The House on the Hill: A Murder In Washington Heights…

BY Led Black (@Led_Black)

Research & Photography by Emil Baez (@EBmagination)

House on the Hill - Washington Heights

(Photo: Curbed)

Washington Heights resident, 16-year-old Lillian Mojica, was most probably consumed with thinking about the big Valentine’s Day School Dance that was taking place the very next day.

Everyone in school could not get off the topic.

She never made it.

According to court documents, the young girl had locked the door to her bedroom when her younger brother, Richard, left for school that morning at approximately 6:15 am. She may have already been living in fear because of the creepy boarder, Pablo Vargas, who was renting a room in the house.

Now she was in her home, with him – alone.

What happened next is still a mystery but what is known beyond the shadow of a doubt is that on the morning of February 13th, 1958 Lillian was brutally murdered in her own home.

Her 15-year-old brother found the body when he returned from school, after going to the cellar because he smelled something burning. What he encountered was the strangled, mutilated, burned and bludgeoned corpse of his older sister.

Pablo Vargas eventually confessed to the murder, rape and burning of his young victim. He subsequently recanted his confession saying that he was beaten and forced to confess by the over-zealous detectives assigned to the case. The 33-year-old defendant was convicted of murder in the first degree and sentenced to death.

On May 12th 1965, in the infamous Sing Sing Prison, Pablo Vargas was strapped to the electric chair and executed but not before putting up a fight that would add to the lore of the case and of the storied penitentiary.

The New York Times described the scene thusly: “It took eight guards to strap Vargas into the chair.” According to the Associated Press, “Prison officials said it was the first time in more than 600 executions at Sing Sing since 1891 that a doomed man physically fought to the last moment to prevent his execution.”

Why did he struggle in vain with such vigor? What did he know that everyone else didn’t? Was justice served in the murder of Lillian Mojica?

The world may never know…

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16 Responses to “The House on the Hill: A Murder In Washington Heights…”

  1. UPTOWN COLLECTIVE,

    I WENT TO ST.ELIZABETHS’S SCHOOL ON BROADWAY IN 1947, IT BURNED DOWN.THAT HILL WAS OUR SLEDDING HILL IN WINTER. SO YOUR PHOTO’S BROUGHT BACK MEMORIES. I LEFT THE HEIGHTS IN 1956 AND DIDN’T RETURN (EXCEPT YEARLY TO SEE MOM) UNTIL 47 YEARS LATER IN 2002.

    AND I’M LOVING BEING BACK, I’M AN ANTI-WAR VIET NAM VET, VVAW AND VETERANS FOR PEACE AND ENVIRONMENTALIST. YOU’VE PROBABLY SEEN MY POSTERS I PUT UP DURING MY WALKS.

    I ENCOURGE EVERYONE TO JOIN 350NYC.ORG (JANE KANDALL)MY EMAIL:rmcl@nyc.rr.com-WE’RE BUILDING A GLOBAL GRASSROOTS MOVEMENT TO SOLVE THE CLIMATE CRISIS AND PUSH FOR POLICIS THAT WILL PUT THE WORLD ON TRACK TO GET TO 350 PPM CO2. (iT’S NOW OVER 400 PARTS PER MILLION)

    I’M AN ADVID READER OF UPTOWN COLLECTIVE AND THRILLED WORD UP BOOK HAS STORE REOPENED, I TRY TO VISIT WEEKLY, MY ECO-TRUTH-NEWS #2 BOOKLET IS THERE.

    THANKS FOR THE PIC’S AND SORROW ABOUT THE YOUNG GIRLS MURDER,

    ROBERT E B MC LAUGHLIN

  2. Interesting story. I’m wondering if there’s a way to get history or news articles about anything that may have happened at 603 Academy St., specifically apt. 2F where I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s. I now live in Renton, WA. but had strange experiences at the above mentioned address while living there with my family. I enjoy my Uptown Collective because it keeps me in touch with what’s going on back home. Thanks so much! Orenda

    • admin says:

      Hey Orenda – thanks for the love. We will look into it.

