WATERTOWN, N.Y. -- On December 31, 1964 -- a couple from Rochester, traveling North on Interstate 81 to visit family, pulls over at a rest stop just north of Bradley Street in Watertown. What they didn't know, was just moments before, it was the scene of a gangland-style triple murder.
"Peter was the only intended victim," said Daniel Bower, the co-author of The Jefferson County Egan Murders. "Gerald went down to the rest area. Barbara was supposed to live."
Peter and Gerald Egan were brothers. Barbara was Peter's wife. Living in Watertown, they were well-known, but not for the right reasons.
"The Egans, they were petty thieves. Pimps, prostitutes, liars, cheaters, pretty bad people," said Boyer.
That night, it was supposed to be an easy job.
"The Egans were lured down to the rest area that night on the premise they were going to hijack a liquor truck carrying $16,000 worth of liquor," said Boyer.
Boyer, who co-wrote a book on the murders, says a man named James Pickett left the bait. A fellow criminal the Egans trusted. But Pickett was apparently working for Joe Leone.
And Leone, part of a major burglary ring, had other plans.
"Joe Leone told him at the Red Moon Diner that he was going to have to do away with the Egans on a count that they knew enough to put them all away," said Boyer.
The only witness was Barbara's dog. But it didn't take long before police got people talking.
"Within the first couple of days they were questioning who were involved in the burglaries, including Joe Leone," said Dave Shampine, the co-author of The Jefferson County Egan Murders.
It took police three years to gather the evidence necessary to arrest Leone. His trial would begin two years after that in January of 1970. But from the start, District Attorney Bill McClusky didn't stand a chance.
A second gunman was fingered, a Willard Belcher, but he was never charged after being found criminally insane.
Evidence from a bug planted in Belcher's home was thrown out. Leone's lie detector test was also tossed. There were even rumors Leone's friends threatened jury members.
Joe Leone left the courtroom not guilty.
"McClusky, I think, was basically left with the word of one outlaw against another outlaw," said Shampine.
Police have since closed the case and sealed the files...certain Leone was the killer.
So are the authors, who through a North Country book tour are closing Watertown's crime of the century in a different way.
Joe Leone has since died. This case will never have an official conviction, but some have said Leone did later admit to the killings.
As Daniel Boyer and Dave Shampine travel the county on their book tour -- one story stands out. Daniel Boyer was in first grade when first learning of the murders. Over the next year or so, he waited each week for the local Wonder Bread truck driver who gave him free donuts each week. One day the driver stopped coming and a new driver had the route. Daniel asked what happened to the driver who gave him the donuts. He was told the driver was arrested for the Egan Murders. His name was Joe Leone.
Over the course of time between the murders and Leone's arrest, many in the community were very scared that a murderer was on the loose. But police had actually identified Leone as the main suspect early on and they were watching him and gathering evidence.