Chapter 1

The call

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My office phone rang on a September morning. A number I didn’t recognize.

“Have you heard anything more about the Margaret Yeatman murder?” asked the woman on the other end of the phone.

Yeatman. The caller reminded me I had written about her killing three decades earlier.

Margaret “Muffie” Yeatman was a 46-year-old Defense Department employee who had been fatally shot in 1986. Now a former D.C. police officer named Linda Tague was intent on explaining what happened next.

As we spoke, I searched online for my Washington Post article, which I’d written when I was 25. The headline on the nine-paragraph, July 15, 1986, dispatch: “Slain Woman’s Friend Probed.”

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“The Alexandria boyfriend of Margaret F. Yeatman, the Annandale woman whose body was found in the trunk of her car June 29, is being investigated in the death, according to a police affidavit. . . . Arthur L. Cunn, who allegedly had been having an affair with Yeatman since 1980, led a ‘double life.’ ”

Cunn was a bomb expert at what was then called the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms working four blocks from the White House. Yeatman had fallen in love with him. She told family and friends they were getting married.

But it turned out Cunn was already married.

The same week Cunn’s wife moved to Washington to join him, someone fired a single bullet from .22-caliber gun into the back of Yeatman’s head.

Cunn, then 52, denied having anything to do with the murder. But he did own a .22, police learned. He gave conflicting reasons for the fresh scratches and a soft cast on his arm the day Yeatman was reported missing. Eyeglasses found under her body were identical to the pair he wore, detectives said. The family told police the journals Yeatman kept on her coffee table and photos of her and Cunn were missing. An empty frame was left hanging on the dining room wall.

On the phone, Tague — who was Yeatman’s best friend — marveled at all the evidence.

“You would have thought Artie Cunn would be locked up that day,” said Tague, now 67.

Linda Tague, Margaret Yeatman’s best friend and a former D.C. police officer, recalls the moment she learned of Yeatman’s death.

But instead of an arrest, the investigation just seemed to stop. No detective ever called Tague or Yeatman’s sister, both of whom talked to her nearly every day and knew Cunn.

Their long search for answers led them to me.

I had not written a local crime article in decades. I’d spent 14 years as a foreign correspondent in Tokyo, Mexico City and London. I was back in Washington covering the presidential campaign when Tague reached me at my desk in September 2015.

I wound up talking to her for a while. She seemed so certain, so precise with details, so completely credible.

“What happened?” Tague asked me. “Why was the case just dropped?”

Then she dangled a clue that made the unsolved killing even more intriguing.

Cunn wasn’t just married, she said. He was married to the niece of one of the most ruthless mob bosses in America.

Chapter 2

The girlfriend

Margaret Yeatman, right, is seen with her sister, Rose Marie Brashear, and cousin Tommy Tague in February 1984. Tague was also married to Yeatman’s best friend, Linda Tague. (Family photo)

Muffie, as Margaret was known, kept her blond hair short and favored the big, round sunglasses that were fashionable at the time. She’d been divorced for more than a decade and had two adult children when she met Artie Cunn.

She’d grown up hard a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol. Her father drank too much, and her mother straightened merchandise in the aisles of a drugstore. As the oldest, she was often left in charge of her younger sister and brother.

“She was everything to me: my mother, my sister, my best friend,” said Rose Marie Brashear, Yeatman’s sister, now 67.

Rose Marie Brashear describes her sister, Margaret Yeatman. (TWP)

School was a struggle for Yeatman, who only realized she had dyslexia long after dropping out of high school. Determined to get a college degree, she attended night classes for more than a decade at Northern Virginia Community College, majoring in psychology. When she finally graduated, Cunn celebrated the milestone with her.

Always in motion, Yeatman walked through Smithsonian exhibits during lunch breaks and was last seen alive leaving an aerobics class.

She met Cunn while working at ATF, where she traced the ownership history of guns used in crimes. Then she landed a better-paying job at the Office of Naval Research, checking badges and security clearances.

