Nation: The Fox Is on the Run

Time magazine
Monday, June 16, 1980

Nobody notices as a killer disappears into thin air

The short, beefy man strolled into the Brooklyn House of Detention, signed the visitors' log—"Michael Schwartz" —and asked to see his client. While the lawyer waited in a glass-enclosed meeting room on the first floor, a guard went to escort the prisoner down from his maximum-security cell on the tenth floor. The prisoner, clad in a jumpsuit and in need of a shave, greeted Schwartz, and the two began conferring in private. During their talk, the guards changed shifts; shortly thereafter, the new guards watched a clean-shaven man in a gray tweed suit sign out—"Michael Schwartz"—and stroll out of the prison and into thin air.

The man in the gray suit was not Michael Schwartz but the jumpsuited prisoner, Howard ("Buddy") Jacobson, 49, successful horse trainer, real estate entrepreneur and convicted murderer. The man he left behind turned out not to be Michael Schwartz either, but Anthony DeRosa, 47, onetime bartender and a longtime pal of Jacobson's. When DeRosa himself tried to leave the prison, a guard asked him where his "client" had gone. Only then did prison officials belatedly sound the alert.

The escape came just three days before Jacobson was scheduled to be sentenced for the 1978 murder of John Tupper, 34, a divorced restaurateur who lived in an East Side Manhattan apartment building that Jacobson owned. Tupper had taken up with a pretty model, Melanie Cain, 25, Jacobson's partner in a modeling agency named My Fair Lady. For five years before Tupper came along, she had also been Jacobson's mistress. Two weeks after Cain broke off with Jacobson, Tupper's charred body, shot seven times and stabbed repeatedly, was found in a burning crate in a Bronx lot. Jacobson was reportedly seen speeding away from the lot in a yellow Cadillac. Arrested the next day, he was found guilty of second-degree murder last April.

In prison, Jacobson quietly began selling some of his real estate, reportedly raising as much as $850,000 in cash. The Bronx district attorney heard of Jacobson's dealings and warned the Brooklyn prison, in vain, to keep a close watch on him. One of Jacobson's deals had been with DeRosa, who had bought a Vermont ski lodge from the former horse trainer in 1977. DeRosa, however, had fallen behind in his payments, and now it might have come time for Jacobson to ask for a favor. Police speculate that DeRosa, attaché case in hand, brought a gray suit to the House of Detention and a razor for Jacobson to shave off his distinctively droopy mustache. Without the mustache, one police officer said of the fugitive, Jacobson looks "very forgettable." DeRosa has since been indicted, and is being held on $500,000 bail.

Police believe that Jacobson drove away in a blue 1980 Dodge Aspen rented by his son's girlfriend. They believe that he took with him another model, Audrey Barrett, 22, who has also disappeared. One theory holds that the couple drove to either Philadelphia or Washington and caught a commercial flight out of the country, heading perhaps for Central America or the Caribbean. But no one really knows.

The sentencing of Buddy Jacobson for Tupper's murder did take place as scheduled, with the fugitive drawing 25 years to life. "The fox is on the run," said the victim's father, John Tupper, who attended the sentencing. "He will never be happy. He will always be looking over his shoulder."