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Obituary: Edward Curran

Edward Curran, a major force in the Nassau County Police Department for three decades, died early in the morning on May 28, 2012 at home. Curran began his career as a police officer in the department in the late 1940s and by the time of his retirement in the 1970s had become the first deputy police commissioner of Nassau County. Curran was probably most proud of his work on the Weinberger kidnapping which occurred on July 4, 1956 and was the subject of intense news coverage both nationally and internationally.

Curran was born in Elmont to an Irish father and an American-born mother of German descent. His father worked at the nearby Belmont racetrack, a major employer in the community. Growing up in the Depression as he did, Curran knew what it was to have to hustle to make a buck. To earn money to go to the movies, he picked weeds on a nearby farm for 10 cents an hour or scrounged for coal that fell off a railroad car onto nearby railroad tracks, which he sold to nearby residents. In 1942, after Curran was drafted into the Army, he fought first in New Guinea, the last outpost in defense of Australia. From there he wound up on Moritai Island and elsewhere in the Pacific as a staff sergeant with the 31st Infantry “Dixie” Division and received five Combat Amphibious Landing Stars, the Combat Infantry Badge and the Bronze Star and he participated in the liberation of the Philippines.

One of the attractions that prompted Curran to join the Nassau police force was that it was a civil service job which promised the security that Curran had seen lacking during the Depression for most of the people he knew. Despite an outwardly easygoing style, Curran was a man of intense self-discipline who conveyed a strong sense of conviction in whatever he did. It was these qualities that led to his promotions, from patrolmen to detective, then, sometime before the kidnapping, to detective sergeant. Subsequently he advanced to become detective lieutenant, detective captain, chief of detectives; and finally, to first deputy commissioner.

The Weinberger kidnapping involved the abduction from his baby carriage of 33-day-old Peter Weinberger from behind his home in Westbury. The kidnapper then left little Peter to die in the bushes off Northern State Parkway. When police arrived at the Weinberger home, they found a handwritten ransom note demanding $2,000. Two weeks later, Curran who was one of the first police department officials on the scene, was appointed to head the county’s investigation of the case. Seven weeks later, the kidnapper was found after investigators located a probation document which had a matching handwriting on it. LaMarca was subsequently tried, convicted, sentenced to death and executed in August of 1958.

Ironically, both the late widow of the kidnapper and Betty Weinberger, mother of the kidnapped infant, were appreciative of Curran’s sensitivity to them during and after the case. The kidnapper’s wife even sent Christmas cards to the Curran family years after her husband’s execution and the Weinbergers developed a friendship with Curran and even hosted his family at their house. The Weinberger case involved a unique collaboration between the FBI and the Nassau police which on the local level worked quite well. Curran and the lead FBI agent on the case, James Kelly, developed a mutual respect which fourteen years later led to Curran being promoted to chief of detectives after Kelly, who had already resigned from the FBI, became the county’s new police commissioner.

In the 1970s, as president of the New York State Chiefs of Police, Ed Curran, helped organize a huge pro death penalty rally in Albany to bring back the chair. “It’s a deterrent,” he argued, compellingly pointing out with a policeman’s perspective that one could say to someone who was holding a hostage, “Let him go and you can avoid the chair.” The rally’s cause was defeated, however. In 1979, Curran retired from the police department and was subsequently elected president of the Retired Police Association of the State of New York. In his last years, Curran also served as a consultant to a writer who is completing a book about the Weinberger kidnapping.

Curran is survived by his wife Ruth, his three children, Barbara, Edward and Brian, his eight grandchildren, five great-grandchildren, and his brother Raymond.