Her five-year relationship with Cunn was tumultuous — “hills and valleys,” said her sister. The woman known for her head-turning laugh talked about him constantly and wrote about him in her letters and journals.

“An oversharer” is how Brashear described her sister.

Yeatman knew Cunn was married and had two kids.

Cunn had told her that he and his wife, Angie, who lived in Long Island, were separated but that he didn’t divorce her because she was dying of cancer.

“He always keeps me hidden because of Angie,” Yeatman wrote in a 12-page letter to her sister. “He didn’t want to cause her any more pain or have any more conflict with her. That’s why he didn’t want me in his carpool, why we haven’t formed any friendships for us. Why he didn’t tell Angie specifically about me and give her my number where he could be reached.”

Cunn, she continued, told her that if “I never said anything, never complained, was just willing to go along sleeping together that we would probably be together. Isn’t that pathetic?”

Rose Marie Brashear has a letter from her sister dated June 1984 describing her tumultuous relationship with Arthur “Artie” Cunn. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

As I read the letters, I wondered what Cunn’s wife was thinking back then. Eventually, I would find myself face to face with Julia “Angie” Brigandi Cunn, who is still alive at 89.

Chapter 3

The bomb expert

Yeatman’s family and friends were not sure what to make of Cunn.

Like Yeatman, he was a federal employee renting an unremarkable Northern Virginia apartment.

Don Windsor, Yeatman’s son-in-law, described him as a “New Yorker, a bragger.”

He said no matter the topic, Cunn always talked as if he knew more than anyone else. Cunn once mentioned he had mob connections, Windsor remembered, but no one took him seriously. Windsor was a Secret Service agent at the time who had rotations guarding the White House.

Many of those closest to Yeatman worked in law enforcement, including her best friend. Linda Tague was a female police officer in the nation’s capital at a time when that was still unusual. Sometimes she walked the beat, but she was often at headquarters using the technology of the time — carousel projectors — to arrange photo lineups of suspects.

She was married to Yeatman’s cousin, Tommy Tague, a decorated D.C. police officer known for arresting a famed Washington cat burglar who looted hundreds of homes with the help of corrupt cops.

Cunn, a wiry 5-foot-6, started his career as a Long Island cop. He quickly stood out in a risky specialty — explosives.

Artie Cunn in the early ’80s, when he was dating Yeatman. (Family photo)

In 1968, an anonymous tipster warned of a bomb in a Long Island politician’s car. Cunn detached the grenade wired into the dashboard, according to an article in a Nassau County newspaper, and carefully carried it to an empty field and safely detonated it.

Cunn was photographed with then-New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller in 1970 holding a “bomb blanket,” protection for officers that he was credited with helping develop.

Car, pipe and other bombs, some planted by mobsters, were a growing danger nationally, and Cunn defused quite a few of them.

Yeatman was captivated. She told her sister she was dating “the bomb expert for the United States.”

Right after a Chilean diplomat was killed with a car bomb in Washington, Cunn testified before Congress in 1976 that it was too easy to buy bombmaking ingredients.

But under oath during a court case, Cunn falsely described a college education that he did not have, undermining his testimony, according to two former ATF agents who worked with him but did not want to be named. They said that incident led to him being assigned to a desk job.

A spokesman for ATF first denied Cunn ever worked for the agency. Then, after I produced court documents that listed Cunn’s ATF job, the agency acknowledged that he had worked there.

A Freedom of Information Act request seeking information about why Cunn left ATF after the murder was denied on privacy grounds.

Chapter 4

The affair

In the last year of her life, Yeatman called Cunn most days as he reached his desk at 7 a.m.

But Cunn would sometimes disappear for days at times, she told Tague and her sister, upsetting Yeatman.

In the 12-page letter to her sister, Yeatman vowed she was through with him.

“I know Artie is not for me,” she wrote. “I never know what is the truth.”

