Murder Sheet

Finding James Redline

February 23, 2021 Mystery Sheet Season 1 Episode 15
Murder Sheet
Finding James Redline
Murder Sheet
Finding James Redline
Feb 23, 2021 Season 1 Episode 15
Mystery Sheet

After a restaurant robbery goes wrong, a Pennsylvania man finds himself convicted of murder. But that's not the end of the story for James Redline. It's only the beginning.

This episode of the Murder Sheet features a harrowing hostage crisis, a son discovering his father's dark secret, mysterious mob connections, and even the popular 1990s band Fuel.

This isn't just a story about murder and crime and violence. It's a story about hard-won redemption, community, and family. It's the story of  love can change us.
Follow the Murder Sheet on social media for the latest.

And send tips and thoughts to [email protected] 

Show Notes Transcript

After a restaurant robbery goes wrong, a Pennsylvania man finds himself convicted of murder. But that's not the end of the story for James Redline. It's only the beginning.

This episode of the Murder Sheet features a harrowing hostage crisis, a son discovering his father's dark secret, mysterious mob connections, and even the popular 1990s band Fuel.

This isn't just a story about murder and crime and violence. It's a story about hard-won redemption, community, and family. It's the story of  love can change us.
Follow the Murder Sheet on social media for the latest.

And send tips and thoughts to [email protected] 

Áine Cain: Jay Redline was 18 when he learned his father’s secret. He and some friends were in the basement of his family’s Allentown, Pennsylvania home, digging through old photo albums sometime back in the eighties. 

Jay Redline: And these articles fell from behind some photos. And my friend found them and he was like “Oh my God look at it!”

Áine Cain: Jay stared at the headlines.

Kevin Greenlee: “Allentown Gunman Shot in Reading Police Clash,” “James Redline Faces Murder Count Today,” “Redline Has One of State’s Ace Lawyers,” “Redline Found Guilty of First Degree Murder,” and “Redline Sentence: Life for Murder.”

Jay Redline: I was floored. I- I had to look at it over and over again. 

Áine Cain: None of this made sense to Jay. He had grown up around law enforcement. His dad was friends with practically every cop and firefighter in town. 

Jay Redline: And my dad got home that night. He almost looked terrified when I found out about what he had been involved in. I mean, I kind of sprung it on him. And I don’t think he was happy about that — especially with my friends being there. We all sat around like we were about to hear a ghost story and we were in front of a campfire in the woods. 

Ominous music plays.

Áine Cain: My name is Áine Cain.

Kevin Greenlee: And I’m Kevin Greenlee.

Áine Cain: And this is the Murder Sheet, a weekly true crime podcast. 

Kevin Greenlee: Áine and I connected over the Burger Chef murders, a 1978 unsolved case involving the killings of four young restaurant employees. 

Áine Cain: Now we’re looking to track restaurant homicides. To help us understand the patterns of these crimes, we created a spreadsheet of nearly 1,000 eatery-related killings: The Murder Sheet. 

Áine Cain: We’ll be drawing on that data throughout season one to give you a deep dive into under-covered crimes. 

Kevin Greenlee: We don’t just rely on skimming the headlines. We dive into these cases to bring you in-depth coverage. 

Áine Cain: We’re the Murder Sheet, and this is “Finding James Redline.

Today, we’ll be talking about a different kind of crime story on the Murder Sheet. On its surface, this episode has all the ingredients that you’re probably used to by now — a restaurant, a homicide, and a police investigation. But as we dug into this story, we realized that it was quite unusual in several respects. 

This is a story about violence and death. But it’s also about change, community, and rehabilitation. It’s a story about murder, and redemption, and love.

We’re the Murder Sheet, and this is “Finding James Redline.”

Eerie music plays:

Áine Cain: The two strangers had a hankering for “free and loose women.” That’s what they told Raymond R. Hershman, the clerk at the Hand in Hand Cafe. Such requests weren’t unheard of on the seedier side of Reading, Pennsylvania. Hershman and Calvin Summers, the restaurant’s handyman, knew exactly where to take their two customers. 

Kevin Greenlee: So the four men set off into the cold April night, moving along the railroad line, off to the Midway. The Midway Cafe — or Midway Restaurant, as it was sometimes called — didn’t just have hot meals on the menu. It was also a front for a brothel managed by house madame Mabel Jones. 

