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How we break stories

Wednesday afternoon we received word of a house fire in a neighborhood of upscale homes in West Hartford on a street called The Crossways.  It was your seemingly typical breaking news story.   We dispatched a crew with no idea of the fascinating story and stories that would come out of this breaking news.  

A few hours later a friend tipped me off that he knew of a man on The Crossways who had a mysterious fire 20 or so years ago.    Couldn’t remember exactly when, but knew the man’s name was Leonard Udolf. 

We started to poke around and then learned it wasn’t Udolf’s house that was burning on The Crossways.   it was Udolf’s neighbor,  William Beckerman.  Oh well, nothing more than a regular house fire here…..or so  we thought.

But something was very odd about how fierce this fire was, so I called another friend familiar with the neighborhood.  She  told me that Beckerman’s former house burned to the ground in the 70s or 80s.    I said “no, you must mean Udolf.”  I was shocked when she said it was Beckerman,  but that Udolf also had a mysterious fire.

It was hard to believe.   What are the odds of two neighbors both losing buildings in the 1970s?

We made calls, searched the internet, scoured our archives and old articles from the Courant.  We learned Beckerman’s mansion was destroyed by fire in 1973.    The cause of the fire was  never determined.    We also learned he later went to prison for tax problems.

My friend vaguely recalled a connection between Udolf and Beckerman that was more than being neighbors, telling me the two owned a building together that, guess what????  Burned to the ground in 1979.    That fire investigation was never solved, either, but investigators believe it was intentionally set.

Still, we couldn’t prove a connection between Udolf and Beckerman, so of course we didn’t report it.

After our first report aired on Wednesday we got tips from viewers.     Len Besthoff dug deep on every one of those leads, looking for a link between Beckerman and Udolf.   This is what reporters do…..time consuming legwork, and  sometimes we come up empty handed.

With some good old fashioned reporting and poring over documents at West Hartford Town Hall,  Len managed to confirm that  Beckerman and Udolf have been business partners and did in fact work together on a building, that was destroyed by fire.   Investigators were never able to pinpoint a cause.

Four fires in four decades.  All unsolved.  

Watch Len’s story on wfsb.com and stay tuned for more stories on this fascinating case.     Are all these fires merely a coincidence?     Len is  looking forward to hearing from Mr. Beckerman and Mr. Udolf.

Categories: Uncategorized

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