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NYPD cracks cold case murder of coffee pioneer after 21 years, arrests man’s wife and brother-in-law

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MANHATTAN — The NYPD had an open file on a New York City coffee pioneer, stabbed 27 times, for more than two decades.

Officers finally made an arrest on the case Tuesday, police said. Officials arrested Howard Pilmar’s wife, now 60, and brother-in-law, now 43.

Pilmar, who founded one of the city’s first espresso bar’s in 1992, was found in a pool of blood in the hallway of his office. He was killed on March 21, 1996.

Pilmar’s wife, Roslyn Pilmar, and her brother, Evan Wald, had visited Pilmar on the night of his death. Pilmar went to the gym with Wald, but then returned to his 33rd Street office.

His body was found the next morning.

Wald was questioned right away. He and Mrs. Pilmar quickly hired lawyers.

“The police are harassing the family,” Wald told the New York Times in 1997.  “They’re treating us like we’re suspects instead of looking for the real killer.”

Pilmar’s wallet wasn’t taken and he had been killed right after the security guard’s normal quitting time, so police initially suspected someone who knew Pilmar, the New York Times reported at the time. The autopsy pointed in a potentially similar direction. The brutality of the stabbings was indicative of a person with close emotional ties to the victim.

The NYPD was unable to find the killer for two decades, but officers decided to take another look at the case last year, an NYPD spokesperson said. Officials interviewed and re-interviewed more than 30 people.

Police on Tuesday finally arrested Mrs. Pilmar and her brother. Wald was arrested in Virginia and will be extradited to New York.

Mrs. Pilmar pleaded not guilty at her court appearance.

Prosecutors say she received almost $1.5 million in life insurance benefits, her husband’s businesses and two homes after his death. She also had custody of the couple’s then 10-year-old son

“In 1996, this murder shocked New Yorkers, mystified law enforcement, and the killers eluded justice,” said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance. “But, in the more than two decades that have passed since Howard Pilmar was brutally stabbed to death, prosecutors in my Office’s Cold Case Unit and NYPD detectives never forgot this shocking crime.”