Áine Cain: When the group arrived a little after half past midnight, Hershman slipped away to relieve himself in the restroom and left his new friends to get better acquainted with the girls on staff. 

Kevin Greenlee: He couldn’t have imagined what he’d find when he emerged from the bathroom.

Áine Cain: One of the sex workers approached him, trembling, tears in her eyes. She told Hershman that the two strangers he’d brought in were robbing the place. The two strangers — dangerous men named Erbor Worseck and James Redline — had drawn guns and rounded up the sex workers and their clients. They were shaking them down for money and jewelry and watches, and muttering about the smallness of the take. 

Kevin Greenlee: They wanted to get into the valuables that were stashed away in the Midway’s safe. But only Mabel had the key, and she wasn’t there. The robbers started to get nasty, pistol-whipping their hostages and making threats. 

Áine Cain: One of the sex workers spoke up, revealing that she knew exactly where Mabel was. The woman with the key to the safe was only a few blocks away, at the bar of the Grand Hotel.

Kevin Greenlee: Worseck and Redline decided to go get her — the only question was how to manage it. They decided that Worseck would head over to the bar to fetch Mabel, taking one of the hostages from the Midway with him. Redline would stay at the Midway, holding everyone there at gunpoint until Mabel returned.

Áine Cain: Before Worseck left with his hostage — a young woman who said her name was Ardella Smith —  Redline called her aside and asked if she liked her face. She said she did.

He told her if she didn’t follow instructions she wouldn’t have a face anymore.

Kevin Greenlee: Worseck then pulled her outdoors and pressed the barrel of his gun in her side. "Walk like a movie star," he said. "Don’t act suspicious and you won’t get hurt." He took a breath and then added one more detail. "I’ve already killed one person," he told her, "and I wouldn’t mind killing another. " And then the pair set off in the darkness for the Grand Hotel.

Áine Cain: We wanted to see where this happened so we drove to Reading, Pennsylvania to check it out. Our first stop was a parking lot that used to be the site of the Midway Restaurant. The building that housed the diner slash brothel is gone, now just a place to leave your car while you visit a manufacturer of optical materials.

Kevin Greenlee: The railroad station is still across the street — but the trains stopped coming long ago. A couple of years ago a company converted it into a brew pub. Even from the Midway site we could hear the sounds of the music the pub played to entertain its well dressed patrons.

Áine Cain: We decided to follow the path Ardella and Worseck took that night. We walked along the old railroad tracks, heading for the building once known as the Grand Hotel.

The area across from the brew pub was full of decaying residential buildings. It must have been seedy even back in 1956, on the night of the robbery. It was a short walk — a straight shot that took us no more than two minutes — but it must have seemed much longer to Ardella. We could imagine the terror and isolation she must have felt walking in the night next to the railroad tracks with a man she knew was willing to kill her.

Kevin Greenlee: The building that used to be the Grand Hotel still stands, but no one would call it “grand” anymore. If you look the place up on Google Maps you will see a gaunt, bearded, and shirtless man staring out of a second floor window. He was also there when we arrived, as if he had not moved an inch since Google had captured his image. The building he calls home looked run down, dirty, and badly in need of repair. We could not help but wonder if it appeared different back in 1956.   

Áine Cain: On that April night, blissfully unaware of what was occurring back at her establishment, Mabel sat relaxing at the hotel bar with a couple of her friends when she noticed Ardella come in with a stranger. That was not necessarily unusual; Mabel’s brothel was right by a busy railroad track. She conducted a lot of business with strangers.

But Ardella seemed scared.

Kevin Greenlee: The man kept his distance as Ardella approached Mabel. It was very important, said Ardella, that Mabel come and talk with the man right away. So Mabel rose and walked with Ardella over to where the man stood.

Áine Cain: Her friends at the bar watched from a distance. In the noisy din they couldn’t hear what was being said but they could read Mabel’s body language. She seemed uncomfortable, agitated. Something was wrong, something serious.

Kevin Greenlee: She walked back to her friends, told them she had to go. Glancing over her shoulder, she noticed that the stranger and Ardella had gone outside to wait for her. That meant she could risk telling her companions just a little bit more.