Yeatman wrote that Cunn “conducted all of his personal business from his work, like calling his kids, his mother or sister. So when he lived with me his life was not blended. I know nothing of what was going on in his life.”

They split, but then a few months later, Cunn flew to California to surprise Yeatman at her sister’s wedding.

Artie and Muffie were back together again.

Cunn and Yeatman attend the wedding of Yeatman’s sister, Rose Marie Brashear, second from right, and Tom Brashear, right, in November 1984. (Family photo)

But one month before she was killed, Cunn abruptly refused to take Yeatman’s morning calls. Lenora Alston, who also worked in ATF office, said Cunn told her if the desk phone rang to tell Yeatman he was out.

“He said that Margaret didn’t understand that when it’s over, then it’s over,” Alston said in a statement to police. “He told me that Yeatman had been harassing him and his wife by calling them by telephone at their home to the point where his wife was upset and had to hang up on Margaret.”

Artie did divorce Angie in 1985, according to New York public records. But the next year, one month before Yeatman’s murder, they flew to Las Vegas and remarried.

Yeatman apparently had no idea of the Vegas wedding.

In a card to her sister that arrived in California a few days before she was shot, Yeatman wrote that she and Cunn were together.

“When we flew out for her funeral, I said to my husband, ‘I thought I would be packing to go to her wedding,’ ” Brashear said. “She thought she was the one marrying Artie.”

Chapter 5

The body

Photographs from Yeatman’s homicide file show how her body was found in the trunk of her car, covered by an afghan from her apartment. (Baltimore police)

A security guard at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore smelled something horrible on June 29, 1986, in a remote corner of the roof deck of a parking garage. When he looked under the trunk of a blue Toyota Corolla that Sunday evening, he saw reddish fluid dripping.

He called 911. Police arrived with a crowbar.

The medical examiner said Yeatman had been dead for five days. The killer had wrapped her 5-foot-3-inch body in an afghan from her sofa in Northern Virginia.

The Defense Department conducted an investigation to see if there might be a connection to her handling of security clearances but found nothing amiss. Suspicion focused sharply on Cunn.

According to notes taken by Baltimore police at the time, Cunn gave co-workers and others three different reasons for the scratches and a cast that appeared as Yeatman went missing: He hurt himself falling down stairs, he hurt himself moving furniture, it was just a flare-up of an old injury.

Cunn was familiar with the place where the body was found, Yeatman’s family told police. Yeatman’s daughter had been hospitalized at Hopkins the year before, and Cunn not only parked in that garage on a visit but also mentioned to family members that they should avoid the remote rooftop where the body was found.

Of all the evidence collected, the most important was Yeatman’s fingernails. There was blood and skin under them — signs she had struggled with her assailant. But the lab tests did not even confirm whether the blood was from a person with type A, B or O.

The bullet in her brain was no help, either. The police said it was so shattered that ballistics tests couldn’t match it to a specific gun. When she worked for ATF, Yeatman tracked guns used in crimes to their owners. No one was able to do that for her.

Cunn denied knowing anything about Yeatman’s death or killer.

Cunn’s wife was also questioned. Police wrote up this curt exchange with her:

“Did you guys just remarry?” she was asked.

“No comment,” she replied.

Cunn did not attend Yeatman’s funeral or her burial at Parklawn Cemetery in Rockville. He left law enforcement and slipped back into a quiet life on Long Island with his wife. He started working as a carpenter.

Yeatman’s family and friends were puzzled, then angry, over the police investigation.

Tommy Tague, at the time the president of the D.C. chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, said he could get no information from Baltimore police about his cousin’s murder. He was given no access to her file.

Tommy Tague, Margaret Yeatman’s first cousin and a former D.C. police officer, talks about being left in the dark on the investigation into Yeatman’s death. (TWP)

“You would have thought as a courtesy, they would allow me to help,” he said.

