The Murder of Roseann Quinn

The Real Story Behind 'Looking for Mr. Goodbar'

Diane Keaton in Looking for Mr. Goodbar

Archive Photos / Getty Images


Roseann Quinn was a 28-year-old school teacher who was brutally murdered in her apartment by a man she had met at a neighborhood bar. Her murder prompted the movie hit, "Looking for Mr.Goodbar."

Early Years

Roseann Quinn was born in 1944. Her parents, both Irish-American, moved the family from Bronx, New York, to Mine Hill Township, New Jersey when Quinn was 11. At age 13 she was diagnosed with polio and spent a year hospitalized. Afterwards she was left with a slight limp, but was able to return to her normal life.

Quinn's parents were both devout Catholics and raised their children as such. In 1962, Quinn graduated from the Morris Catholic High School in Denville, New Jersey. By all appearances she seemed to get along well with her classmates. A notation in her yearbook described her as, "Easy to meet...nice to know."

In 1966 Quinn graduated from the Newark State Teachers College and she began teaching at St. Joseph's School for the Deaf in the Bronx. She was a dedicated teacher who was well liked by her students.

The 1970s

In the early 1970s the woman's movement and the sexual revolution was beginning to take hold. Quinn adopted some of more liberal points of view of the times, and unlike some of her peers, she surrounded herself with a circle of racially diverse friends from various backgrounds and professions. She was an attractive woman, with an easy smile and an opened attitude.

In 1972, she moved by herself into New York City, renting a small studio apartment on the West Side. Living alone seemed to nourish her desire for independence and she would often go to bars alone after work. There she would sometimes read a book while sipping wine. Other times she would meet men and invite them back to her apartment for the night. This promiscuous side of her seemed in direct conflict with her serious, more professional day time persona, especially because often times the men she met seemed on the rough side and lacking in education.

Neighbors would later say that fairly regularly Quinn could be heard fighting with men in her apartment. On at least one occasion the fighting turned physical and left Quinn hurt and bruised.

New Year's Day, 1973

On Jan. 1, 1973, Quinn, as she had on many occasions, went across the street from where she lived to a neighborhood bar called W. M. Tweeds. While there she met two men, one a stock broker named Danny Murray and his friend John Wayne Wilson. Murray and Wilson were gay lovers who had lived together for almost a year.

Murray left the bar around 11 p.m. and Quinn and Wilson continued to drink and talk late into the night. Around 2 a.m. they left Tweeds and went to Quinn's apartment.

The Discovery

Three days later Quinn was found dead inside the apartment. She had been beaten over the head with a metal bust of herself, raped, stabbed at least 14 times and had a candle inserted into her vagina. Her apartment was ransacked and the walls were splattered with blood.

The news of the grisly murder spread through New York City quickly and soon details of Quinn's life, often written as her "double life" became front page news. In the meantime detectives, who had few clues to go on, released a sketch of Danny Murray to the newspapers.

After seeing the sketch Murray contacted a lawyer and met with the police. He told them what he knew including that Wilson had returned to their apartment and confessed to the murder. Murray supplied Wilson with money so he could go to his brother's house in Indiana.

John Wayne Wilson

On January 11, 1973, police arrested Wilson for the murder of Roseann Quinn. Afterwards details of Wilson's sketchy past were revealed.

John Wayne Wilson was 23 at the time of his arrest. Originally from Indiana, the divorced father of two girls, relocated to Florida before going to New York City.

He had a lengthy arrest record having served jail time in Daytona Beach, Florida for disorderly conduct and again in Kansas City, Missouri on larceny charges.

In July 1972, he escaped from a Miami jail and made it to New York where he worked as a street hustler until he met and moved in with Murray. Although Wilson had been arrested numerous times, there was nothing in his past that indicated that he was a violent and dangerous man.

Wilson later made a full statement about the case. He told police that he was drunk the night he killed Quinn and that after going to her apartment they smoked some pot. He became enraged and killed her after she made fun of him for not being able to perform sexually.

Four months after his arrest Wilson committed suicide by hanging himself in his cell with bed sheets.

Criticism of Police and News Media

During the Quinn murder investigation, police were often quoted in a way that made it appear the Quinn's lifestyle was more to blame for her murder than the murderer himself. A protective voice from the woman's movement seemed to curl around Quinn who could not defend herself, speaking up for her right to live the way she wanted, and to keep her as the victim, and not as a temptress whose actions caused her to be stabbed and beaten to death.

Although it had little effect at the time, complaints on how the media presented Quinn's murder and other women murdered during that time, influenced some change in how respectable news agencies wrote about female murder victims.

Looking for Mr. Goodbar

Many in New York City remained haunted by the murder of Roseann Quinn and in 1975, author Judith Rossner wrote the best-selling novel, "Looking for Mr. Goodbar", which mirrored Quinn's life and the way she was murdered. Described as a cautionary story to woman, the book became a best seller. In 1977 it was made into a movie starring Diane Keaton as the victim.

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Your Citation
Montaldo, Charles. "The Murder of Roseann Quinn." ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, Montaldo, Charles. (2020, August 28). The Murder of Roseann Quinn. Retrieved from Montaldo, Charles. "The Murder of Roseann Quinn." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 21, 2023).