Áine Cain: There was a hold up in progress at the Midway, she said. They should get the police. And then she went outside to meet Ardella and head back to her restaurant with Worseck. 

Kevin Greenlee: Mabel’s friends stared at each other for a moment in shock, and then raced outside in time to see Worseck head off with his two hostages.

Áine Cain:  The friends spotted a pair of cops on the street — what a stroke of luck! They let the officers —  John Kowalski and Michael Perate — know what was going on and the two patrolmen set off after Worseck.

Kevin Greenlee: Maybe if they knew then who he was they would have been more careful. A decade earlier, the police chief and a squad car full of officers showed up at Worseck’s Allentown, Pennsylvania house with a reporter in tow to ask Worsek a few pressing questions about a crime spree. Worseck managed to get the jump on them and pull a gun, driving off with the chief as a hostage. That chief — Wayne Elliot — eventually managed to escape and Worseck got sentenced to a stretch in prison for the whole debacle. He got released early, though, because he convinced the parole board he’d learned his lesson.

Áine Cain: Unfortunately the lesson he learned was that taking police officers prisoner was a good way to buy some time when he was in a jam.

Worseck heard the steps of the patrolmen behind him, heard the sound of their feet crunching on the rocks by the railroad tracks. He could tell they were getting closer. He knew what to do.

Kevin Greenlee: He spun around and pointed his weapon at the two dumbfounded police officers. Mabel and Ardella immediately fled. Worsek had two new hostages-- but what should he do with them?

Áine Cain: Mabel’s friends saw Worsek disarm and lead away the two officers, so they immediately notified more police. Cop cars started speeding towards the Midway. The clock was ticking for Worseck and Redline, and their jumble of hostages. 

Kevin Greenlee: Worseck marched Kowalski and Perate back to the Midway, forced them upstairs, and locked them in a back room. In his bid to capture the police officers, he’d let Mabel slip away. The robbers’ only shot at opening the safe was gone. It was time for him and Redline to get out of there with what little loot they had been able to pick off the sex workers and their clients. 

Áine Cain: But it was already too late. Squad cars had surrounded the Midway. The police lights flashed upon Hershman and Summers and the other hostages, who Redline was still holding at gunpoint in the restaurant portion of the building. 

There was nowhere to run. Still, Redline made a go of it. He burst out of the restaurant, yelling, “You would call the cops!” to no one in particular. Then he made eye contact with one of the officers. “The man you want is in there,” he said, gesturing back at the Midway.

Kevin Greenlee: Apparently he didn’t get the response he was looking for. Redline raised his .45 calibre revolver, carefully aimed it at the officer who was about 20 feet away, and fired. He took off running. The gathered police officers fired back, hitting Redline. Clutching his bleeding stomach, he crawled under a car parked across the street.

Áine Cain: Next, it was Worsek’s turn to step out of the restaurant. The thief and kidnapper who’d once convinced a parole board to be lenient was out of tricks to play. He tried to shoot his way out. The police opened fire, until Worseck fell down dead on the steps of the Midway.

With one of the robbers dead, it didn’t take long for a state trooper to drag Redline out from under the car.

Jay Redline: A state police officer put his foot on my dad’s throat, put a shotgun down to him. My dad believed he was going to shoot him but a couple of other officers ran up, he said. He wasn’t even  mad at the cop at that point. My dad was so remorseful for what he’d done that I think he was good with whatever played out at that moment. 

Kevin Greenlee: Lying handcuffed to his hospital bed, Redline got some bad news that had nothing to do with the police slug that had gone into his belly. Prosecutors were charging him with — not just robbery and kidnapping — but “felony murder” as well.

Áine Cain:  In his haze of painkillers, Redline must have felt puzzled. The shot he took at the cop had missed. Not only did he not kill the officer but that bullet hadn’t even scratched him. But he had a surprise coming. Redline — who sheltered under a car as Worsek was shot to death by the police — had been charged with the felony murder of his partner. 

Kevin Greenlee: The idea behind the felony murder rule is that felonies are so inherently dangerous that anyone who agrees to participate in one should be held fully responsible for any deaths that occur during the felony, even if someone else actually pulled the trigger. In this case, that meant that even though the police had shot Worsek to death, prosecutors would hold Redline responsible due to the fact he and Worsek were in the middle of a felony when the death occurred. 