As the years passed, Trina Windsor, Yeatman’s daughter, who was 26 when she lost her mother, asked for new forensic tests. DNA and other technology was advancing dramatically.

“I got nothing, nothing, nothing from police,” said Windsor, a dental hygienist who lives in Virginia and never stops wishing her three sons had met their grandmother.

Family members kept begging police for information. Once, Brashear remembered, they were told Cunn’s wife was “the favorite niece of the head of the Bonanno crime family.”

But Yeatman’s family did not know that at the time of the murder, an ambitious prosecutor in New York — Rudolph Giuliani — was in an all-out war with the Bonannos and other mob families.

Chapter 6

The investigation

Washington Post reporter Mary Jordan talks about Yeatman’s murder with Baltimore Detective Ron Ciraolo. Jordan first wrote about the case when she was 25. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

Yeatman’s 4-inch-thick homicide file, H7808, sits in a room at Baltimore police headquarters filled with metal file cabinets. They contain the gruesome photos and sad details of thousands of unsolved killings in the decades since Yeatman’s murder.

The caseload is overwhelming for the two investigators assigned to the cold case unit. Morning and night, the phone rings — mothers, husbands and other family members hoping for answers that likely will never come.

Cold case investigator Ron Ciraolo, a detective who joined the Baltimore force in 1996, when cocaine was a far bigger menace than the mob, said he welcomed new attention to Yeatman’s murder.

Maybe, he said, the taxi driver would step forward.

In 1986, a taxi driver had called police after seeing a TV news report about the killing. He said he’d heard another driver ask over the dispatch radio for the price of a ride from Baltimore to Annandale — an unusual 50-mile journey.

“That is not a coincidence,” Ciraolo said. “That’s the killer trying to get back to his personal vehicle or to his house.” But the cabdriver was never located, he said.

Ciraolo said he believes Yeatman was shot in her apartment where the colorful afghan she was found wrapped in was always on her couch. He said there was no sign of forced entry.

“She let her killer in,” he said.

The shooter was careful, using Yeatman’s car, not his or her own, and wiping it clean of fingerprints, he said. And, by moving her body across state lines, the investigation became more complicated by involving several law enforcement agencies instead of just one.

Cold case investigator Ron Ciraolo goes over the evidence found in Margaret Yeatman’s case. (TWP)

As Ciraolo examined the bloody photos of the crime scene, he added: “It wasn’t pretty the way she died. I can’t imagine someone doing that to another human being and being able to sleep all these years.”

He said DNA testing had advanced, and he would send to the lab again the remaining tiny blood and skin sample taken from under her fingernails. But he warned that because of earlier testing it might not be viable.

Yeatman’s actual fingernail clippings had disappeared, eliminating the bigger sample. There is a Baltimore police note in Yeatman’s homicide file saying they were sent on Aug. 18, 2000, to a Maryland state police lab but then they went missing at some point later.

Other evidence also vanished. A strand of hair recovered at the crime scene was sent to the FBI lab in 2002. But months later when police called about it, the FBI responded in a letter that the hair “had not been located within the FBI lab” and that perhaps it had been returned with “unclear markings.”

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Ciraolo said it is striking that only the most crucial evidence disappeared, while Yeatman’s skirt and other items did not. Pressed by Yeatman’s family to do more DNA testing, a previous cold case detective discovered semen on the skirt. In 2003, police obtained permission from a judge to get a DNA sample from Cunn to see if it matched.

It did not.

“We are still searching for a match,” Ciraolo said.

Those who were in daily contact with Yeatman said she had no other man in her life. Linda Tague wonders if someone involved in the killing left the semen on her skirt.

Evidence photographs show the bloodstained clothes and the afghan Yeatman was wrapped in when police found her body. (Baltimore police)

Tague has never given up on holding Yeatman’s killer accountable in court.

“I have written the victim impact statement in my head a thousand times,” she said. “None of us are at rest, and Muffie is not at rest, until justice comes full circle.”

