Cold Case Wiki
Gene Karnow 1951
Karnow in 1951
Gene Karnow 2008
Karnow in 2008
Gene Karnow
Portrayed by Reid Collums (1951)
Richard Herd (2008)
Episode Shore Leave
Status Alive

Gene Karnow, also known as "Mean Gene Karnow" was a sailor in the U.S. Navy serving as a machinist's mate in the engine room of the U.S.S. Pronto in 1951.


Karnow was also part of the long-standing rivalry between sailors and U.S. Marines, despite many marines serving on the same ship. A lifelong boxing enthusiast, Karnow sparred with a marine, Jimmy Tully, on September 8, but was beaten by Tully.

Later that day, the Pronto crew was granted shore leave in Philadelphia. Karnow and several other sailors stopped in at a navy bar called Gunwale. When an attractive young woman named Nora Lee walked in, several sailors including Karnow asked her to dance, but she rebuffed them. Shortly thereafter, Tully walked in, having first spotted Nora outside. Karnow got in Tully's way at first, telling him he got lucky in their fight. When Tully said he only wanted to ask Nora to dance, however, Karnow stepped aside, scoffing at the idea that a woman who had rejected so many sailors would dance with a "jarhead". To Karnow's surprise, however, Nora seemed to return Tully's interest.

When an unruly civilian dock worker named Ray Lisi harassed Tully for talking to Nora, even showing off a handgun he was carrying, Karnow found himself standing up for Tully, and the two forcibly ejected Ray from the bar. Fortunately for Karnow, another attractive young woman at the bar was so impressed with his bravery that she asked him to dance. The two would begin a relationship and later marry in 1953.

Sometime after Karnow returned to the Pronto after shore leave, a marine sergeant named Hal Chaney approached him, demanding Karnow dispose of several oil drums of waste. Karnow initially refused, not taking orders from a marine, until ten minutes later, when Karnow's chief came down and reprimanded him, at which point Karnow complied. The drums where later buried in a dumping ground in Philly.

Karnow's match with Tully ended up being the last one Karnow would ever fight. After shipping off to Korea, a boiler exploded, driving a six inch steel into Karnow's shoulder. His jab would never be the same afterwards.

Several decades later an older Karnow, now a boxing coach at a gym, and happily married to the girl in the bar for 55 years, was approached by Detectives Nick Vera and Will Jeffries, who informed him Tully had been murdered the night of shore leave back in 1951, having learned about Tully and Karnow's fight from Tully's friend Max Heidhorn. Karnow told them about ejecting Ray from the bar with Tully. Though he'd never learned Ray's name he was able to recall that he'd been wearing a dock worker's patch. Before they left, Karnow offered to teach Vera a few boxing lessons as well.

Sometime later, after learning several oil drums had been disposed from the Pronto the night of Tully's murder, Vera returned to question Karnow. Karnow told them how Sergeant Chaney had forced him to dispose of them, not realizing that Tully's body had been stuffed in one after Chaney killed him in an argument.

After Chaney's arrest, Vera returned again to take up Karnow's offer on a few boxing lessons.