A jury ended up buying the argument. Redline was convicted of felony murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Áine Cain: But that wasn’t the end of his story.

For some reason, Redline got help. Top flight legal talent started working on his behalf. Maybe that was because the lawyers just wanted to work on an interesting case or maybe it was something else. When Redline was arrested, they found 57 packets of heroin in the car he and Worsek had shared. Some people wondered if this meant the gunmen had been involved with interests larger than themselves, interests that were now bankrolling the best possible defense for Redline.

Kevin Greenlee: In any case, his attorneys took his case all the way to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, and they won. 

Áine Cain: The court ruled that it was justifiable homicide for the police officer to take a shot at the rampaging Worsek, and Redline could not be held criminally liable for a legally justifiable act. His conviction got tossed out.

Kevin Greenlee: Redline still needed to serve time on other convictions, most of them involving a string of violent robberies in the nearby town of Pottsville. But he became a model prisoner, even giving police information that helped them bust up a major drug ring. 

Áine Cain: When he finally got out, he met a woman, married her, had a son named Jay — and he did not talk about his past at all, until the day the newspaper articles fell out of the scrapbook.

Jay Redline: To go through life with all of his friends and my friends and my mother’s friends without ever hearing a word about this and then all of a sudden all of this information is dropped on you all at once that depicts that your father was involved in something that was horrific. It was shocking. It was almost a little scary, really. "Oh my God — maybe he’s angry." My buddies were a little bit paranoid about what his reaction would be. But I think he was more embarrassed than angry. I think he was upset with the fact that I finally knew. I think maybe he was waiting for the right time to tell me himself. Which, I think, he had pride and it hurt his pride at that point that I had found out. It was a tough day for him to face me and my stupid decision to have my friends there at the time, to spring this on him. I think it was a very tough day for him to confess to that. 

Kevin Greenlee: Redline tried to explain what had happened forthrightly-- and wanted to leave a message Jay would never forget.

Jay Redline: He shot me a look and explained immediately “I did my time. I was wrong with what I did.” And he did even throw in at the end of that conversation — I remember this — he goes “Please understand that I will never do anything to hurt you or someone else.”

Podcast promo.

Áine Cain: Let’s take a quick break from The Murder Sheet to tell you about a podcast investigating yet another unforgettable crime. 

The Orange Tree is a seven-part series about a 2005 homicide that happened near the University of Texas at Austin. The murder of 21-year-old Jennifer Cave, who was shot, dismembered, and left in a bathtub at her friend Colton Pitonyak’s apartment, continues to haunt the area to this day.

Kevin Greenlee: Like the Burger Chef murders, this case features plenty of twists and turns, including Colton’s flight to Mexico with another UT student Laura Hall. Both were later convicted in connection with the crime, although Colton has continued to appeal his verdict and claim innocence. The business student-turned-convicted-murderer now says that he doesn’t remember much about the night Jennifer died. 

Áine Cain: The Orange Tree is reported on and produced by Haley Butler and Tinu Thomas, who were both seniors at the University of Texas when they started the project.

Together, Haley and Tinu strive to piece together this tragic story in an in-depth podcast that features audio from courtroom scenes and interrogation rooms, prison phone calls, and exclusive interviews with both perpetrators and the victim’s family.

You can binge all seven episodes of The Orange Tree today on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts. And now, back to the Murder Sheet.

And now, back to the Murder Sheet.

Podcast promo ends.

Jay Redline: Do you know what I just retired from doing for a living?

Áine Cain: Do you manage a rock band?

Jay Redline: Well that’s my side gig — now it’s my full time gig — but I just served as a police lieutenant for over 20 years. So I’m like I wonder if they know I was a cop?

Kevin Greenlee: We did not know that. 

Jay Redline: After what my dad went through. 

Áine Cain: While researching the Midway case, we tracked Jay down on the web. but in all our research and internet stalking, we’d failed to realize that the son of the man convicted for Worsek’s killing was himself a recently retired homicide detective.

Jay Redline: Yeah, I just retired as a lieutenant over a homicide unit out here in the Phoenix area and I was a cop in Pennsylvania for a little while and I moved out here and became a cop out here. Climbed through the ranks. Did over six years on the SWAT team and worked five years on a pseudo undercover team and ended up being a lieutenant my last six years. 