She had been trying to research the alleged tie between Angie Brigandi Cunn and the Bonanno family, but she was spelling the name Cunn incorrectly. She thought it was Kuhn. She realized her mistake when she asked Yeatman’s sister, who had my article identifying him as “Arthur L. Cunn.”

Tague then found a trove of online information: divorce records, the Vegas remarriage, genealogical sites to map out his wife’s family tree. And, she got an unlikely break.

She had begun following Facebook posts of Cunn relatives and one shared a “Throwback Thursday” picture of five Italian men. Several people named Rastelli started commenting on their “uncles.”

Tague had read about Philip “Rusty” Rastelli — who appeared to be one of the men in the photo — when researching the Bonanno crime family. She checked again and saw Rastelli had been its head at the time of Yeatman’s murder.

On, Tague confirmed that Angie’s mother was Rastelli’s sister.

“This is real!” she said she thought. “Angie is the niece of the mob boss!”


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Though they had not told her family, the Baltimore police knew about the Rastelli connection from the beginning. When I was given access to Yeatman’s homicide file, I saw that someone had placed a “mafia family tree” in it, highlighting one photo in yellow marker: Rusty Rastelli.

Chapter 7

The mob

Rastelli’s temper was famous. In court, he once picked up his lawyer and threw him over the table. Investigators believe he ordered the murder of his wife, Connie, in 1962.

Rastelli controlled the New York City moving and storage business with payoffs, price fixing and extortion. It would later come out in court that he even made money when the FBI relocated to its current office in Lower Manhattan.

When Yeatman was shot, Giuliani was the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, becoming famous for vowing to “crush” Rastelli and other mob leaders. Giuliani had just indicted Rastelli and others who were the biggest names in organized crime, declaring, “This is a bad day, probably the worst ever, for the mafia.”

But mobsters were hard to convict. They paid off police and made sure witnesses were too scared to talk. Dozens of people in Midtown Manhattan saw men pull out guns from under their trench coats and kill the head of the Gambino family walking into a steak house, yet apart from a foreign tourist, it was nearly impossible to get a witness to talk to police.

That “RUBOUT,” as the New York Daily News front page headline described it, happened seven months before Yeatman was shot.

The body of mafia crime boss Paul Castellano lies on a stretcher outside the Sparks Steak House in New York after he and his bodyguards were gunned down in 1985. (Mario Suriani/AP) The New York Daily News front page after Thomas Bilotti and Paul “Big Paul” Castellano were fatally shot by three men in 1985. (NY Daily News/Getty Images) Former FBI undercover agent Joseph Pistone attends a panel discussion for a PBS series called “Gangland Graveyard” in 2005. (Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

Timeline of events

May 3, 1985

Arthur Cunn, an ATF explosive expert, divorces Angie Brigandi Cunn, the niece of mob boss Rusty Rastelli.

June 10, 1985

Rastelli indicted by federal organized crime task force based in Brooklyn for turning a moving and storage business into a $250 million criminal enterprise.

Dec. 16, 1985

Paul "Big Paul" Castellano, head of the Gambino crime family, shot dead in Manhattan.

May 31, 1986

Cunn remarries Angie Brigandi Cunn.

Week of June 24, 1986

Angie Cunn moves to Washington from Long Island.

June 29, 1986

The body of Margaret Yeatman, Cunn's longtime girlfriend and a Department of Defense employee, is found in the trunk of her car.

October 15, 1986

Rastelli, 69, is convicted of running a criminal enterprise.

November 19, 1986

Leaders of the mafia’s “ruling council” convicted in New York City.

June 4, 1991

Rastelli dies in a Queens hospital after being released from prison for medical treatment.

To nail mobsters, prosecutors often relied on informants. I thought maybe one of them, “Donnie Brasco,” might have heard about Yeatman’s murder. Brasco was the alias of FBI agent Joseph Pistone, who risked his life to infiltrate the Bonannos. Johnny Depp played him in “Donnie Brasco,” a 1997 hit movie.

