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Jay Given

Real Name: Jay Neil Given
Nicknames: "The Midnight Mayor"
Location: East Chicago, Indiana
Date: May 15, 1981

Case[]

Details: East Chicago, Indiana, is a classic, industrial, blue-collar community. Like its famous namesake in Illinois, everyday life in East Chicago was for years controlled by the local political machine. For two decades, one of the city’s power brokers and "political kingmakers" was a fifty-one-year-old municipal attorney named Jay Given. He was well respected for his knowledge of municipal law.
Jay was a master fundraiser, a clever, behind-the-scenes operator who traded on favors to create strong political alliances. According to his son, Jeffrey, he was very powerful. He understood how to win elections. He was intimately familiar with the politicians, the people in power. He knew all the “skeletons in their closets”. This made him very powerful in East Chicago. It also led him to make many enemies.
From 1963 to 1973, Jay was the city attorney for East Chicago. He was also a senior partner at a local law firm. By the 1970s, the political machines in the Midwest were beginning to come apart. In 1970, Jay had helped elect Robert "Bob" Pastrick, the city controller, as mayor of East Chicago. He also was an advisor for Pastrick and served as legal consultant for the city's sanitary board. However, the two became involved in a political controversy when several city councilmen refused to approve Pastrick's projects as long as Jay was involved in them.
Within two years, Jay and Pastrick were on the outs and no longer allies. Pastrick dismissed Jay from the sanitary board. According to Jeffrey, Jay and Pastrick split on a number of issues, including upcoming elections and political alliances. After the split, Jay sued Pastrick and the city councilmen over violation of the "Sunshine" open meeting laws. His attention also started turning towards electing somebody other than Pastrick as mayor.
On Friday, May 15, 1981, the local Elks Club was the scene of a Las Vegas-style fundraiser for County Commissioner N. Atterson Spann. He was the city’s foremost black politician. At the time, he was considering a run for mayor. Several of the fundraiser attendees were city and county officials from the area. Jay had asked Jeffrey to accompany him to it; however, Jeffrey had just returned from college and declined.
Jay arrived there alone at around 9:30pm. He went to the bar and began to mingle with the crowd. He was not known for attending many political fundraisers. His appearance there was regarded by many as an attempt to solidify East Chicago’s white and black power blocks against the growing political strength of Hispanic Americans, who were backing Pastrick for re-election.
Jay worked the room for two hours. At one point, he won $300 from a raffle. Shortly after 11pm, he said his goodbyes, telling one politician that he had to leave early because he and his wife, Phyllis, were flying to Cleveland early the next morning. He headed out of the club to smoke, but never made it through the front door. Instead, he was shot once in the back of the head at point-blank range. He died in the entryway of the building, within earshot of 400 people. Incredibly, no one ever admitted to witnessing the shooting. Years later, police have yet to charge a suspect.
But on the night of the murder, detectives thought the case might be wrapped up quickly, despite the fact that several people had stepped through the lobby to leave the building, trampling over the crime scene in the process. Detectives found a shell casing in the entryway and a spent .45-caliber bullet in the street. Former Police Inspector Paul DiCharia, who was in charge of collecting evidence from the scene, was astonished at the remarkable condition it was in. According to him, the bullet exited through the front part of Jay’s forehead, went through the glass front doors, hit the brick building across the street, and bounced back into the street. It was in perfect condition, with the exception of its nose.
Inspector DiCharia marked the evidence and double-locked it in his desk drawer, rather than checking it into the vault (which was the typical procedure). He says that this practice was not uncommon; he had done it before with other evidence. His partner and other investigators had done it before as well. He put it in the drawer because he wanted the other investigators to look at it later.
Four days later, Inspector DiCharia was shocked when he opened his drawer and discovered that someone had tampered with the evidence in an apparent attempt to prevent investigators from matching the bullet to a gun. On the shell casing, a hole was punched through the primer. On the bullet, someone had taken a sharp instrument and tried to cut the lines and grooves in a way so that they could not be compared to a gun.
The only people with access to the evidence drawer worked in the police department. The tampering had all the earmarks of an inside job. Inspector DiCharia sent the altered bullet and shell casing to the FBI for analysis. Despite the damage, they identified the murder weapon as a rare .45-caliber Detonics 1911-style combat Master handgun. The casing was eventually linked to one of only fifty-eight Detonics with a specially modified ejecting mechanism.