Áine Cain: Jay was a cop, and his father’s long ago crime was his first ever mystery. 

Kevin Greenlee: After the confrontation, Redline didn’t talk much about the shooting. 

Jay Redline: He never mentioned jail time or what it was like in prison. Other than telling us initially what happened with the whole incident he very ever rarely talked about it. In fact I learned more from signing up for this thing and looking at some old articles and learning about it. 

Áine Cain: But Jay still tried to piece together everything he could find about his dad’s background, from his coal country roots to  his foster home upbringing. Jay became less interested in what happened at the Midway in April of 1956. He really wanted to know what brought his dad to that point: pistol-whipping hostages and riding around with a trunkful of heroin. 

Jay Redline: He kind of fought to be able to make a dime here and there as a young kid and kind of fell into some trouble. And the area that he grew up in- the way he explained it you had to be tough. You had to know how to fight. You had to know how to make a dollar. You had to find odd jobs or maybe get wrapped up in some kind of petty crime to make money to be able to have shoes on your feet and feed yourself. He got wrapped up with the wrong people thinking it was the right way. He was tough — I ain’t going to lie ‚ he carried himself as a tough man. Not scary but you knew not to mess with him if you were another adult or whatnot. He never backed down from anyone that I seen. He always wanted to be good. 

 Kevin Greenlee: And Jay feels what happened after his dad got out of prison proves that.

Áine Cain: His dad got a good job as a garment cutter and worked hard to provide nice things for his family, like a cabin up on Lake Wallenpaupack. He knew how to have a good time — as he grew up, Jay sometimes felt his own friends would rather hang out with his dad. 

Kevin Greenlee: And, perhaps most importantly, Redline raised his son not to repeat his mistakes. 

Jay Redline: He instilled in me- ever since I was a little kid- that you respect your elders, you respect women, you respect police. And with his friends being cops- I mean a lot of cops- he knew every cop and they were always at the house, there for holidays and vacations and everything. It just kind of- the way he carried himself — there didn’t have to be a lot of words to saym “Okay, this is the police you respect them” It was just his mantra. I fell in line more because of his actions than his words. 

Kevin Greenlee: He also became a beloved employee at Allentown’s Police Academy and a longstanding volunteer firefighter.

Áine Cain: But Redline didn’t manage this turnaround all on his own. He got help. Not just from friends, but from law enforcement officials, like the roller-skating parole officer who’d keep his visits discreet and quick. 

Jay Redline: Looking back and figuring it out there was this guy who rollerskated past our house like once a week or once a month. He’d roller skate all over the city. Turns out he was a probation or a parole officer for my father and he’d come up to the front porch and check on my dad while I was there. Everything was cryptic so I didn’t know even as a kid. 

Áine Cain: He also got support from Jay’s mom, with whom he fell in love after being released.  

Jay Redline: Their relationship — they complemented each other —on how they both lived their life. 

Áine Cain: With all this assistance Jay believes his father got a chance to become the sort of man he was always meant to be

 Kevin Greenlee: But some of Redline’s underworld friends may have stuck by him, even after he started to go clean. Jay always wondered how his father came about such quality legal representation

Jay Redline: My dad just always had these weird connections and I always wondered if the Mafia thing existed in my father’s world and if he was connected enough where there was some relationship, some higher up people who helped him have a decent defense. I remember — God, all the mayors of Allentown were at our house. All these dignitaries that my dad hung around. It was quite interesting how he had those relationships and kept them. 

Áine Cain: But Redline also became friends with many local cops, and instilled a respect for law enforcement in his son. Jay’s feelings for police went beyond respect, though. He dressed as a police officer for Halloween, and consistently embraced the role of law enforcement during games of “Cops and Robbers.” Jay felt being a police officer was a calling. 

Kevin Greenlee: Later when he became a cop, Jay would keep his father in mind when dealing with criminals, realizing that everyone deserves respect and that anyone could potentially improve and become better if offered support and kindness at the right time. 

CLIPS: Mantra on being a police officer 

Respect / mistakes “People are going to make mistakes but you still respect them.” 

Áine Cain: Jay’s  friends on the force weren’t the only ones to love and respect his father. Redline got affection and help from a wide variety of sources.

Some of the strongest support the Redlines received came from a place no one would have expected — the members of a popular rock and roll group.

