In 1973, Pennsauken, Camden County, New Jersey was plagued by a series of crimes. I was alerted to the shooting death of restaurant manager Robert Thomas Keith (Aug 11, 1925 – April 24, 1973) whose murder was never solved.
Keith was the manager of The Pub. He had worked at the restaurant for well over a decade working his way up from bartender to manager.
Robert Thomas Keith born in August so I made him the Case of the Month for August 2021.
In the papers, we read that Keith (47) and the restaurant’s cook Henry “Hank” Eady (57) were ambushed in the parking lot behind the building after they closed up the restaurant’s front door around 2am.
Eady had worked at the restaurant for eleven years. He said in the Courier-Post that he always closed The Pub with Keith. He said that the gunmen were hidden behind a car in the parking lot. The two criminals pulled their guns and demanded money.
Not having any on them, the criminals told Keith to get back inside so they could empty the safe. There was indeed a safe on the second floor.
Keith told them that reopening the front door would trigger the alarm. This detail was in the Philadelphia Daily News from April 24, 1973. It came from Gary Perez who according to the paper was the restaurant’s secretary-treasurer. The president of The Pub, according to the papers, was George Wolfman. I assume that Perez and Wolfman, like all other restaurant personnel, were eliminated as a suspects or persons of interest in this case. Not accusing anyone, merely ticking off boxes.
At the same time
While unlocking the front door at gun point, several things happened:
1: according to police, the gunmen told Keith that if an alarm went off while opening the door, he’d be shot. So, now I wonder: who exactly said what because Perez said that Keith mentioned it to the gunmen. In the Courier-Post of April 24, it is the gunmen warning Keith. In the same paper, Eady said that Keith mentioned the alarm.
2: while unlocking the front door, Keith also tried to disarm the gunman and got shot.
3: Eady somehow slipped through the opened front door escaping his gunman who had a gun in his back. In the Courier-Post, he said that his gunman “shoved me inside the door.”
4: the alarm did not go off so, was it set? Who had the code? Was it tested later on to see if it worked properly? Had it ever failed before?
5: the gunmen got into a nearby car and fled. There is no word about a getaway driver but it cannot be excluded either. The car was a light gray or white Plymouth.
Men matching the descriptions in this case are believed to be the same pair who robbed Marbett’s Diner an hour earlier.
After the shooting
After this, Keith was bleeding on the front steps of the restaurant while Eady ran to the back of the restaurant. He stayed there not knowing what to do. He eventually walked to the front door. Keith was still conscious. He told Eady to call the police and, that he could not move.
I assume that the restaurant had a telephone to take reservations, etc. so I wonder why Eady ran to a gas station instead of the restaurant’s offices to get to a phone. Was this because of shock?
Eady told a gas station attendant what happened and that person then called the police. Police and an ambulance went to the restaurant and a squad car came to pick up Eady at the pump. When Eady returned to the restaurant, Keith was already inside an ambulance.
On April 25, 1973 then-Pennsauken Police Chief Brook said that there were no new leads in the case. The reporting after this case went down quickly. Keith’s case only got mentioned when other crimes in the area were reported.
The Chief Investigator for the Camden County Medical Examiner’s Office was Blair M. Murphy.
Cause of death: one single .38 caliber bullet wound. The bullet entered the left side of Keith’s chest then passed through his heart and lodged itself in the stomach. Some papers mentioned that Keith was shot twice but that conflicts with Murphy’s findings.
Murphy said that there were two deep penetrating wounds on Keith’s head. One was on his forehead and one was behind the left ear. I gather that Keith got pistol whipped or hit with another sharp instrument. However, Murphy made it clear that Keith was not shot in his head as had been reported.
The bullet that killed Keith was sent to the West Trenton State Lab for comparison with bullets from other unsolved cases but I didn’t find anything about results in the newspaper archives.
Robert Thomas Keith
From the papers I learned that Robert Thomas Keith was a World War II Veteran. I found no further details.
What I did find was a card of thanks published in the Courier-Post in which Keith’s widow, Marie A. McIlhenney Keith, expressed her thanks and gratitude to the police for their support.
The photograph you see here from the Courier-Post of April 24, 1973 does not do Robert Thomas Keith any justice. I will replace it as soon as I have a proper head shot.
In the series “Case of the Month” I highlight old cold cases. These posts are not an in-depth analysis and of course, more information can be found online and in newspaper archives.
We need to get these cases back in the mainstream media, to get people talking again, and if anything, to make sure that we do not forget the victims. Just because their cases are unsolved does not mean that we can forget about them.
I encourage you to share this post on your own social media platforms. By sharing these posts, the cases reach new networks, new connections, and new news feeds. Maybe one day these updates will pop up in the right person’s news feed. This may be someone who can actually help advance the case and that is my goal.
Rest in peace, Robert Thomas Keith.