Investigations

New push to solve murder of 2nd Avenue deli owner

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

He was nicknamed New York City's second mayor: the owner of the celebrated 2nd Avenue Deli, shot and killed 17 years ago. Now, a new push to solve this cold case.

We've learned that a number of cold cases are getting a new set of eyes. The recent arrest in the case of Baby Hope, a mystery for more than 20 years, has give new 'hope' to other unsolved cases.

One of the most highly publicized: the murder of a New York legend, Abe Lebewohl.

"It's never easier. We will always miss him," said Jack Lebewohl.

A brother talks about his loss, and one of the New York City's most famous unsolved cases: The 2nd Avenue deli murder.

"I had a premonition about my brother that morning, and it wasn't good," said Lebewohl.

That uneasy feeling Jack Lebewohl had about his older brother Abe, became a horrifying reality that wintry morning in March of 1996, the popular owner of the 2nd Avenue Deli, shot dead in a brazen early morning robbery while making a bank deposit.

"They broke the news, I started to cry," Jack said.

"That morning he never had time to get out of his van. They got him right before he got out of his van," said retired NYPD homicide detective Jimmy Piccione.

Piccione responded to the crime scene, just a few blocks south of the eatery whose owner had become almost as famous as his steady stream of celebrity visitors.

"It was 8:30 in the morning, I remember thinking there is going to be a witness and it's going to be solved quickly, and 17 years later, here we are," said Piccione. "That morning Abe pulls up to that parking spot right there but before he gets out, he's accosted by one or more persons. He's taken to the back of the van and he's shot. Someone drives the van to First Avenue."

Abe, dying, manages to crawl out of the van onto the sidewalk.

"A passerby says, are you okay, and he says, "They got me."

The gun was found 2 days later in Central Park. It was later linked to 3 different shootings, but never to Abe Lebewohl's murder.

"We've been to Las Vegas, New Orleans, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina. We went wherever a lead would take us," said Piccione.

Jack and the rest of Abe's family put up a $150,000 reward, hoping for a break, that so far, has never come.

"It's never easier, He is always in our mind and we always miss him," Jack said.

The deli, which moved to 33rd Street, in 2007, is still all about Abe.

"He loved everybody. He loved people, People loved him back in return," said Lebewohl.

Although Detective Piccione retired last year, he's in constant contact with Abe's family, and so are current detectives, who've started re-interviewing 'people of interest.'

"They've become friends, they've become members of our family," Lebewohl said.

Asked whether it's bothered him over the years, Piccione replied, "Absolutely. That's one of the reasons I didn't want to retire. Because I didn't want to retire until an arrest was made in this case."

"What do you want to say to someone out there who might have information?," we asked Jack Lebewohll.

"Come forward, because it is the right thing to do. And if you need another incentive, there is $150,000," he said.

Detectives continue to believe that the killers, and they think there were more than one, may have had a link to the 2nd Avenue deli, and certainly knew Abe's routine.

If you can help, give Crime Stoppers a call, at 10800-577-TIPS. All calls are confidential.

And if you're talking about this famous case on social media, use the hashtag #MostWanted.

MOST WANTED PHOTOS FROM NEW YORK POLICE DEPARTMENT

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murder, new york city, investigations, sarah wallace
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