Editor's note: Descriptions of crime in this article may be disturbing to some readers. The full names of some witnesses have not been published to protect their privacy.
Jon Kinyon was 9 years old when his father, Andrew, was stabbed to death in San Francisco in 1972. Nearly 50 years later, the Palo Alto native and his family are still seeking answers as to why Kinyon was murdered and who his killer — or killers — might be.
Although police identified a suspect early on, no one was ever brought to trial. Statements reportedly made by Kinyon in the weeks prior to his death also hinted that more than one person might have been involved in the crime. The Kinyons — Jon, his sister, Lori, and their mother, Geraldine — want the case reopened and evidence to be reexamined using modern DNA techniques, which have helped solve a number of decades-old cold cases.
Since the late 1980s, the family has searched for answers, but in 2010, Jon began doggedly hunting for every scrap of information he could gather that would lead the family to the truth. Newspaper clippings dating back nearly 60 years, old photographs, online databases and police reports are all pieces of a complex puzzle that have taken the family into the dark recesses of San Francisco's North Beach scene in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Discovery of the truth, the family believes, is being stymied by the San Francisco Police Department's baffling silence. For decades, the family hasn't received any information about the case nor gained access to the full investigation file. Geraldine, who still resides in Palo Alto, has only learned bits and pieces after initiating multiple phone calls, Jon said.
All of these years, the family believed the case was still active. But in 2020, Jon learned that the primary suspect had died decades earlier, and police had closed his father's case in 2018.
This summer, on July 19, he started a Change.org petition for police and the district attorney to preserve evidence and conduct a complete and thorough investigation of the case. The Kinyon family wants the police to test a knife and bloodstained boots belonging to the sole suspect, along with other evidence using modern DNA testing. They hope that investigators will find proof that will connect the suspect, or suspects, to Kinyon's brutal stabbing.
"If it turns out to be my dad's blood, our family would be more certain of (the suspect's) guilt. And if it's enough to close the case, it would be nice to be able to refer to him as a murderer rather than 'suspect,'" Jon wrote in a June 2020 email to Lt. Michael Philpott of the San Francisco Police Department Major Crimes/Homicide Detail.
Police haven't responded to the family's entreaties, nor have the department responded to this news organization's multiple requests for comment on any aspect of the case or the Kinyons' comments.
This silence has only fueled Jon's concerns about a possible cover-up. It's led to his own ongoing investigation to track down the real story of his father's homicide. He's made videos; created a website; and plans to write a book.
He once had a brief sense of triumph 11 years ago. The family was able to look at some of the notations in the case file in May and December 2010 when a sympathetic detective permitted them to see some of the pages after they'd requested for decades to see the case file but were repeatedly denied access. Sitting in a bare police interrogation room with the frayed file and its contents, Kinyon's children posed for a photograph that their mother took as they looked through the file to commemorate the occasion.
The notations and statements in the file led to more questions than answers: a mention of narcotics, an argument on the street, a previous threat against Kinyon's life, a comment about money owed and rumors of unknown figures in San Francisco's mob underworld.
The 6-foot-tall shadowy figure who emerged as the lone suspect shortly after the murder remained just that: a shadow that Jon continues to pursue 49 years following his father's death.
A series of photographs provide a snapshot of Kinyon's life during the course of his last decade and how he transitioned from a sales professional to a denizen of San Francisco's North Beach hippie community.
In a 1961 color picture taken at Palo Alto's Hoover Park, he is leaning against his gold Chevrolet Bel Air. His reddish-brown, wavy hair is neatly and stylishly tousled over his forehead. It's the year he graduated from the now-closed Cubberley High School.
A professional black-and-white photo taken in 1964 shows an impeccably dressed young man with his foot confidently perched on a stool, a scroll of marketing materials in hand. He was the West Coast regional sales manager for Cowles Media, publisher of Look magazine. He got married young — in 1961 — to his high school sweetheart, Geraldine Kidder.
The couple started a family. Jon was their first-born child in 1962. Two years later, a daughter, Lori, was born. In photographs, Kinyon's holding his infant son in his lap, intently cradling his new child. A 1962 photo shows him in the living room around Christmastime. He's holding his baby son upright as Jon slaps a set of bongos nestled between his father's loosely crossed legs.
"My dad was always working on art projects. I remember watching him draw and paint, work with wood and metal. He also loved to work on his cars. He built hot rods. I remember him always wanting to fix me and my sister breakfast. He was always taking us places, like the beach, the park, swimming. I don't remember him ever being angry. He was very easygoing and laughed a lot," Jon recalled.
