Among Essex County’s unsolved murders profiled was consummate Democratic insider Harry Dudkin, who was killed at his family stationary store in East Orange on on March 5, 1987.
Detectives had initially believed Dudkin had fallen and hit his head. The following day, an autopsy discovered a .38-caliber slug in his skull.
When detectives finally canvassed the neighborhood looking for information, two days had passed since Dudkin’s murder.
Only then did investigators realize that the store’s daily receipts were missing.
Dudkin spent 25 years as the Newark South Ward Democratic Municipal Chair. He spent seventeen years as an Assistant Assembly County Prosecutor, served as a Newark Municipal Court Judge, Secretary of the Newark Insurance Fund Commission, was Clerk of the New Jersey State Assembly in the late 1950s, and the Clerk of the Essex County Board of Freeholders in the 1960s.
He ran two competitive races for Congress against one of Essex County’s most popular Republican congressmen, Robert W. Kean.
Kean ousted a freshman Democrat in 1938. The son of a U.S. Senator, he was the father of future Gov. Tom Kean and the grandfather of Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr.
He faced Dudkin in 1948.
President Harry Truman called for Dudkin’s election during a campaign appearance in Newark on October 6, but on Election Day he lost to Kean by 4,737 votes — 53%-45%.
He ran again against Kean in 1950, but lost by 8,598 votes — 54%-46%.