Fuel quote 

Kevin Greenlee: Redline strove to be worthy of this support and to be as helpful to others as they were to him, becoming the type of friend you could call when you needed a hand with painting or plumbing or anything else. 

But no one else meant as much to Redline as his own family

Áine Cain: We wanted to see the place that meant so much to Jay and his father. One afternoon in September, we drove to Walt’s Point on Lake Wallenpaupack. It was the dying edge of the season but you could easily imagine the place packed with families and young people soaking in the summer on a blistering day in June or July.

Even in the early autumn there were people on their boats, laughing and drinking and enjoying the calm waters underneath the lovely large sky. They appeared more working class than wealthy, and they seemed a tight knit bunch too, as if this were a special place where the same families kept coming back year after year.  They certainly looked a bit alarmed at our intrusion, but then again we were walking around stealthily attempting to record the tiny waves, so that’s not too surprising. 

After a while, we hiked to the isolated spot where Jay and his family would swim during the summer. It was quiet and still. A man and his dog played on the other side of the bend in the lake, and a boat sputtered far off the shore. Large gray rocks stacked on top of each other littered the area. The surrounding woods were dense and drenched in moss and caterpillar silk. As we trekked along the trail, we heard deer crashing through the brush here and there.

It was lovely. The sort of remote, peaceful place you could come to to both enjoy others’ company or simply to unwind in a beautiful, natural setting. 

We could understand why this area meant to much to Jay and his father. 

  • Clip: Fish Story

Kevin Greenlee: Jay also remembers how much his mother meant to his father. 

(quote, got along great, heartbroken, sugar)

Áine Cain: The day came when Jay decided it was time to leave home.

[Quote: “I felt heartbroken I was leaving him” from “Leaving for Arizona”]     

Áine Cain:
But Jay knew that his dad wouldn’t be alone. And it wouldn’t just be his police buddies checking in every day.

[Quote: Fuel being famous “SWAT School”]

Kevin Greenlee: In fact, it was Jay’s friend, Fuel drummer Kevin Miller who gave him the heads up that his father had been hospitalized. Jay was on the other side of the country, attending SWAT school in Arizona. Jay called Redline, telling his father that he would immediately return home to be with him during his illness. 

Jay Redline: SWAT SCHOOL

Áine Cain: Jay graduated the course and returned to Pennsylvania. He stayed with his dad until the end.

[Quote: “Dad dying, heart too strong”]

Áine Cain: Jay was holding his dad’s hand when he died the following day. 

Jay also thinks about the night when he was about eight. The family was out at the cabin. His dad awoke him at one in the morning.

[Quote: “Overlook, always stuck with me” from “Lunar Eclipse”]

Kevin Greenlee:  Thanks for listening to this episode of the Murder Sheet. Special thanks to Kevin Tyler Greenlee, who composed the music for the Murder Sheet, and who you can find on the web at  

Áine Cain: To keep up with the latest on the Murder Sheet, please make sure to follow us on Instagram and Twitter @murdersheet and on Facebook @msheetpodcast or by searching Murder Sheet. For exclusive content like bonus episodes and case files, become a patron of the Murder Sheet on Patreon.

If you enjoyed listening to the Murder Sheet, please leave us a five star review to help us gain more exposure. And send tips, suggestions, and feedback to [email protected] Thanks so much for listening.


Áine Cain: But Jay knew that his dad wouldn’t be alone. And it wouldn’t just be his police buddies checking in every day.

[Quote: Fuel being famous “SWAT School”]

Kevin Greenlee: In fact, it was Jay’s friend, Fuel drummer Kevin Miller who gave him the heads up that his father had been hospitalized. Jay was on the other side of the country, attending SWAT school in Arizona. Jay called Redline, telling his father that he would immediately return home to be with him during his illness. 

[Quote: Dad saying don’t come home from “SWAT School”]

Áine Cain: Jay graduated the course and returned to Pennsylvania. He stayed with his dad until the end.

[Quote: “Dad dying, heart too strong”]

Áine Cain: Jay was holding his dad’s hand when he died the following day. 

Áine Cain Jay also thinks about the night when he was about eight. The family was out at the cabin. His dad awoke him at one in the morning.

[Quote: “Overlook, always stuck with me” from “Lunar Eclipse”]