By the mid-1960s, the marriage faltered. Kinyon moved to San Francisco in 1965. He traded the slicked hair and polished look for long hair and a beard and a job working for music promoter Bill Graham doing light shows at rock concerts. He loved the job, Jon said.
"When I spent the summers (with him), we went to Playland at the Beach to ride the Big Dipper roller coaster and play at the Fun House. We would grab fresh It's-It ice cream sandwiches and eat at Ocean Beach. We went to concerts at Golden Gate Park. We'd drive his truck around, up and down alleys behind businesses looking for discarded treasures, like stained-glass windows, neon signs, antique furniture — he had the apartment decorated floor to ceiling with cool stuff.
"At night, there was always a lot of people at the apartment listening to music and hanging out. He worked shows a few times at the Fillmore Auditorium and Winterland Ballroom, doing light shows. I vividly remember seeing Creedence Clearwater Revival and The Doors. I also saw Jimi Hendrix and a few others, but I was so tired those nights, I didn't take it all in," he said.
But Kinyon's life took a fateful turn. He was arrested in 1967 at Golden Gate Park for giving his underaged girlfriend a beer. Stuck in a jail cell, he met up with a small-time burglar named Eugene, who Kinyon gave a place to stay until he ripped off music equipment from the apartment, Jon said.
Eugene, whom acquaintances later identified as Eugene Santore, was said to be a violent-tempered man who, one witness told police, once gutted a dog after becoming enraged. He also had an extensive rap sheet dating back to the late 1950s, under his real name: Eugene Imbrogno, Jr.
Imbrogno was a small-time crook. He was arrested for multiple burglaries and thefts starting in 1953, at age 18, in his hometown of Mt. Vernon, New York, according to contemporary news stories. In at least one case, he was convicted and received a 30-day prison sentence for petty larceny; he also received a suspended sentence after an argument with his friends, which ended in him breaking a soda glass over a police officer's head.
He escaped from Westchester Penitentiary in 1959, just two weeks into a six-month sentence for assaulting his estranged wife, and was recaptured, according to news stories in New York papers the Daily Item and The Daily Times. He was extradited from Las Vegas to New York in 1966 on an outstanding warrant for stealing a mink stole and a television. Las Vegas police discovered his New York warrant after arresting him for disorderly conduct at a gambling casino, according to the New York paper the Herald Statesman.
Imbrogno moved back and forth frequently between New York and San Francisco in the mid- to late 1960s, Jon said. The first recorded incident of Imbrogno's arrests for threatening people with a knife occurred in August 1969. He was taken into custody for felonious possession of a weapon while harassing a woman with a switchblade in White Plains, New York, according to a Daily Item news story.
Imbrogno arrived in San Francisco to find employment as a carpenter or roofer, he told police in 1970. He had been arrested in San Francisco after threatening a clothing store employee and her sister with a linoleum knife. He also followed them to their hotel where he threatened the sister's life, according to a 1970 police report.
An FBI printout showed he used multiple aliases — and three different Social Security numbers. In San Francisco, he was using his grandmother's maiden name, Santore, police reports and witness statements showed.
Imbrogno allegedly became part of a troubling series of events that foreshadowed Kinyon's murder.
Kinyon began selling marijuana in North Beach neighborhood bars.
"He was the go-to guy," Jon said.
For an unknown reason, Imbrogno started threatening Kinyon and demanded money. The threats appear to have started in late 1971.
Shigeyoshi Murano, a bookseller and manager at City Lights Bookstore on Columbus Avenue, also knew of the threats and physical violence against Kinyon. Murano told police Kinyon had come to him asking to borrow money two weeks before his death.
"Andy was threatened and had been beaten up. He came to my place. ... He was all beat up. He said he needed $10," Murano said in a statement to investigators.
"I can't f--- with these people," Kinyon reportedly told Murano.
He paid the borrowed money back with a welfare check about a week before he was killed, Murano said.
Whether Kinyon owed money to Imbrogno, to mobsters or was simply being shaken down is one of the questions Jon said he hopes the case file would reveal.
In December, Kinyon also told his girlfriend, alternately named Margery and Margaret in police reports, he had been threatened by "two Italians," one of whom was Imbrogno, over money.
"Andy said before the New Year would be over, someone would kill him," she told police.
On the night of Jan. 22, 1972, Kinyon's prediction of doom came true. He and Margaret met at the Camel Bar on Grant Avenue at 9 p.m. and went bar hopping. They ended the night at The Saloon, located at 1232 Grant Ave., before 2 a.m. After that, they walked to the S&S Grocery at 1461 Grant Ave., located at the corner of Green Street, to purchase three cans of beer on their way back to Kinyon's nearby apartment at the corner of Grant and Green, she told police.
A tall man fitting Imbrogno's description stepped out of the store's doorway. He began cursing at Kinyon, she told police.
