Harry "Pittsburgh Phil" Strauss was a member of Murder Inc. during the 1930's and is noted as being one of the most violent members the organization ever had.
Harry Strauss was born in Brooklyn and was of Jewish origin. He was described as being a good looking man who always was dressed to his finest. Thanks to his appaerence he was loved by many, even amongst the famous ones such as Gene Harlow who'm he once dated. However, Strauss wore a mask when going out, in real life he was a viscious killer. The exact number of murders he committed is not known, but some say it ranges from 50 to 100. When The Combination, how they called it (Murder Inc. was a name invented by the press), got orders to murder, Strauss was much asked to do the job.
Pittsburgh Phil, who unlike his nickname presumes never even went to Pittsburgh, was arrested for the first time in 1927. From then on he had frequent encounters with the law. In 1933 a thief named Alex Alpert was murdered by Strauss, Martin Goldstein and Abe Reles after he had a shouting dispute with Strauss over some stolen jewels. All three of them were arrested afterwards but were released again due to lack of evidence. By 1934 he allready had 18 discharges and one year later he and Martin Goldstein were eventually banished from the city by the court after they were discharged of the murder on Louis Amberg. According to Reles's testimonies Harry Strauss was also involved in the 1936 murder of candy shop owner Joseph Rosen together with James Ferraco and Emanuel Weiss. One year later Strauss was held for homicide charges after a 75 year old woman died in a car crash while he was driving. Again he was not found guilty.
Another victim of his was Irving "Puggy" Feinstein, who was murdered in 1939 in Brooklyn. Before killing him Strauss and his companions tortured the man by looping a rope around his neck and feet. Everytime the victim moved the rope got tighter to his neck, leading to suffocation. The same went for Walter Sage, a slot machine racketeer and former Murder Inc. member, who had been ice picked over 32 times before being thrown in the river. Police discovered his corpse in the Catskills with the ropes still round his neck and feet.
Arrest and execution
In 1940 Abe Reles was arrested and became a federal witness. The Murder Inc. killers had always managed to get away with murder, but with Reles against them there was no escape. Several men were arrested including Martin Goldstein and Strauss, who were both trialed in
September 1940 for the murder of Puggy Feinstein. On the witness stand was Abe Reles, who during the trials was said to have avoided eye contact with them because they were his best friends. During the trials Strauss tried to fool the court by faining insanity. The once idel man never looked the same no more. He was unshaven and unwashed. While being in court he mumbeled, stared at nothing and ones even chewed on his lawyer's briefcase until he was ordered to stop. Both he and Goldstein were however found guilty to murder and were placed in the death house at Sing Sing prison. On June 12, 1941 Strauss and Goldstein were executed on "Old Sparky", the electric chair. It is said that Strauss hadn't got no money left when he died, he had spent it all on legal fees and a bounty set out to kill Abe Reles.