Incredibly, one of those guns was traced back to the East Chicago Police Department. It was once owned by Deputy Chief John Cardona, who was a prime suspect in the case. He had been a member of a Latino political club that was at odds with Jay. And several eyewitnesses placed him at the Elks Club on the night of the shooting. According to former special prosecutor Joseph Van Bokkelen, Cardona was very active in the Spanish organization. They were not welcome at the Elks Club event. Cardona reportedly gave two or three different reasons why he was there, based on different conversations he had. At some point, he acknowledged that he was there to watch Jay.
According to investigators, a witness claims that Cardona seemed to be following Jay at one point during the evening. According to Van Bokkelen, Jay had made it clear that if “his people” came to power in the city, there were going to be some changes. Cardona was one of those “changes.” One witness heard Jay say that if Spann got in, Cardona would be “walking the beat again.”
None of the witnesses saw Cardona when Jay made his way towards the exit. However, one party goer, fireman Mark Warholic, says that shortly before the shooting, he saw Jay engaged in a discussion with a man in the lobby. Investigators believe the man could have been Cardona. Warholic described the man as approximately 6’1”, with black, wavy hair, and a bluish-gray suit. That description was consistent with what Cardona was wearing at the time and his height. After seeing the discussion, Warholic went to the washroom. While in there, he heard a gunshot. When he came out, he saw Jay lying face down on the floor. The other person was gone.
Cardona told police that he had gone to the fundraiser to talk with an officer after seeing the officer's car parked near the building. He said he saw Jay gambling that night. He claimed that he was in the bar when Jay was gunned down. After the shooting, he went to the lobby and saw Jay's body. Other officers who arrived at the scene confirmed he was there. However, according to investigators, several people said they did not remember seeing Cardona at the bar at the time of the shooting. These witnesses were seated at the bar and knew him; they could not place him there. The only person who placed Cardona at the bar at the time of the shooting was himself.
Over the next few weeks, everyone in the police department was asked to take a polygraph exam, including Cardona. He failed the test, and later, he refused to take a second exam regarding evidence tampering. Investigators believed that three key pieces of evidence pointed to him. First, he apparently fit the description of the man seen talking with Jay. Second, he owned a Detonics handgun, even though he said it had been stolen six months earlier. Third, he had access to the drawer where the evidence had been kept. Another officer later told police that around the time of the murder, Cardona had asked him how a bullet or casing could be traced back to a specific gun. The officer gave him two variables which were the only markings tampered with on the bullet.
But when viewed in a different light, what appears to be overwhelming circumstantial evidence actually might make Cardona an unlikely suspect. Why would a man as prominent as a deputy police chief make a very visible appearance at a fundraiser attended by 400 people? Why would he then shadow the movements of a known political rival for at least part of the evening, as alleged by one witness? And why would he murder that rival within earshot of every guest at the party?
Perhaps it was these very questions that kept prosecutors from pressing charges. In fact, the case was never even brought before the grand jury. Von Bokkelen believes that there was enough evidence for an indictment. However, according to him, the local prosecutor, Jack Crawford, did not want to lose the case, especially because it had already caused adverse publicity with the evidence tampering. He believes that Crawford wanted a case that was a “locked-type” one in which a conviction was certain, and he did not think it was "tight" enough. Crawford later claimed that he and the members of his task force decided not to seek an indictment due to lack of evidence. He believes there was enough evidence to charge, but not convict.
Jeffrey would like to see an indictment and trial in Jay’s case. He says that if Cardona did not do it, then they should go after whoever actually did it. He is frustrated that they do not have any closure on the case.
Who murdered Jay? At this point, police believe there are witnesses who may be able to help answer that question. Just prior to the shooting, five people were descending the stairway of the Elks Club. Three of them, all men, were approaching the foot of the steps at the precise moment that Jay was gunned down. The three men have never been identified. The police hope that one of them saw the killer and will now come forward with information.
In August 1983, Cardona was dismissed from office after being found guilty of two disciplinary charges. This was shortly after he refused to take the second polygraph exam. He later moved out of state. He declined to appear on camera for the broadcast, telling an Unsolved Mysteries researcher, “I didn’t do anything wrong.”
In 1986, Inspector DiCharia admitted he lied when he was questioned about evidence tampering in the case. He testified at a grand jury that he had no knowledge of when the tampering occurred; however, he actually knew it occurred within five days of the murder. He claimed he lied because he feared losing his job, as he had five children he was raising by himself. He also claimed he lied to protect Cardona from an evidence tampering charge. Furthermore, he claimed the tampering was "directed" at him because the evidence was in his custody. He was later convicted of perjury.

