This story is part of a collaborative project between Project: Cold Case and a University of North Florida Journalism class. The student credited above wrote this story as a class project.
“Your sisters don’t die. Only old people die.”
Jeanne Heinz remembers thinking just that when she was 12 years old. She looked up to her sister, after all. It was incredibly difficult to comprehend for a child that her sister was just gone.
The body of Mary Beth Heinz was discovered on May 10, 1972, near a creek in Rockville Centre, New York. She had been strangled and had abrasions on her neck and face. The Heinz family couldn’t believe it.
Mary Beth Heinz grew up in Mineola, New York on Long Island. She adored the King of Rock and decorated her room with Elvis Presley posters.
Attending school, partaking in the local Girl Scout troop, and doing arts are crafts were just some of Mary Beth’s favorite activities. “There was a show on TV she enjoyed that showed you how to draw,” Tommy Heinz said of his sister. “Our mother always made sure she had plenty of art supplies.”
The Heinz family would spend each summer in the Pocono mountains of Pennsylvania, assisting their grandmother run a motel. Mary Beth and her six siblings could always be found enjoying their time in the swimming pool or collecting frogs and turtles that would frequent the pool. “On Saturday mornings. Mary Beth and [her sister] Peggy would clean the sheets and rooms of guests,” Tommy said.
Mary Beth loved to play dress up when she was young. She never outgrew that. “In every picture, her hair is done,” Jeanne recalled. “She could really do an updo.”
Mary Beth was diagnosed with epilepsy when she was young. She suffered from grand mal seizures, which cause a loss of consciousness and violent muscle contractions. “I had to make sure she didn’t swallow her tongue in the middle of the night,” Jeanne recalled.
Seizures occurred daily. Because of that, Mary Beth needed to have someone around her to know exactly how to assist her. She couldn’t drive herself around town due to her condition.
Even school became difficult for Mary Beth. “She had one in her classroom and kids took it as a joke. She was bullied for that,” Tommy said.
In 1972, Mary Beth was working as a live-in nanny. She would live with the family during the week and spend the weekend at her family’s home. “She really cared about people,” Tommy said.
Because she couldn’t drive, she would take the bus each weekend. This weekend, Mary Beth was excited to attend a local epilepsy dance.
Mary Beth never made it home.
When her date and his mother knocked on the door, “my mother was mortified!” Jeanne recalled. The Heinz family invited them into the house to wait for Mary Beth to arrive. After a few hours, they left.
By morning, Mrs. Heinz was starting to panic.
She contacted the Nassau County Police Department but was told that there wasn’t much they could do. Mary Beth was 21 years old and an adult, after all. “They say every parent knows their child and my mother knew something was very wrong,” Jeanne said.
Five days later, her body was discovered.
Mr. Heinz was a New York City police officer and went to the scene a day later. Mary Beth’s older brothers followed suit. There, one of her brothers discovered another woman’s purse at the scene. “My father questioned how police could’ve missed that,” Jeanne said.
A short time later, another woman was discovered dead in the same area. Newspaper clippings from the time indicate that police believed the two murders possibly were related.
Mary Beth’s death hit the family hard. The grief prevented them from talking about it much. “It hit our father the hardest,” Tommy recalled.
“Cases on TV get solved in an hour and we are still waiting for Mary Beth’s case to get solved,” Jeanne said.
If you have any information on the unsolved murder of Mary Beth Heinz, please contact the Nassau County Police Department at (516) 571-2120.
Research & Impact
Many of the cases we receive have unfortunately been lost in the digital age. If you search many of the victim’s names on Google, few resources appear. Some cases have zero search results.
We have recently coined the term “Internet Silence,” in which historic accounts of currently unsolved homicides are difficult – if even possible – to access on the internet. Newspaper archives such as Newspapers.com have been vital in our attempts to record and re-tell these stories, but that collection isn’t complete by any means.
Based in Jacksonville, Florida, our local Florida Times-Union newspaper is not available on Newspapers.com, making it even more difficult to discover information on northeast Florida cases. In those situations, we often utilize the Jacksonville Public Library’s microfiche collection of Times-Union papers in the Downtown Jacksonville location.
We publish Spotlight articles every week in an attempt to help close the gap of lost stories. These are sometimes the beginning of a digital-age telling of a family’s lost loved one.
It’s one of many services we are proud to provide at Project: Cold Case.
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