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Millionaire’s body found, three young men arrested

September 25, 1997

NEW YORK (AP) _ Police arrested three young men after finding the body of a New Jersey millionaire in a ravine along the Hudson River a week after he withdrew $20,000 from a bank and vanished.

Nelson Gross, 65, a former New Jersey Republican Party chairman who went to prison in the 1970s for illegal fund raising, was stabbed to death in an apparent robbery, Police Commissioner Howard Safir said Wednesday.

Gross disappeared Sept. 17 after his son saw him driving with two men from a floating restaurant his family owned on the New Jersey side of the Hudson. He reportedly stopped next at a bank in a shopping plaza he owned and withdrew the cash while one of the men stood by.

The developer was initially feared kidnapped, but no ransom demands were made.

The suspects were arrested earlier Wednesday by detectives from an anti-drug operation, Safir said. Within six hours of the arrests, police found the body of Gross, near where his silver BMW car was found Saturday.

A police source who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity said all three were teen-age boys older than 16.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Hillebrecht in New York said a complaint had been filed in New Jersey against one of the three, who is being treated as an adult. Hillebrecht said the suspect was being charged with kidnapping and conspiracy to kidnap.

The two younger suspects appeared at a closed hearing Wednesday in Manhattan federal court. The older suspect was to appear in court today.

Safir declined to discuss how police found the body or how the suspects were linked to the crime. But a police source said investigators believe the youths took Gross to the bank and forced him to withdraw $20,000.

Gross died from multiple stab wounds. WABC-TV reported he had been dead since about the time he was abducted, based on a coroner’s report that the body was badly decomposed.

Gross once led the state GOP and served as a key New Jersey contact for Richard Nixon before a conviction for illegal fund raising forced him to drop out of politics. He served a five-month prison term in 1976.

The Saddle River, N.J., resident was last seen at the restaurant in Edgewater, N.J., by his son, 33-year-old Neil Gross, who called his father by cellular phone to see if he was OK. The elder Gross said he was conducting business and hung up.

Police were reportedly investigating the younger Gross after a background check turned up a drug conviction. Neil Gross was fined and placed on probation after pleading guilty to crack possession in 1985.

Asked about reports that Gross’ son was being investigated, Safir said: ``There is no evidence that I am aware of that Mr. Gross was involved.″

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Associated Press Writers Tom Hays and Chris Olert in New York and Amy Westfeldt in New Jersey contributed to this report.