Love is a Risk True Crime Short Story by E.W. Count
Love is a Risk
by E.W. Count
Page 2 of 5
Introduced by Cadieux to Rosemary's surviving relatives, Daily News
reporter Gene Mustain wrote up the mystery. The story ran in May '91
-- more than two-and-a-half years since anyone had last seen the two
In the background of the tragic story was the ugly divorce that
had strained Gerald's relationship with his only child. After his
marriage ended, the mother was unwilling, as misguided parents
sometimes are, to risk sharing her child's affection with her dad.
Trust only your mother and God the Father, was the lesson the child
Gerald did manage, finally, to re-establish contact with his grown
daughter, but even then, he told Cadieux, meetings seemed awkward.
Lately, he had once again lost touch with Rosemary. Rose, the divorced
mother, had never really loosened her adoring hold. Rosemary, a
secretary, hardly dated. When she worked on Wall Street, Rose met her
each evening at the subway to walk her safely to their tidy
one-bedroom apartment upstairs in a private house. The women went
together to their church, St. Finbar's in Bath Beach, and regularly to
others, as well, chosen from the many in the neighborhood. Brooklyn
also is the Borough of Churches.
Ironically, the news of Rosemary's disappearance came to Gerald in
a call from the women's landlord. The landlord counted on their rent
check, like clockwork by the third of each month. He had delayed an
extra week before going upstairs to see what was going on. The scene,
when he did go, was eerie: food in a pan on the kitchen stove; Rose's
reading glasses and her newspaper, dated Friday, September 14, 1988,
on the table. No sign that anyone intended to be gone longer than an
hour or so.
The unnerving tableau sent the landlord straight to the police
station, where officers speculated that his tenants had no doubt left
town temporarily. Even if the tenants were missing persons, the
landlord learned, only a relative may file a report to that effect. No
report was filed.
Rosemary and her mother were missed by church friends, too, who
came looking for them at the house. The worried landlord rushed to the
station for the second time -- again, to no avail. Revisiting the
upstairs apartment, he unearthed the telephone number of a relative.
Three weeks after the date on Rose's newspaper, Gerald heard the
landlord's disturbing news.
Gerald and his wife were kin to the missing women, of course --
but they, too, struck out with the police. Since Rosemary and Rose
were of sound mind and body, the father learned, and both older than
age eighteen and younger than sixty-five (Rose was sixty-four), they
did not fit NYPD guidelines for opening a missing persons
By the time Cadieux took the case, the police had long since
opened the missing persons case. But the months of bureaucratic delay
bothered him, not only for the sake of his clients and their case, but
for the cops who had come after him. In his day, if the bosses chose
to so slavishly adhere to case guidelines, detectives would have found
a little time when their tour was over to take a ride to the Vasquez
girl's place and see what the story was. There's always a way, he
insisted, to help someone with a problem.
Well before Friday, September 14, the likely day of Rose and
Rosemary's disappearance, their landlord had received from Rose
Santoro some startling news. Rosemary had accepted a suitor's proposal
-- indeed, would marry him -- and what's more, Rose would be going to
live with the couple in their new house.
Rosemary's suitor was Demetrio Lifrieri, a Sicilian immigrant and
an old business friend of her father's -- it was, in fact, through her
father that Rosemary had met him. Years back, Gerald had brought his
friend around, hoping to lighten those awkward meetings between
himself and his daughter; he had thought another voice in the
conversation might just help put her at ease. The father was by no
means matchmaking; Lifrieri, a mechanic by trade, was married.
Around the same time in late summer of '88, when the women's
landlord heard that Rose and Rosemary would be moving, Gerald Vasquez
received a surprising phone call from Marina Lifrieri, Demetrio's
wife. Marina, in her turn, reported an odd phone call from Rose,
demanding to know what was holding up Marina's and Demetrio's divorce.
If there were something between Rosemary and Demetrio, Vasquez told
Marina, this was the first he'd heard of it.
As that summer waned, a friend of Rosemary's heard from her that
the marriage was off; all she wanted now was the $40,000 -- her
mother's life savings -- that she had loaned to Demetrio. Rosemary was
frantic to get the money back.
In November 1988, Gerald and Helen Vasquez had retained their
first PI, and set about searching the apartment from which Rose and
Rosemary had vanished. What they found provided their investigator
with a solid lead. In one search, they came up with four checks
totaling over $40,000, each payable to Rosemary, signed by none other
than Lifrieri -- but returned to her by the bank marked 'Insufficient
Funds'. Scouring the place again, Gerald and Helen discovered an IOU
for $40,000 to Rosemary from Lifrieri. When their investigator
confronted him, the "fiance" stonewalled.
Lifrieri now worked a couple of jobs, one at Blue Chip Coffee,
where he had started as a mechanic and moved up to salesman. The
coffee import business was run from a warehouse in the Park Slope
section by the owner, Anthony Viola. (Cadieux had been raised in Park
The papers found by Gerald Vasquez sent his first investigator to the
police, who went to Lifrieri-- who had little to say. They offered a
lie detector test, a simple way he could take the heat off himself,
but he brushed them off, telling them to talk to his lawyer. When
Marina, his wife, asked why didn't he let the police give him the
test, he got furious and and violently shoved her. Marina threw her
husband out-- better to divorce him than to disappear.