As the couple walked to the corner, the man followed. He removed his glasses and said he would not fight Kinyon while the woman was there.
"This is my woman, man," she quoted Kinyon as saying, refusing to send his girlfriend away. With Margaret present as a witness, the man abandoned his challenge to a fight and left.
Margaret, who planned to stay the night at Kinyon's apartment, decided to stay with her sister after the incident, she told police. Kinyon walked alone to his apartment at 1367 Grant Ave. He entered the building's doorway and walked up a staircase leading to the second-floor landing to the apartments.
A resident heard a commotion. Kinyon was talking with someone in the stairwell. Then, another voice: "You bet you pay," a man said two or three times, the resident told police.
At approximately 2:15 a.m. police found Kinyon with a vicious slit across his neck on one side, from throat to ear. A second deep stab punctured the base of the neck. A large stab wound opened his abdomen, according to the police report.
An all-points bulletin from police described the man who had argued with Kinyon minutes before the stabbing: "white male, approximately 31 years old; 5-feet, 11-inches to 6-feet tall, 170 pounds, slender build. Black hair, full black beard, bushy type; wearing prescription glasses, small, round wire-frame type; wearing a light-colored hat similar to cowboy style but with a smaller brim, maybe homemade; light-colored three-quarter-length jacket, should have blood on his clothing."
Based on information about his previous threats and his physical description, police questioned Imbrogno. He said he'd been drinking at Specs' Bar at 12 William Saroyan Place near Columbus Avenue with friends. He'd arrived home at about 2:30 a.m. He claimed to have shaved off his full beard a couple of weeks prior.
Imbrogno also claimed to have no quarrel with Kinyon.
"There never was any trouble between Andy and me. In fact, we have been arrested together," he told an investigator.
Acquaintances had a different impression. Sometime before the murder, Kinyon and Imbrogno got into a brawl. Both were arrested. They spent five days in jail for disorderly conduct, Jon said. He wonders if the incident was the precipitating factor for the stabbing. At least one acquaintance told police about the same incident. It likely didn't settle well with Imbrogno, according to the witness' statement.
The acquaintances who drank with Imbrogno the night Kinyon was murdered also gave conflicting statements to police.
Imbrogno had arrived at the Caffe Trieste at 601 Vallejo St. between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., and he was already drunk. He appeared to be upset, an acquaintance named Ed told police.
"Eugene is a very moody character," he told police.
They also went drinking that night at Specs' and left at about 1:30 a.m. or 2 a.m. The last time Ed recalled seeing him, Imbrogno was still standing in the bar.
But another acquaintance, Donald, said they had been drinking at Caffe Trieste until about 2 a.m. They all got into a car, except for Imbrogno, who remained on the corner of Grant and Vallejo, he said. He also thought Imbrogno had shaved off his beard around the New Year, he said.
In Jan. 28, 1972, a police department memo noted Imbrogno was "taken into custody" for Kinyon's murder and was "interrogated prior to booking."
Two neighbors had called police after they spotted Imbrogno sitting in a Chevrolet with another man in the 1400 block of Grant Ave. He gave his address as 1458 Grant Ave., two blocks from where the murder of Kinyon took place.
Imbrogno was released, however. Police confiscated a pair of apparently bloodstained boots and a knife during Imbrogno's detention. Imbrogno had had the boots cleaned or polished before he was taken into custody, however, making linking the stains to Kinyon's murder difficult to ascertain at the time.
Jon said the family learned there was a suspect about a week after the murder, but the case languished for 11 years until 1983, when Imbrogno, then 47 and back living in New York state, was arrested for criminal possession of a dangerous weapon. The New York police were apparently in contact with San Francisco law enforcement, perhaps looking at Imbrogno's criminal history. A single handwritten note on the outside of Kinyon's manila case file summed up the case's disposition: "Suspect Eugene Santori (sic) picked up Catskills, N.Y. Case discussed with Asst. DA Whisman. According to Mr. Whisman insufficient evidence to warrant trip or extradition from N.Y. of suspect Santori."
It was signed "Falzon/Cleary," inspectors Frank Falzon and Jack Cleary.
"Falzon told us in 1984 that Imbrogno had been 'convicted of a similar crime' in New York and that he wouldn't be getting out of prison any time soon. He thought that we should take comfort in knowing he was behind bars," Jon said.
Imbrogno, however, was back in Fairfax, California, that same year, a death notice published that March showed.
