The Trail Went Cold – Episode 11 – Michael Rosenblum

February 14, 1980. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. While recovering from a bad drug hangover, 25-year old Michael Rosenblum drives off in his girlfriend’s car and vanishes without a trace. The vehicle is soon found abandoned by the Baldwin Borough Police Department, but even though Michael’s family reports him missing, the police inexplicably keep the car impounded for three months without informing anyone. As the years go by, Michael’s father uncovers disturbing evidence to suggest that the Baldwin police chief helped orchestrate an elaborate cover-up involving his son’s disappearance. Even when a skull fragment belonging to Michael is found in 1992, there are no answers about what happened to him. This week’s episode of “The Trail Went Cold” chronicles the unexplained disappearance and death of Michael Rosenblum, which is perhaps our most convoluted and controversial case to date.

Additional Reading:

Pittsburgh Magazine (April 1988)

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The Trail Went Cold is produced and edited by Magill Foote.

All music is composed by Vince Nitro.

8 thoughts on “The Trail Went Cold – Episode 11 – Michael Rosenblum

  • I thought I previously read that Rosenblum was 27 years old at the time of his disappearance. I know it’s almost like splitting hairs, but I’m just putting that here in case there happened to be a fact-checking miscue. Anyway, thanks again for the time and effort you put into this, Robin!

    • Thanks for the support. The majority of the news articles I researched all said Michael was 25, but it’s possible the UM segment might have gotten it wrong and said 27.

  • No, I’m sure you’re correct if you know that’s what was posted in the articles. I like your theory on what caused his death. It seems very likely to be true. Thanks for providing that “new” info. on the other officers that likely crossed paths with Michael Rosenblum.

  • I’m a little skeptical about the officers murdering him. What reason would they have? Cops deal with junkies all day long. It seems unlikely this middle class white bread guy could push their buttons to the point where they would kill him.

    If cops did kill him, why would they hide his body so close to where the car was abandoned, exactly the place that would be searched?

    Those two cops who were going to serve a warrant that day and didn’t… The fact that they didn’t serve the warrant means they probably didn’t drive along the road where Michael left the car, and probably didn’t have any contact with him at all. Where were they during that time frame? I don’t know, but it’s around lunch time, so isn’t it more likely they took an extra long lunch break that day than that they were out murdering some guy for no reason?

    And do we have any record of these two cops calling in his car license number? When cops pull someone over or stop at a parked car, the first thing they do is call in the license plate to see if the registered owner is a dangerous person. Wouldn’t that be on record if they had pulled this guy over?

    The statement that the picture in the newspaper must have come from the car, or that the photo album was missing from the car rests on the word of another junkie and is impossible to verify one way or the other. Most drug users aren’t big fans of the police for obvious reasons, so the girlfriend had motive to invent that story.

    The story about the arrest warrant is interesting. I’d say that’s one of the only serious arguments against the police here. I don’t know what happened, but Michael has an extremely average and common looking face, and maybe the witness picked him out of a photo lineup because the real robber looked like him. There are probably thousands or even millions of people in this country who could be mistaken for Michael.

    I do think it’s proved that the police tried to falsify the records of the car impoundment, but that only means their clerical staff wasn’t very efficient, and the department doesn’t seem like it was run in a very transparent manner, and they would cut corners to hide their own incompetence. But all of these things are pretty far removed from murdering basically harmless members of the public and burying them in the woods.

    It does seem like the chief didn’t try that hard to find Michael, and it’s true that he led searchers away from where his body was found, but I think it’s more plausible that he didn’t want to spend too much time looking, and he had his own theory about where they might find him, and directed his men to look there. The fact that he was wrong in where he thought Michael was doesn’t mean he was hiding anything. Again, if he knew Michael was buried there, wouldn’t he have him disposed of in some remote location? Somewhere where he wouldn’t get stumbled across by a random hiker?

    I’m not defending everything the police did in this case, because they seem pretty stupid and arrogant, but the scenario presented in this episode sounds more like a scene out of the movie “Street Kings” than a day in the life of a real suburban police department.

    I hope I don’t sound like a jersey. I really like this podcast! Thanks Robin for doing such a great job.

    • Hi there, thanks for listening to the podcast. I used to be skeptical that the police murdered Michael and most of these suspicious incidents on their own don’t seem too damning, but I still believe that when you combine all these incidents together, it reeks of a pretty sinister cover-up. If you’re curious, scans of the Pittsburgh Magazine article I referenced during the podcast can be found here:

      One point from the article I did not mention is that Cooley and Miscensik maintain that they did serve the warrant that day, but police logs have no record of this. This means that either the logs are wrong (which is certainly possible, given their less-than-stellar clerical skills) or the officers are lying. The article seems to establish that they wouldn’t have been able to make it to that location to serve the warrant without driving on River Road at some point. I can’t get over the coincidence of Cooley being the one who drew up the questionable arrest warrant for Michael. The article makes it sound like Cooley deliberately directed the witnesses towards Michael’s mug shot and they didn’t just pick him out at random. It sounds like he was deliberately trying to pin the crime on Michael and give off the impression that he was still alive and I’m not sure why Cooley would do this if he had no involvement in the disappearance. Honestly, if it wasn’t for the arrest warrant incident, I might still be inclined to write off the police’s behavior as incompetence, but this just came off as awfully calculated.

      But, hey, if you don’t agree, that’s fine, I love generating debate about these mysteries. Keep on listening :-).

  • Maybe it was an accident (i.e. someome shot him without meqning to murder him) what they were covering up. This would male a bit more sense to me, considering that police still are kind of representative of the law. Maybe I’m just scared of a murdering police station. Sounds like a thriller to me…

  • Unless additional evidence is someday uncovered all any of us can do is speculate. I say that to make it clear that I can add nothing to this but my own thoughts, just as anyone else. The casual incompetence by the police, and likely corruption, are sad but not incredibly shocking. I’m sure there are many fine officers, but the history of policing is filled with and continues to reveal chronic corruption and abuses of power, both on the parts of individual “bad apple” police and departments. Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore are some of the better known examples of recurring big city police corruption. Small town and moderately size cities often have been unchecked centers of local corruption, in which the police either enhance their salaries with graft or are part and parcel of the very crime they are supposedly fighting.
    I think it is entirely possible that Michael Rosenblum ended up in a confrontation with one or more police the day or night of his disappearance and he was killed by police in a struggle, possibly from an illegal maneuver like a choke hold. From that point forward it becomes a case of concealing the incident and the body. While it would be entirely possible Michael was killed by someone else, the behavior of the police to not very subtly try to create an alternative narrative by delaying locating the car and thus the body and seeking to fabricate that Michael was still alive with a bogus warrant for robbery after he was dead are, to me, very suspicious and very troubling. It is the existence of this cover-up which makes the police so suspect. I’m afraid neither satisfactory answers, let alone justice will ever come in this sad case. However, I will still hope for both for the sake of his family.

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