justic and has more than 30 years of law enforcement experience. He has authored six textbooks in the areas of environmental crimes, weapons of mass destruction and forensic attribution, as well as two historical fiction novels. Long Island’s Vanished Heiress is available at ArcadiaPublishing.com, Book Revue in Huntington, Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.