Editor’s note: The story previously misstated the year Patricia Shea died. The story has been updated.
ROCKAWAY BEACH, Queens (PIX11) — The nephew of Patricia Shea, a Rockaway Beach doctor’s assistant who was found fatally hogtied in 1982, said he’s frustrated by the lack of progress in the 40-year-old cold case, especially with new DNA technology available.
“One of the things I was told was that the clothing was in a flood,” Kevin Shea said, “and that it had been lost or it was contaminated.”
Retired NYPD Detective William Simon, who had picked up the cold case in 2015, told PIX11 News this kind of situation is not uncommon.
“Unfortunately, there were a couple of locations that property was damaged,” Simon noted, “due to fires and floods, natural disasters that are beyond anyone’s control.”
PIX11 News reported in 2015 on two NYPD evidence warehouses that were badly damaged in Brooklyn during 2012’s Superstorm Sandy.
Patricia Shea was 44 when she was found dead on July 26, 1982 near a horse-riding path in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, about 11 miles from her apartment building on Beach 107th Street in Rockaway Beach, so it’s very likely her evidence kit ended up in a Brooklyn storage facility.
Kevin Shea recalled he was 15 years old when his father was called back to New York City from a family vacation in Montauk in July 1982.
“My father got a call from the doctor’s office, and they said she had not shown up for work,” Shea remembered. “She was found in Prospect Park on the Windsor Terrace side. She was tied in a very tight way, hogtied. The way she was bound, she could have strangled herself, trying to free herself.”
Patricia Shea’s family said she’d gone with a platonic male friend to a reunion or wedding the weekend she disappeared. After he dropped her off at a side entrance, Patricia Shea said she was going to the next building to visit a neighbor, Agnes, who had suffered a stroke.
“We believe that whatever transpired happened at the elderly woman’s apartment,” Detective Simon said, “and then she (Shea) was removed from there and transported to Prospect Park, where her body was found.”
Queens detectives had earlier told Shea’s nephew that they spent three days in the stroke patient’s apartment, hoping she would offer some information, even though she had difficulty speaking.
“At some point, Agnes blurted, ‘The blonde man hurt Pat, the blonde man hurt Pat,” Kevin Shea said.
Police had a person of interest in the case, but the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office did not move forward with a grand jury presentation.
There was a twist in the case in 2021, after reporter Kerry Murtha of The Wave newspaper in Rockaway wrote an article about the mysterious murder.
“Approximately three weeks later, we received a letter in the office, addressed to me. It was on old computer paper,” Murtha recalled.
The anonymous letter writer named a suspect.
“They said he was a police officer. They named the Beach block he lived on, and they said Patricia was having an affair with him, and that she was going to tell his wife,” Murtha explained.
Kerry Murtha said she notified Detective Simon about the letter.
“I looked into the letter,” Simon said, “and I actually went out and I spoke to the officer and his family. There was nothing, no facts, to back up what was in the letter.”
Detective Simon said he was told a family beef may have caused the retired cop to be falsely accused.
“What kind of beef would a family member have to write something like that?” Kerry Murtha responded. “What would motivate a person to do that?”
Murtha explained that someone had written her name in pencil on the letter’s envelope “with shaky handwriting.” She speculated the letter writer may have waited until after the former officer’s wife died before making the allegation.
“It was so specific. It was so detailed,” Murtha said.
Kevin Shea was troubled after hearing the retired officer “denied even remembering the case. I find it hard to believe that he would forget my aunt or a murder that happened in Rockaway.”
But Detective Simon responded, “There was actually no connection, except he lived in the area.”
Kevin Shea has started a Facebook page seeking clues in his aunt’s case, called Justice for Patricia Shea. He still remembers his Aunt Pat.
“She was the sweetest person you’ll ever meet,” Kevin Shea said. “The best smile.”