'NYPD 24/7' : Who Killed Burke O'Brien?

ByABC News
July 19, 2004, 9:33 PM

July 20, 2004 -- Just before dawn on a winter Sunday in Manhattan, 25-year-old Chicago native Burke O'Brien ended a night out with his sister and friends. The nice evening turned into a nightmare with O'Brien lying dead on a sidewalk, a bullet in his chest.

Forrest Bloede, O'Brien's former college roommate, called 911 as O'Brien lay clinging to life. He later died.

A witness claimed he saw the two men together moments before a shot rang out, and that there were no other people on the street. Because the witness seemed credible, Bloede immediately became a suspect.

Detective Ken Silvia of the New York Police Department's 7th Precinct caught the case. With the district attorney recommending Bloede be charged with murder, Silvia took his fingerprints and booked the 24-year-old for murder.

But Silvia had doubts. "Every single arrest I've made throughout my career, I always felt 100 percent confident that the person I was arresting was the right person," he said at the time. "I didn't feel that way with Forrest."

Bloede, just out of college, was "forging his way in the world," Silvia said. "If this ever goes to trial and he's convicted, and it's not him, then his entire life, you know, is gone."

Silvia's gut instinct proved right. Charges against Bloede were eventually dropped as evidence bore out his insistent claim that he was not the killer. More than a year after O'Brien's slaying, the case remains unsolved.

Assembling a Case

When police first approached Bloede, he said O'Brien was shot by two men.

But on his 911 call, Bloede's panicked voice is heard on tape saying "somebody's shot." He never said they were being robbed, which police find suspicious.

Silvia and his team tried to come up with a motive for why Bloede would kill his friend. The pair might have been arguing over a young woman who accompanied them out that night.

"He might be a little annoyed that now this guy's taking his girl," said Sgt. Andy Dietz.

(Editor's Note: Burke O'Brien's family has set up a memorial site for their son at http://www.burkeobrien.org )