A phone, shouts, a murder and an enduring mystery

The year was 1990, and there were, on average, six killings per day in New York City. The murder rate, which began rising in 1963, and had crept steadily higher in the years that followed, crested in 1990 at 2,245. That gave New York City the dubious distinction of being the nation’s murder capital that year. Among these killings were several so notable — because of the circumstances surrounding them or who was killed — that they made national headlines. 

In the Bronx, a young prosecutor, Sean Healy, was killed on his lunch break, apparently by a bullet meant from someone else. In the subway, Brian Watkins, a tourist from Utah, was stabbed to death while protecting his parents from a gang of muggers. And in the West Village, John Reisenbach, a 33-year-old advertising executive, was shot to death while making a call on a pay phone near his apartment building. New York magazine called Reisenbach’s murder “Nightmare on Jane Street.”