Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Roy Edgar Schuster -- The Sing Sing Minstrel

A former vaudeville dancer, Schuster, 26, took a job as a dance instructor for theatrical producer Ned Wayburn in New York City to support his one-time actress wife, Amy, and their four-year-old daughter.  The four-year marriage crumbled in mid-1930.  Schuster was living alone and struggling to pay a court ordered alimony settlement of $40 a week while attempting to reconcile with his wife when he lost his job in January 1931.  On the morning of May 2, 1931, the dancer showed up at the fourteenth-floor office of his wife's attorney, Israel Siegel, at 49-51 Chambers Street to make one last attempt at reconciliation.  Schuster argued with his estranged wife in an outer office of the law firm and became even more irate when Siegel told him to stay put while he conferred alone with his client in a private office.  Schuster drew a .32-caliber revolver and shot his wife twice in the head killing her instantly.  Before the crazed dancer fled past dazed office workers he emptied his gun leaving Siegel with two flesh wounds in the arm.  On May 28, 1931, the former dancer was arrested in Little Rock, Arkansas, where he was living under the name "Anderson" and writing a book on dancing.  While awaiting extradition to New York on a murder charge, Schuster insisted he only went to the law office with the intention of killing himself if the reconciliation failed.  "I guess I'll get the electric chair," he told authorities, "for no jury will listen to my story.  But the killing was accidental...I went to the door and I supposed Siegel was trying to dissuade my wife from coming back to me.  I pulled out a gun to end it all.  But Siegel thought I was going to shoot him and he rushed toward me.  We grappled and the gun went off several times as we scuffled.  When I regained my senses my wife was dead and Siegel was gone."  Schuster was found guilty of second-degree murder on October 22, 1931, and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.  At the state penitentiary in Ossining, New York, Schuster was a member of the Sing Sing Minstrels, a group of talented prisoners who put on public shows with proceeds earmarked for a relief fund for families of inmates.

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