"We're not done here": Wife's words to nanny become key in murder trial two decades later

Twenty-three years after the murder of NYC businessman Howard Pilmar, the account of a young woman who worked for the family would finally heat up the cold case

Who Wanted Howard Pilmar Dead?

Last Updated Oct 29, 2019 2:41 PM EDT

Correspondent Richard Schlesinger and "48 Hours" go inside the riveting real-life murder mystery behind the stabbing death of a New York City businessman and the search for answers in "Who Wanted Howard Pilmar Dead?" 

In 1996, Allyson, a recent college graduate, was working for Roslyn and Howard Pilmar as a nanny for their son, Philip. On the night of March 21, 1996, she was taking care of the 9-year-old while Roslyn and her brother Evan Wald went to her husband's office for a meeting. Howard Pilmar had recently taken over his family's successful office supply store, where he had opened a high-end coffee bar long before that was a common sight. Roslyn was in charge of the coffee business and Evan worked for her.

The following morning, Howard was found in his office in a pool of blood. The millionaire businessman had been stabbed 48 times. There was no weapon, no sign of forced entry, nothing was taken from the office or from Pilmar's wallet, and the killer or killers left little physical evidence.  

Investigators began looking for clues and soon zeroed in on the last people to see Howard alive – his wife and her brother.  There was a drop of Evan's blood found at the crime scene and other circumstantial evidence that made the brother and sister "persons of interest."

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But there were no eyewitnesses, and several people, including Allyson, say they were intimidated by detectives and reluctant to talk to them — something investigators say is not unusual.  Allyson left New York City and moved on with her life – got married, had children and started a business.

The Pilmar case went cold until 2013.

That's when Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. assigned the case to a new team of prosecutors and detectives. They reviewed all the evidence, re-interviewed old witnesses and began contacting people who had been unwilling to talk in 1996.

In 2016, detectives tracked down the Pilmar's former nanny. Allyson agreed to tell them everything she knew about the night Howard was killed. Those crucial details helped prosecutors finally charge Roslyn and Evan with Howard's murder.

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Two years later, when Roslyn and Evan went on trial, Allyson was a key state's witness. She told jurors she had admired Roslyn, describing her as a "successful business owner" and a "diligent mom." As a boss, she said, Roslyn was very specific about Allyson's schedule, always telling her how long she'd be expected to work and what time she could leave – except on Thursday, March 21, 1996.

Allyson knew that she would be working late that night because Roslyn and Wald were meeting with Howard at his office, to discuss finances.  What was unusual was that Allyson didn't know how late she'd be working.  She told jurors it was the first time that had happened.

Allyson testified that she picked Philip up from school and later took him to Chelsea Piers Sports Complex for ice hockey practice.  At some point she was paged over an intercom and told to call Roslyn.  These were the days before everyone had a cell phone, so she used a pay phone. Roslyn Pilmar was checking in and said she still didn't know what time she'd be done at Howard's office, so if she couldn't meet them, she'd have a car service take Allyson and Philip home.

Allyson says Roslyn had never had her paged before. But that evening she was paged a second time. When she called Roslyn again, she was told to take Philip home, because "we're not done here."

When they arrived at the Pilmar apartment, Allyson remembers the apartment was dark. Roslyn was in a bathrobe and her hair was wet.  Allyson says it was obvious that Roslyn wanted her to leave.

The prosecutor would later tell the jury that Roslyn's words, "We're not done here," were "chilling," and that Allyson's description of Roslyn's behavior the night Howard was murdered was the kind of details that had been missing all those years. Some of the jurors would describe Allyson as "a linchpin" to the case.