Posts Tagged ‘murder in the East Village’

The Butcher of Tompkins Square Park

July 28, 2009

Twenty years ago, in August 1989, East Village police began hearing rumors of a gruesome crime: A person had been killed, the body dismembered and boiled into soup—then the soup fed to unsuspecting homeless people in Tompkins Square Park. 

700eastninthstreetShockingly, the rumors turned out to be true. That September, cops arrested Daniel Rakowitz, a 28-year-old park regular who carried a chicken on his shoulder and called himself a “marijuana guru.”

Rakowitz was charged with murdering and dismembering the body of his girlfriend, 26-year-old Monika Beerle. The murder was committed in Rakowitz’s tenement building at 700 Avenue C, on the corner of Ninth Street. 

RakowitzThe details are pretty lurid. Rakowitz left Beerle’s skull in a storage area at the Port Authority Bus Terminal (in a bucket of cat litter no less).

Though he denied killed Beerle, a Swiss resident studying dance who supported herself as a topless dancer (gritty old Billy’s Topless on 24th Street, according to some accounts), he admitted to chopping her corpse, bleaching her bones, and hiding her body.

In 1991, Rakowitz was found not guilty by reason of insanity. He was sent to a maximum-security psychiatric facility on Ward’s Island, where he still lives today.

Writer murders writer in the East Village

March 4, 2009

Jack Henry Abbott was a career criminal who had spent the majority of his life in prison. But in the late 1970s, he made one important connection on the outside: Norman Mailer. 

jackabbottmugshot

Mailer and Abbott corresponded though letters. Mailer, impressed with Abbott’s writing style, agreed to help him publish In the Belly of the Beast, reprinting those letters detailing Abbott’s life behind bars.

In the Belly of the Beast met with critical acclaim. Soon after it was published, Mailer and other literati sponsored Abbott’s early parole. Mailer gave Abbott a job as his research asisstant, and Abbott moved into a halfway house on East Third Street. He was partying it up with writers and Barnard coeds.

He wasn’t free to party for long. Just six weeks later, on July 18, 1981, he stopped in for breakfast at Binibon, a 24-hour cafe and artists’ hangout on Second Avenue and Fifth Street. 

madrasbinibon

 Abbott got up to look for a rest room, but a 22-year-old waiter, Richard Adan—son-in-law of Binibon’s owner and an aspiring writer—told him that customers were prohibited from using it.

Abbott began arguing with Adan, and the two went outside, where Abbott stabbed Adan to death.

Caught in Louisiana a few weeks later, Abbott was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to 15 years to life. He committed suicide in prison in 2002.

Mailer later said he felt “completely responsible” for Abbott’s actions. 

Now the Madras Cafe, this was Binibon in 1981, at 79 Second Avenue