A look back at a fifty cent murder-for-hire in Camden
It was on August 7th, 1939 that 18-year-old Wanda Dworecki was murdered near Camden High School. She had been beaten, strangled, and her head bashed in with a rock. The murder took a more scandalous turn when it was determined that Wanda’s father, a Baptist preacher, had paid to have her killed so he could collect insurance money, about $2600. He paid her killer 50 cents.
Witnesses testified that Walter Dworecki, the father, had tried to solicit other men to kill his daughter. She was described as a “wild girl” who might sully her father’s reputation and he had taken out the most recent insurance policy a mere three weeks before her untimely demise.
Walter had also collected insurance money on his wife’s death; arsenic poisoning was suspected but never proved. Wanda died at the hands of a boarder in the Dworecki home, Pete Shewchuck a carnival roustabout and handyman who was described as “slow” and strong. He had a previous intimate relationship with the teenage girl and, on the night of the murder, took her out on a date. The Reverend Dworecki had given Shewchuck 50 cents for expenses. He walked with Wanda to a “lover’s lane” near the Camden High School athletic fields where he beat her, strangled her, and then, for good measure, crushed her head with a rock. Shewchuk was identified as the person last seen with Wanda, and, after a manhunt, was arrested.
He confessed to everything, claiming that the pastor had offered him $100 to kill his daughter, but he had collected only 50 cents. After playing the role of bereaved father, Rev. Dworecki also confessed, although he claimed at trial that the police had beaten the confession out of him.
It took a jury twelve hours to come to a conclusion: guilty of first degree murder; Dworecki was sentenced to death. He was found guilty in October of 1939 and was executed (via electric chair) in March of 1940. Swechuk was tried separately; he was also found guilty but was sentenced to life in prison. He was paroled in 1958.
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Bill Doyle. Any opinions expressed are Bill Doyle's own.