On April 10, 1936, the body of aspiring novelist Nancy Titterton was found raped and strangled to death (by her own pajamas) in the bathtub of the New York City apartment she shared with her husband, an executive at NBC. The only clues: a short length of cord and a single horsehair.

Incredibly, however, these meager items, combined with some clever detective work, constituted enough evidence to track down the so-called “Bathtub Killer,” and an arrest was made April 17, just a week after the vicious crime. The culprit wasn’t a random intruder, but a man Nancy had met just days prior. She didn’t realize he’d become dangerously obsessed with her after their strictly business first encounter.

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History.com recalls how it all went down:

After a full week of combing every rope and twine manufacturer in the Northeast, the cord was finally found to have come from Hanover Cordage Company in York, Pennsylvania. Company records showed that some of the distinctive cord had been sold to Theodore Kruger’s upholstery shop in New York City.

Since the investigation of the horsehair had already led police to suspect John Fiorenza, an assistant at Kruger’s shop, this new evidence only solidified their suspicion. Fiorenza and Kruger were the first to discover Titterton’s body, when they arrived to return a repaired couch (which had been stuffed with horsehair that matched the one found at the crime scene) on the afternoon of April 10. However, they both denied entering the bedroom that day.

When investigators learned that Fiorenza had been at the Titterton house on April 9 and had been late for work the morning of the murder, they looked deeper into his background. Fiorenza had four prior arrests for theft and had been diagnosed as delusional by a prison psychiatrist. Detectives first gained Fiorenza’s trust by pretending to need his help in solving the crime and then sprang the cord evidence on him.

Caught by surprise, Fiorenza confessed to the brutal crime but claimed that he was temporarily insane. This defense didn’t hold up too well at trial, and Fiorenza was executed on January 22, 1937.

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As a side note, Titterton’s address was 22 Beekman Place. Upscale Beekman Place is a small street on Manhattan’s east side that, by gruesome coincidence, has weathered more than its share of bloody crimes, including a fatal shooting just this past January.

After a week of tracking down every conceivable lead, police finally find the evidence they need in order to break the case of Nancy Titterton's rape-murder in New York City. Titterton, a novelist and the wife of NBC executive Lewis Titterton, was raped and strangled in her upscale home on Beekman Place on the morning of April 10, 1936. The only clues left behind were a foot-long piece of cord that had been used to tie Titterton's hands and a single horsehair found on her bedspread.

These small traces of evidence proved to be enough to find the killer. The detective in charge of the investigation had ordered his team to trace the source of the cord. After a full week of combing every rope and twine manufacturer in the Northeast, the cord was finally found to have come from Hanover Cordage Company in York, Pennsylvania. Company records showed that some of the distinctive cord had been sold to Theodore Kruger's upholstery shop in New York City.

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Since the investigation of the horsehair had already led police to suspect John Fiorenza, an assistant at Kruger's shop, this new evidence only solidified their suspicion. Fiorenza and Kruger were the first to discover Titterton's body, when they arrived to return a repaired couch (which had been stuffed with horsehair that matched the one found at the crime scene) on the afternoon of April 10. However, they both denied entering the bedroom that day.

When investigators learned that Fiorenza had been at the Titterton house on April 9 and had been late for work the morning of the murder, they looked deeper into his background. Fiorenza had four prior arrests for theft and had been diagnosed as delusional by a prison psychiatrist. Detectives first gained Fiorenza's trust by pretending to need his help in solving the crime and then sprang the cord evidence on him.

Caught by surprise, Fiorenza confessed to the brutal crime but claimed that he was temporarily insane. This defense didn't hold up too well at trial, and Fiorenza was executed on January 22, 1937.

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You can see the incriminating string, the triumphant detectives, Nancy Titterton’s apartment building, the exterior of the upholstery store, and John Fiorenza being bombarded by photographers in the incredible newsreel footage below, but one caveat: the clip has some sound issues. Don’t play this one very loud.

Top image via Ephemeral New York

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