March 4, 1954
Manhattan, New York
Anna Gresh (alternate spelling Gresch) is killed by her daughter’s boyfriend

William Snyder (17, pictured) and Theresa Gresh (15, pictured) began a relationship in 1954 which quickly turned sexual. Theresa’s mother, Anna, found the couple in bed together one day and demanded Snyder stay away from Theresa, threatening to charge him with rape. Snyder immediately offered to marry Theresa but his proposal did not sway Anna and he was forced to leave.

Theresa and Snyder formed a plan to kill Anna which was carried out on March 4. Snyder hid in the Gresh’s kitchen and ambushed Anna, hitting her in the head with a hammer though the blow only momentarily stunned her. The two struggled until ultimately Anna was stabbed in the chest and abdomen 21 times.

Snyder put Anna’s body into a washtub and poured a small amount of plaster of Paris over her body, enough to partially obscure the tub’s contents but not enough to encase her body. Snyder then affixed a metal lid to the tub.

Neighbors were curious about Anna’s sudden disappearance and asked Theresa about her mother. Theresa claimed Anna had left to Florida to live with a man, leaving Theresa to fend for herself. Neighbors felt sympathetic for Theresa and largely ignored the loud parties she threw in her mother’s absence.

Eventually, Snyder asked his mother if Theresa could stay at their home for a short time, which Mrs. Snyder agreed to. Theresa stayed at the Snyder home for 7 or 8 days until Snyder, who had enlisted in the Marines, received orders to report to basic training in South Carolina. The couple argued and parted ways with Theresa finding her way to the Children’s Shelter. While in the military, Snyder assumed they name William Byers and asked his mother to only address letters to Byers.

Twenty-two days after Anna’s murder, her body was found. Neighbors had complained of a foul odor and a janitor was asked to investigate. He found the source of the odor to be the washtub and lifted the lid to find a white substance later determined to be plaster of Paris. The janitor nudged the substance and broke the fragile plaster, exposing a foot.

Theresa was tracked to the Children’s Shelter and questioned about her mother’s death. While she was not immediately a suspect, Theresa’s seeming disinterest in the fact her mother was found killed aroused suspicion. Soon, she was arrested and Snyder/Byers was brought in, as well.

Newspapers latched onto the scandalous nature of the crime, reporting on the “deplorably depraved teen-agers caught in the throes of illicit love.”

Both teens were tried and convicted, with Snyder being found guilty of first-degree murder and Theresa of second-degree murder. Snyder was sentenced to death, and was executed in Sing Sing’s electric chair on January 12, 1956, at the age of 19. Theresa was given a term of 20 years to life and was reportedly paroled in November 1967.

McNamara, Joseph. “Ghastly Affair.” Daily News [New York, New York]. August 28, 1994
“Theresa Gresh, 15, Found Guilty in Knife-Hammer Murder of Her Mother.” Getty Images. (image source)
Nash, Jay Robert. Crime Chronology: A Worldwide Record, 1900-1983. 1984
Levinson, Gay. “Job In Prison Didn’t Destroy Her Compassion.” Fort Lauderdale News and Sun-Sentinel. March 24, 1974
Brown, Wenzell. Teen-Age Terror. Wild side Press LLC, 1958
“Youth, 19, Pays Death Penalty For Murder.” The Gazette [Montreal, Quebec]. January 13, 1956
Court of Appeals. State of New York. The People of the State of New York, Respondent, against William Byers, also known as William Snyder, impleaded, etc., Defendant-Appellant.
“Admits Murder.” Twin Cities News-Record [Neenah, Wisconsin]. March 30, 1954 (image source)

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