Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Jack Abbott: From the Belly of the Beast

The Killing

During the early morning hours of July 18, 1981, just six weeks after his parole, Abbott and two female friends went out for an early breakfast. One was a student from Barnard College and granddaughter of a former Philippines president. The other was the daughter of a French count. He had known both girls only a few weeks. They decided to eat at the Binibon, located on the corner of Second Avenue and Fifth Street in Manhattan's East Village. The site was only three blocks from Abbott's halfway house. It was about 5 a.m. when the party of three arrived at the modest eatery. The restaurant was a popular all-night local spot and it was crowded as usual. Abbott and the two women took their seats as the waiter arrived to take their order. His name was Richard Adan, 22, a Cuban-born aspiring actor who, like lots of other young actors, was waiting for his "big break" in the business. Adan was a handsome, well-built young man as well as the son-in-law of the restaurant's owner. Ironically, Adan was also a writer. He had recently finished a play that was due for production in live theater the following summer. Adan had also appeared in a production of Godspell and did a six-week tour in Spain with New York's Puerto Rican Traveling Theater.

Mailer holding Abbott newspaper headlines
Mailer holding Abbott newspaper

After he took the order, Adan brought the information to the kitchen. Within a few minutes, Abbott arose from the table to use the men's room. When he asked Adan where the men's room was, the waiter explained that it could only be reached by walking through the kitchen and was off-limits to customers. But Abbott insisted on using the restroom. A verbal argument ensued between the two men, though it was quiet and hardly heard by the other diners. "It was all very low key," an employee later told a reporter from the Times. "You could hardly hear what they were saying before they went out on the street." Abbott told Adan to "take it outside." The two men exited the restaurant onto Fifth Street. The argument continued for only a minute longer. Abbott suddenly pulled out a knife and plunged it into Adan's chest. The blade pierced his heart.

"I'm hurt, it hurts!" he cried, "God, how it hurts!" Blood gushed from his chest as a passerby approached him to give aid. Abbott ran back into Binibon's and shouted to one of the girls, "Let's get out of here! I just killed a man!" The terrified girls left with Abbott and walked a block away. Suddenly, Abbott stopped, turned to the girls and said, "You don't know me!" He then ran off into the night without saying another word. The police arrived within minutes and found Adan dead in the street. Witnesses immediately told police what happened, and the two female students who were with Abbott provided his name.

The very next morning, July 19, 1981, the Sunday edition of the New York Times carried the review of Abbott's new book, In the Belly of the Beast. Reviewer Terrence Des Pres gave a mostly favorable report and expressed gratitude to Abbott's mentor, Norman Mailer. "We must be grateful to him (Mailer) for getting these letters into publishing form and, a job more difficult, for helping to get Abbott out on parole."

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