      Led

    • HI,
      BACK IN THE 50’S THERE WERE A SERIES OF UNSOLVED MURDERS. ONE IN PARTICULAR STANDS OUT TO ME BECAUSE MICHAEL FARMER (AGE 12) WAS MY CLASSMATE OF MINE AT INCARNATION (CATHOLIC SCHOOL) ON 175TH STREET, HE WAS KNIFED TO DEATH IN HIS BUILDING FOYER ACROSS THE STREET FROM INCARNATION. RUMMER HAD IT THE EGYPTIAN KINGS (A LATINO GANG) KILLED HIM, BUT THAT WAS BULLSHIT, AS THEY NEVER LEFT EAST HARLEM. MICHAEL HAD POLIO AND NEEDED CRUTCHES AND HAD A BIG ANGRY MOUTH AND PROBALY PIST OFF A REBEL; THE 1500 STRONG DUMB GUY GANG THAT SOUGHT TO CONTROL THE HEIGHTS BACK THEN, (MOSTLY BY ROBBING PEOPLE BY KNIFE POINT). WASHINGTON HEIGHTS IS MUCH MORE SAFER NOW AND MORE DIVERSE THAN BACK THEN.

      • Wow. 1500 guys! I’m guessing Dyckman and Broadway up by where I used to live might’ve been some of their turf too?
        Led: Thank you for taking time to gather anymore information you might come across about my old address. Our neighbors at the time also reported seeing and hearing things in their apartments and in the halls. When we were kids one of my brother’s friends told him that ghosts of Sea men were once seen looking down from the roof, and one of my neighbor friends who lived in 3G said one time she saw a bearded guy walking behind her while she was looking in the mirror. Me- I have too many stories to tell here, but once in the hallway as I was walking to my apt. I felt someone staring at me (kind of angry feeling)from behind. Another time my brothers and I heard whistling and laughing in the hall but no one was there.IN our apartment though there was at least 3 different discarnate entities. As I said, looong story, which is why I’m curious for info. Thanks both of you for input. 🙂 Orenda

  3. M. Burgos says:

    After reading all the entries,I wonder that maybe this place/area was a haven of demons and not ghosts. The past history of strange and scary sightings and noises suggest it. It is fascinating reading, but for the record—PABLO VARGAS was executed in 1960 [not 1965] on May 12th according to Wikipedia:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_people_executed_in_New_York

    Thanks for the interesting input these happenings should be looked into further I agree. M Burgos

    • Orenda says:

      @ M.Burgos,
      Interesting theory about the demons. I just have to say that it brought up a memory of something that happened in our apartment at 603 Academy St. before I moved here to Renton, WA. Several things were going in there over the years but when I took over my Mom’s bedroom (after she moved here before me), I would turn out the lamp for bed and all of a sudden start feeling this deep dark evil start creeping into the room and it would get stronger and stronger until I couldn’t stand it anymore! It would stop if I turned the lamp back on. That was back in 1984. A few years earlier my Mom was trying to sleep one night and started feeling heat on her back and with her eyes shut could swear she was being levitated. Scared the crap out of her but she couldn’t scream.Basically I could write a book on just that place alone with all that’s happened there. Anyone know how I can get archives of the Inwood/Heights paper or public crime records to see what happened in the apartment, building or site it sits on? And yeah, the intial story about the ivy-covered house IS creepy! Oh, I heard that the Dyckman House is haunted too.

  4. Wallace F says:

    I wasn’t aware that the story took place close to where I live and it left me wanting to read more about why the house has been left in the condition it’s currently in. Or maybe where to read more about it.

  5. Airin T says:

    Fascinating stories, I do too have plenty on my own of locations where I’ve lived years ago in Washington heights. But I’m most interested in the house. I would like to know further informations about it, I’ve heard that the location is haunted

  6. yasmin h says:

    I am intrigued! I enjoy past stories of the neighborhood I grew up in and have so many memories from…. would love to find a way to be alerted of new findings and or blogs….

  7. yasmin h says:

    If there is a website… or an active group regarding demons in the heights please let me know…. I believe that there is many untold stories and souls that are not at rest due to the truth never being known.

  8. Anthony says:

    As a kid going to my doctors office on 185th and broadway I would always look at that house and wonder why wasn’t it ever bought and renovated ..what happened there ..and always had a creepy bone chilling feeling that it was haunted ( looks exactly like a haunted house ) very interesting story

  9. Marlene Christophers says:

    Update the house plus two others next to it were demolished and a building is going up.

  10. JD says:

    Wow! I lived on 191st and Wadsworth from 5th grade until I graduated college in 1995. Then I moved to what was considered the ” nice section ” of Washington Heighs – the building in the corner of 191st and Fort Washington Ave – a world of difference back then, Anyway, I was always curious about that little row of houses that no one renovated – althought I think they recently knocked it down, but little did I know about such violence that occurred right across from the church…. I will never look at that block in the same way…..

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