"Omaha Greek has Mrs. Heinze's Pearls" article - New York Times, March 5, 1909
Published in The New York Times, March 5, 1909
OMAHA GREEK HAS MRS. HEINZE’S PEARLS
Says He Found Them Outside the Knickerbocker Hotel,
Where He Was a Sweeper
THOUGHT PEARLS GLASS
He is Arrested for Trying to Sell Them –
Necklace Was Lost on Thanksgiving Night.
OMAHA, Neb., March 4 – John Savis, a Greek railroad laborer, was to-day arrested in Omaha for having in his possession a pearl necklace, the value of which has been variously estimated from $30,000 to $100,000, and supposed to have been lost by, or stolen from, Mrs. Otto C. Heinze at the Knickerbocker Hotel, New York City, on the night of Dec. 26, 1908. The Greek to-night is in the city jail, while the necklace lies in a safe deposit vault awaiting positive identification.
Savis claims to have been formerly employed at the Knickerbocker as a sidewalk man, and says he found the necklace in the driveway, about the middle of December, nearly a month after it was lost by Mrs. Heinze. He says he showed the jewel to employees of the Knickerbocker, and continued working there until Feb. 1, when he started west. He did not know the value of the pearls, he says, and was assured in New York that they were only glass beads.
Savis walked into a jewelry store this afternoon and stepping up to the manager extended a dirty hand in which lay a pearl the size of a pigeon egg.
“What will you pay for that?” he asked. At a glance the jeweler saw that the object was a flawless pearl. On examination he also saw that the pearl had been drilled as though it had been one of a necklace.
The Greek was engaged in conversation and finally told the jeweler that he had a handful of them and would bring them to him later in the day.
In the meantime, the jeweler gave a signal to an employee who quickly informed the police. While the Greek was talking to the jeweler two detectives entered the store and, grabbing the Greek from either side, pinioned his arms.
Savis put up a good fight, and attempted to draw a pistol. He was quickly handcuffed, and a revolver taken from him. At the police station he refused to talk, and a thorough search of his person was made for the ‘handful’ of pearls he had assured the jeweler he had.
Wrapped up in cotton batting and tied around his waist next to the skin, the pearls were found still strung on the thin gold wire chain. Savis had taken the largest one to the jeweler. There are sixty-three of the pearls, and the clasp is of gold, studded with a number of diamonds of seven-eighths carat. The pearls are perfectly matched, ranging from the size of a pea up to the centre one, which is as large as a fair-sized marble.
Savis’s explanation is as follows:
“I worked at the Knickerbocker Hotel as sidewalk man. About the middle of December, one night, I found the necklace near the driveway, which in the Summer is grass. The next day I showed it to people around the hotel. They said it was glass beads.
“I worked at the Knickerbocker until the middle of February, and then I quit to come to Omaha. Some Greeks here who cannot talk English wrote me to come and act as interpreter for a railroad gang. I came here two weeks ago. I thought I would see if I couldn’t sell the beads for almost anything. I took them to one watchmaker and he said they were worth about 30 cents. Then I went to Joe Mandanis, the Union Pacific interpreter, and he told me to go to another jeweler. I did and they arrested me.
“If I had known the value of the pearls and had wanted to steal them I would not have come to Omaha. I would have gone to Europe.”
The police believe that Savis did not know the full value of his find, but that he considered them valuable is shown by the care he took to conceal them on his person.
Mrs. Otto C. Heinze of 14 East Seventy-second Street, wife of the banker and broker Otto C. Heinze, lost a necklace of sixty-three matched pearls of fine luster on Thanksgiving night, Nov. 26 last. With her husband and several relatives she had attended a performance at the Astor Theatre and later dined at the Hotel Knickerbocker. Mr. Heinze was certain that he had seen the necklace on his wife’s dress in the grill room of the hotel, and when, shortly after midnight, the loss of the necklace was discovered the matter was reported to the hotel management.
A thorough search of the waiters and maids in the hotel was made by the Pinkerton and city detectives, lasting through several days, but the necklace could not be found. A reward of $1,000 was offered for its return.
“No one by the name of Savis was employed at this hotel,” said P.G. Geier, assistant manager of the Hotel Knickerbocker, last night. “He was probably a street cleaner, who found the necklace where it had fallen in the street when Mrs. Heinze stepped into a cab. After the careful search we made I felt certain that it had not been lost in the hotel.”
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