Not long after being told that the suspect in her ex-husband's murder was supposedly in prison, Geraldine went to New York to visit relatives and intended to visit Imbrogno in prison. She wanted to confront him about Kinyon's murder. She was still under the impression that Kinyon's killer was named Eugene Santore, but there was no record of Eugene Santore in the New York prison system. The family only learned the suspect's real name was Eugene Imbrogno in 2010 when they finally glimpsed the case file and saw the FBI rap sheet, Jon said.
Jon laid out his concerns regarding the case in an October 2020 email to San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin: "We were shocked at what we learned. There was a lot of damning evidence, even though it was clear that we weren't shown everything they have. Many things that you would expect to find in a case file are missing, or at least they weren't shown to us, such as witness statements from my dad's closest friends/roommates at the time.
"It appears that detectives didn't do any investigative work beyond the first week. There were many leads, including an eye witness to the murder who told robbery detectives that she could identify the killer; she was evidently never tracked down or talked to. This person's name wasn't in the files we were shown. There was no indication that my dad's girlfriend was brought in to see if she could identify the main suspect as the man who threatened my dad shortly before the crime, you'd think that would be the very first thing they'd do," he wrote.
In 2020, Jon made a formal request to access the incident report related to his father's death. In an updated incident report dated May 30, 2018, Kinyon, alias Kenneth Young, was now listed as 75 years old; the suspect, Eugene Santore, "alias Eugene Imbrogno," was listed as 82.
Two paragraphs summed up the case's disposition: "While reviewing this case on the above listed date and time, I learned that sufficient evidence was developed identifying Eugene Imbrogno as the suspect in this case. A subsequent computer search revealed the (sic) Eugene Imbrogna died in March of 1984. Given this development, this case is closed code 13/Exceptional Clearance."
It was signed by Det. Daniel Dedet.
"They never bothered to tell us," Jon said.
Geraldine said she felt "betrayed and lied to."
"How many other people have they done this to? We've suffered to the point that it's beyond comprehensible for somebody to realize what we've been through. I wish he would've got caught. They had the means to do it and they didn't do it," she said by phone in July.
Around 2020, Sgt. Al Levy, head of the cold case unit, told Jon that Inspector Dedet had informed Lori Kinyon that the case had been closed in 2018. Lori, however, claims never to have heard from anyone, Jon said.
Police told Jon they won't run tests on the knife and the boots, he said. An investigator said they had "swabbed the soles of the boots and found no usable blood," Jon said.
"I reminded him that we've been told since 1972 that there were visible blood drops on the boots. He kept repeating the 'we swabbed the soles' bit, and not responding to what I said," he wrote in an email to this news organization.
Police also wouldn't tell him when the boots had been swabbed, whether it was 1972, 1990 or 2010. They were silent when he asked about testing the knife's wooden handle for DNA.
"It was so infuriating," Jon said.
The Kinyons now want to view the entire case file, but their request has been denied. It seems strange that a nearly 50-year-old case, now closed, can't be viewed by the family, Jon said.
"The main suspect is dead. Nearly all witnesses are dead. And my private investigation has turned up more information than anything they've turned up, but they weren't interested in hearing any of it," he wrote in a 2020 email to San Francisco Assistant District Attorney David Merin, who referred the case back to the police department.
There is one former police inspector who is willing to speak about the case: Falzon. He was one of two lead investigators at the time of the murder.
Now retired and in his 70s, Falzon solved the infamous "Night Stalker" murder case that led to the arrest of Richard Ramirez. He has investigated other high-profile cases, including the City Hall murders by former San Francisco police officer Dan White, the Zodiac killer, the Zebra murders and the 1974 Carlson murders, a torture, murder and rape case of a San Francisco couple.
But he couldn't bring the Kinyon murder to justice, he said.
"I can't create evidence; I can't create witnesses," he said, noting the bloodstained boots had been "professionally cleaned," and they didn't have the technology to test them for DNA in the 1970s.
Using common sense, he argued in 1983 that Imbrogno, who he still refers to as Santore, should have been extradited to San Francisco from New York because of an incident that was similar to the Kinyon case.
"It fell on deaf ears," he said.
"I'm sorry for the family. I think if you look at my record, you'll find I solved a lot of my cases," he said in August by phone.
He said he put much effort into the case, and he's felt badly that the Kinyons have criticized his investigation.
"It is very hurtful to me. It hurts me to this day that we couldn't make an arrest in this case. A man got away with murder. ... It's a case that I've lived with. I could not come up with that key piece of evidence. I went the extra mile on this case. I wanted to solve it for her. The mother, Geraldine, was a good woman — a very, very caring, loving woman — and her heart was broken," he said.
Falzon said he also shares Jon's anguish at losing his father.
"I lost my father at 8 years old. I understand," he said.
And he doesn't blame the Kinyons' dogged pursuit of the truth.
"They have been relentless," and they have every right to be, he said.