Now 79 and living under a new alias, Pistone still consults on organized crime. I asked lawyers, agents, anyone I could think of, to have Pistone call me.

Then one day, I picked up a call appearing on my phone as “No Caller ID.”

“This is Joe,” he said.

Pistone left the Bonannos’ orbit five years before Yeatman’s murder and had not heard of Cunn. But he said both the mob and the law would have known if an ATF officer was married to Rastelli’s niece — and both would have pressured him for intelligence.

“I gotta believe that must have been a struggle for him,” he said about Cunn. “He was in the hot seat.”

“Rastelli was someone you didn’t cross. The mob was not the romanticized, glorified guys in the movies,” Pistone said. “They are gangsters, thugs, murderers. There is no poetry about them.”

Yeatman was murdered in the middle of the big push to dismantle the New York mob; perhaps that was just coincidence, I said to Pistone. But why would Cunn escape arrest when suspects with far less evidence are held?

Pistone said all kinds of deals were cut to get mobsters who were killing with impunity, but he found it hard to believe a murder would just be ignored.

Maybe Cunn was not the shooter, only knew the person who pulled the trigger, he said. Maybe he helped inform on Rastelli’s operation. Or maybe he was framed.

Pistone said what he really wanted to know was what the detective who first arrived on the scene thought.

Chapter 8

The detective

Gerald Goldstein, a Baltimore detective, was in the parking garage when the trunk of Yeatman’s car was opened with a crowbar.

I started calling Goldsteins in Maryland, hoping the one I was looking for was still alive and still in Maryland. One did not return phone messages, and so on a snowy December day I drove two hours to knock on a door in a quiet cul-de-sac outside Baltimore. A young woman answered. Yes, her father was a former cop, but he didn’t live there.

She wouldn’t give me his number or address, but she dialed him for me.

“Dad, call me back,” she said when she got his voice mail.

I waited, hoping for a callback. We talked until it was awkward to chat any longer, and as I turned to leave, her phone rang.

I showed her a copy of the 1986 affidavit her father signed to search Cunn’s apartment and pointed to the victim’s name.

“Margaret Yeatman,” she read it into the phone. “A reporter wants to talk to you about Margaret Yeatman.”

“Most interesting case I ever had,” Goldstein said so loudly that I could hear him.

His daughter’s eyes widened. She passed me the phone.

“You would not believe how much evidence I had,” he told me.

Goldstein, who spent many years investigating homicides, was sharp but also not without flaw. He was named in a wrongful conviction lawsuit that led a jury last year to award $15 million to a man who spent two decades in prison for a murder he didn’t commit.

When I said I had read the list of evidence pointing to Cunn in the court file, Goldstein cut me off, “What court file? It never went to court.”

He was right. Police file.

I mentioned the glasses under Yeatman’s body, and Goldstein said yes, they were not prescription like Yeatman’s bifocals but dime-store readers identical to others Cunn had.

But in Yeatman’s case, a jury was never presented the evidence. Cunn was never detained.

“I cannot tell you why they did not arrest him. I thought I had enough on him.” He said the state’s attorney’s office made that call.

At the time, the office was led by Kurt Schmoke, who was later elected Baltimore’s mayor.

Schmoke is now president of the University of Baltimore, and he said he didn’t remember Yeatman. But as he listened to the details of her murder, he said, “It does raise a lot of questions why the case didn’t proceed.”

Schmoke said he would call Timothy Doory, the assistant state’s attorney handling homicides at the time. Doory, now a Baltimore City Circuit Court judge, is listed on an affidavit in Yeatman’s murder.

After several calls and a handwritten note to his chambers, Doory called me back. He said he had asked for the file and found it fascinating but had no recollection of it. He had checked the dates, and he had been trying a capital murder case at the time.

