THE BRONX (PIX11) – Evelyn Shapiro had endured the Great Depression as a child in Detroit and met her future husband during a visit to the Bronx in the 1940’s. She spent more than 60 years living in Pelham Bay Houses, in Apartment 5-C, and that’s where her daughter, Susan, found Evelyn brutally bludgeoned to death on June 16, 2012.
Susan Durlak didn’t realize, at first, that her 88-year-old mother was covered in blood.
“At first, I thought, ‘What is on her? Is that gravy?’” Susan Durlak recalled to PIX 11. “I was saying to her, ‘Wake up! Wake up!’ It’s horrible to see that picture in your head and say ‘I’m going to live with that picture for the rest of my life.’”
Durlak had gone to the Bronx apartment from her home in Orange County, after she spent a night trying to contact her elderly mother by phone. Durlak’s son, James, was with her, when they found Shapiro’s door ajar—and groceries splattered all over the hallway inside. Evelyn Shapiro had gone shopping and bought blueberries, Susan’s favorite fruit, and they were scattered all over the floor.
“At first, we thought she was shot in the head, because there was a hole in her head,” James Durlak remembered. “You see the image every time you close your eyes.”
When the family called 911, they reported that Shapiro had been shot, but an autopsy showed she’d been beaten, and the cause of death was blunt force trauma.
“It was a brutal, brutal crime scene,” Detective Salvatore Giardini of the 49th Precinct told PIX 11. “There was a little area rug, when you walk in, and it was all crumpled up. There was a struggle.”
Unfortunately, there were no security cameras in Pelham Bay Houses on Williamsbridge Road, so police don’t know who followed the elderly woman off the elevator and into her apartment.
Shapiro’s family told investigators she often wore lots of gold necklaces and rings, because she didn’t want to deny herself pretty things, after her very austere childhood. Most of Shapiro’s jewelry was missing from her neck—and the apartment—but her grandson found a gold, Jewish chai, a treasure she’d bought in Israel—on the floor.
Durlak said her mother started working at age 10 and used to scrub people’s stoops in Detroit. When a very young Shapiro had bought a tiny trinket with pennies she earned on one job, Shapiro’s mother reprimanded her, according to Susan Durlak. ‘”My grandmother went off on her and said, ‘When you have money, even five pennies, you use it to buy food, not things to wear.’”
The NYPD is offering a $22,000 reward to anyone who can offer information that leads to an arrest and conviction. The Crime Stoppers hotline is 1-800-577-TIPS. The code number for Shapiro’s case is BX-940.
“She was 88 years old when she was beaten,” Susan Durlak told PIX 11, “but the medical examiner said she would have lived another two years. And given the choice, my mother would have taken those two years,” Durlak said tearfully.
Shapiro loved to travel and loved to dance and she participated in many activities at her local senior center.
“I wish she was alive for just two minutes,” Durlak said, “so I could take her face in my hands and say ‘Do you know how much you meant to me? Do you know you meant the world to me?’”