Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

A Killing in Central Park: The Preppy Murder Case


After the trial, as the excitement of the case subsided, the forgotten "party" videotape ignited passions again. The TV program Current Affairs heard rumors about the existence of a strange video recording in which Robert Chambers did some extraordinary things: like choking himself and tearing the head off a doll. There were young girls in their underwear on the tape too. And it all took place while he was awaiting trial for murder and under the bail supervision of the Catholic Church. Current Affairs tracked down the owner of that tape and it was reported that the owner was paid $10,000 for the recording though the price was never confirmed.

During April 1988, Current Affairs played the tape for its TV audience. The reaction was immediate. Again, Chambers caused a sensation. Outtakes from the video played on all the television networks. There was outrage and disgust at his behavior. Many saw it as a further denigration of Jennifer Levin. The image of Chambers laughing and mugging for the camera while young girls in their underwear cavorted in the background was too much for the public. Whatever support he may have had in the community turned against him. The press finally hammered away at Chambers.

In 1989, a TV movie called The Preppie Murder was made about the case. It starred Billy Baldwin as Chambers and Lara Flynn Boyle as Jennifer. Det. Mike Sheehan served as a consultant on the project. The Levins did not cooperate with the production of the film. Neither did Linda Fairstein. Jack Dorrian also refused any filming inside the Red Hand bar.

There was a $25 million dollar wrongful death suit filed by Jennifer's parents. Chambers did not fight the lawsuit and the Levins won a judgment against any of his future earnings. Since Chambers would surely be released from prison one day, he still had the potential to make money. To his supporters, he later wrote, "I came to the decision to plead 'no contest' to end this circus once and for all." But his troubles were still not over. While incarcerated, he violated prison rules several times including an incident where he was found to be in possession of marijuana. These infractions added time to his sentence and also affected his eligibility for parole. As of September 2001, Robert Chambers was still in custody at Auburn State Prison. He has a parole hearing scheduled in December 2002.


We're Following
Slender Man stabbing, Waukesha, Wisconsin
Gilberto Valle 'Cannibal Cop'