He referred to Cunn as the prime suspect, echoing the language used by police in the homicide file but cautioned that it’s a leap to go from prime suspect to beyond a reasonable doubt. Someone else could have been the killer, he said.

Now that they understood the mob connection, those close to Yeatman began reexamining strange incidents in her final months, including the damaged brakes in her car.

Footage from WJZ-TV shows Margaret Yeatman’s car in the parking lot of Johns Hopkins Hospital. (TWP)

“She told me that the mechanic said to her, ‘This is not something that just happened. Somebody did this — and it’s dangerous,’” said Sharon Templeman, a good friend who attended Ravensworth Baptist church with Yeatman. Now 72, Templeman teaches social work at a university in Texas.

Don Windsor, Yeatman’s son-in-law, remembered the brakes, too. He said at the time Yeatman figured any kid could have vandalized her car parked behind her apartment.

Goldstein, the detective, agreed to meet me in person to talk more about the case. But when I drove to his house, he had second thoughts and wouldn’t unlatch the door chain to let me in. But through the crack, he told me something startling about Cunn: “I send him a Christmas card every year so he knows I have not forgotten him.”

I asked if he did that because he believed Cunn either shot his girlfriend or knew who did.

“I address the Christmas card to him and family,” Goldstein said, closing the door.

Chapter 9


In Yeatman’s homicide file, there is a 1986 Time magazine article about Giuliani’s bold effort to prosecute the bosses of the five crime families, the so-called Commission.

U.S. Attorney Rudolph Giuliani speaks to reporters at a news conference in New York City on Dec. 13, 1984. (Debbie Hodgson/AP)

Giuliani, fresh from a top job at the Justice Department, was in Manhattan making headway on his promise: “The mafia will be crushed.”

His success at living up to that pledge would make him famous and then mayor of New York City. He is now a legal adviser to President Trump. I wanted to talk to Giuliani about the case. But over the last five months, he did not respond to numerous emails, phone calls and a detailed letter asking to talk about Rastelli, who died in 1991, and any possible connection to Yeatman.

Giuliani speaks regularly to reporters. But one of his assistants described him as “too busy to review requests for interviews.”

This is the question I wanted to ask him: Was it possible Yeatman’s killer was spared prosecution as part of a deal to help dismantle organized crime in New York?

Ciraolo, the Baltimore cold case detective, said he certainly hoped not. He did not think a murder could just be overlooked. But he added, “It has happened that one agency does not share all their information with another.”

It’s possible, he said, that the FBI knows more than it is saying.

Which is nothing.

The FBI declined to answer any of my questions — even what their involvement in the case might have been. Baltimore investigators maintain the FBI would have been involved because Yeatman’s body was likely transported across state lines, and an ATF employee was suspected of being involved.

I filed a Freedom of Information Act request in 2017 and talked to at least a dozen different people at the FBI. One finally gave me the case numbers of two FBI files relating to Yeatman’s murder, so I requested those files. I was then told they were only related to lab tests and probably had been destroyed.

Another FBI official said Yeatman files had been sent to the National Archives. But the archives said it would not have records as recent as 1986, especially for an open murder case, referring me back to the FBI.

In August, I filed a new Freedom of Information Act request with the FBI, which said it had no record of the original one.

And there wasn’t going to be a breakthrough from the forensic lab, either.

As Ciraolo had warned, the tiny sample of blood from under Yeatman’s fingernails was too degraded. No DNA match could be made.

I was running out of leads to follow. Cunn himself — who turned 85 last week — seemed the only hope of getting some answers.

Chapter 10

The prime suspect

We’d met before.

I’d knocked on the door of his modest bungalow on Long Island in 2017, but as we began talking his wife appeared and brusquely told him to go inside.

“Why are you bothering us? That was a long time ago,” she said, shutting the door.

I returned the next day. This time Angie Cunn answered and started defending her husband. She called him “a hero” for his law enforcement work.