John Cardona

Suspects: Cardona is a prime suspect in this case. He was seen at the Elks Club on the night of the murder and apparently was following Jay around. He matched the description of the man seen talking to Jay shortly before he was killed. He claimed he was at the bar at the time of the shooting, but witnesses at the bar did not remember him being there. He also visited the hospital where Jay was taken after the shooting but gave no reason why. He had motive to kill Jay, who claimed that he would have him demoted if Spann was elected. Police believe he may have killed Jay during an argument over politics. However, no one could place him at the actual location of the murder at the time.
Cardona had owned one of the rare guns, a Detonics, that was used in the murder. He also had access to the drawer where the evidence was taken from and tampered. He was the only person who both had access to the drawer and owned a Detonics. Shortly before the murder, he had asked another officer about how a bullet or shell casing could be traced back to a specific gun. The two variables the officer gave him were the only markings tampered with on the bullet. He reported his gun had been stolen six months before the murder. A gunsmith at a Detonics factory said he had worked on Cardona's gun; he said the shell found at the scene came from the gun he fixed. However, investigators later determined that the gunsmith had not repaired Cardona's gun.
The evidence tampering indicated that Jay's killer, or someone working with the killer, was able to enter the restricted police facilities of the East Chicago Police Station following the murder. The evidence was most likely tampered by a police officer or someone with close police ties.
There was speculation that Jay was killed to keep him from revealing incriminating information about the city's political players. Others speculated that it was the result of a political vendetta. However, no evidence was found to support these theories. Police are not sure if the murder was planned or occurred in the "heat of the moment." Robbery was not believed to be a motive; the $300 he won was still in his pocket, his wallet and credit cards were untouched, and his watch was still on his wrist.
On the day after the murder, someone fired a gun through the living room window of Jay's apartment. The family also began receiving calls from someone who claimed to know the identity of the killer. However, the caller said they would only reveal the killer's identity to Phyllis. It is not known if the calls and shooting were related to the murder.
At the time Jay was killed, five people were coming down the Elks Club stairs. Three of them, all African American men, have never been identified. Investigators would like to speak to them in hopes that they saw the perpetrator. It is believed that several witnesses were reluctant to come forward for fear of their own safety.
Extra Notes:

  • This case first aired on the January 5, 1994 episode.
  • Spann was later convicted of state and federal bribery charges.
  • Jay's lawsuit against Pastrick and the city councilmen was dismissed after his death.

Results: Unsolved. Police believe that several witnesses in this case were intimidated or threatened into silence, most likely because of the alleged involvement of police and political figures. Many witnesses refused to share much information with investigators, claiming they feared being killed. Investigators would like to re-question several of them, including a woman who worked in the Jockey Club, which was located in the same building as the Elk's Club.
Normally, when the witness was done with her shift, she would wait for her ride in the building's lobby. However, on the night of the murder, she left at 10:30pm and walked straight home. It is not known if she witnessed something that night. When she spoke to police, she said she "just wanted to forget that night," and implied that she had seen something but did not want to tell them about it for her own safety. One former prosecutor believes she is a "key" to the case. According to the witness's daughter, the witness is now elderly, lives in a nursing home, and does not want to talk about the case. The daughter still fears for her mother's safety.
Another witness, a woman who reported the shooting, was never questioned by police, for reasons unknown. Yet another witness was apparently so afraid of cooperating with police that she instead agreed to spend ten days in jail for contempt of court. Warholic, who had witnessed Jay talking to an unidentified man in the lobby before the murder, later hired an attorney and moved to Florida. After the murder, Cardona drove him to the police station to make his statement; along the way, they stopped at the hospital Jay was sent to. Cardona told police Warholic asked him to stop there, but Warholic claimed that Cardona wanted to stop there. Cardona never explained to him why he wanted to stop there.
Other witnesses, such as Chester Newsome, suffered from credibility issues. He came forward five years after the murder, saying that he had seen Jay and Cardona arguing and shoving each other in the Elks Club building. Just seconds later, he heard a gunshot. His testimony was not considered credible because he was a convicted felon who was facing a lengthy prison term. He admitted that he was there that night because he wanted to steal cars.
Meanwhile, Cardona remains the prime suspect. Jay's family is convinced that he was responsible, but that "East Chicago politics" and a "conspiracy of silence" kept him from being arrested. Cardona has since moved to Florida. He maintains his innocence. A lead detective on the case says that it is still "very solvable."
Sadly, in 2009, Phyllis passed away without ever seeing the case solved.
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