What about police suspecting him of killing a woman he’d been dating? I asked. What about the brief divorce and their remarriage just before Yeatman’s body was found?

She bristled at the notion that she and Artie had ever been divorced. “According to the church we were still married,” she said. And she denied that her uncle might have arranged to get rid of Yeatman.

“My uncle wouldn’t have done that, because he didn’t even like me,” she replied.

She made it clear I wasn’t going to get to talk to her husband.

So now a year later, I was back at the couple’s front door 40 miles east of Manhattan. This time there was no sign of Angie, only Artie, a slight man with skin as gray as his thinning hair.

He remembered me and didn’t seem surprised that I’d returned.

I asked what effect the murder had on him.

“This destroyed half my life,” said Cunn, who suffers from chronic lung disease. “I got accused of something I had no reason to do. No reason.”

I said the police thought he had a motive: He had been dating one woman while married to another.

“I was divorced from my wife,” he said in his pronounced New York accent.

But he actually had just remarried Angie, I reminded him.

He just shook his head.

It’s suspicious, I said, that his wife’s uncle was a notorious mobster.

“Yes, I know that,” he replied. He said he was never involved with the Bonannos: “I met them at weddings and funerals, period.”

Some people, I told him, believe he avoided arrest because he helped inform on the mob.

“So who did you talk to?” he wanted to know.

“A lot of people in law enforcement,” I said vaguely. He dismissed the theory, saying, “It’s a good story.”

I listed all the evidence pointing to him: the scratches on his arm, the missing photos and journals, his familiarity with the parking garage, the eyeglasses under her body.

Photographs of Cunn’s scratched arms and his reading glasses are among the items in Yeatman’s homicide file. (Baltimore police)

“So far everything you’re saying is absolutely ridiculous. The glasses are those dollar glasses from the Dollar Store, and she wore the same things. . . . I hurt my hand or something. I don’t remember when, and I went to the emergency room to get a test.”

If he didn’t kill her, who did? As a former cop, what does he think about this horrible crime?

“If you checked her history,” he said, “she had a very promiscuous life. . . . That would be your answer.”

I told him that her family and friends insist that was not true, that she was in love with him.

“She was a companion, and I liked her,” he said, adding that she was “a nice woman” and their relationship “was never intended to be something serious.”

He said it was a nightmare to be accused of murder, and he was fired from a job he loved at ATF because of it.

Unprompted, he offered: “If I ever thought of doing something like that, why would you leave a body?”

Was it possible that Yeatman ended up dead in a trunk because his wife complained to her uncle that she was being bothered?

He called it “an incredible story.”

Wasn’t she jealous?

“I am sure she was, and she hated it. But if you say my wife called her uncle and said, ‘Please — ’ ” He shook his head. “Let people think what they want.”

Then, before the former bomb expert went inside the house he shares with his wife, I asked again if he thought there had been a mob hit on his girlfriend.

“I have no idea,” he said. “Anything is possible.”

Chapter 11

The family

I couldn’t shake the feeling that Cunn knew more than he was saying.

I drove back to Washington feeling deflated. My interview was a string of denials from a frail old man. I hadn’t solved the killing.

But when I told Yeatman’s family about the encounter, they were excited. Someone had finally confronted the only suspect in her murder — and an article about the case might prompt new witnesses to come forward.

Decades ago, I had written an article about a brutal crime and then never followed up. The Baltimore police and the FBI had moved on, too. But Yeatman’s family had never forgotten who she was or how she died, and they didn’t want Artie Cunn to forget, either. Their persistence had led me to his front door.

And now they had a little more hope for justice.

Alice Crites contributed to this report.


Story by Mary Jordan, photos by Katherine Frey, design and development by Madison Walls, videos by McKenna Ewen and Alice Li, editing by Lynda Robinson, photo editing by Mark Miller, design editing by Brian Gross, video editing by Reem Akkad.

Top photo illustrations include images from the Baltimore police department and family photos.


An affair.
The mob.
A murder.