Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

A Killing in Central Park: The Preppy Murder Case

Robert Chambers

Perhaps because of her humble beginnings on a farm in County Leitrim in Northern Ireland, Phyllis Chambers had desires for a higher social standing. Later, when her son Robert was born, whom she believed to be talented and destined for bigger things, she focused all her attention upon him. She sent Robert to the very best schools that she could afford although she did not have a high paying job. Trained as a nurse in Dublin, she was able to get a job as a caregiver to affluent families in New York City. Her contact with the social elite of Manhattan made her strive even more for her son. Phyllis was upwardly mobile and never missed an opportunity to improve Robert's social skills. She enrolled him in the Knickerbocker Greys, an elite military drill group where the Vanderbilts and the Roosevelts had been members. It was a prestigious organization that could help his future and maintain the kind of image that his mother wanted for him.

Robert Chambers Jr. (AP)
Robert Chambers
Jr. (AP)
Robert Chambers as a teenager was an attractive young man. Standing 6'4" and weighing two hundred pounds, he often towered over his friends at the bars. Girls were naturally drawn to him and he knew it. He had blue eyes and the well-proportioned features of a movie star. During those years, he attended a series of prep schools where he continuously ran into difficulties, mostly of his own doing. Either he had failing grades or behavioral problems that included rumors of stealing and drug abuse. After attending summer school to make up required work, Chambers finally graduated from York School in Manhattan. Ironically, his "bad boy" image probably improved his prospects with the impressionable girls at Dorrian's. Undaunted by his poor performance in prep school, his mother managed to get him accepted into Boston University in 1984. But still, his erratic behavior got him into trouble once again. Before the second semester began, Robert was asked to leave the college. He had gotten into a jam over a stolen credit card.

Once he arrived home, he couldn't hold a job. He was unreliable and never seemed to fit in. It soon became obvious to his friends that Robert Chambers was using drugs. He also did a few burglaries with an accomplice; breaking into apartments on the Upper East Side when he knew the owners weren't home. Later, he sold the proceeds in local stores and pawnshops. He was questioned by the police about the crimes but denied any involvement. A heavy drinker for years, his alcohol and drug abuse became severe enough for him to seek treatment at the Hazelden Clinic in Minnesota.

Nevertheless, when he returned to New York several months later, Chambers continued with his old ways. The police wanted him to stand in a line-up concerning the old burglaries and his mother was after him to get a steady job or get back in school. But he ignored them all. One night, after he left Dorrian's, police issued Chambers a summons for disorderly conduct when they found him screaming obscenities in the middle of the street. As they drove away, Chambers tore up the summons and yelled: "You fucking cowards, you should stick to niggers!"

During the summer of 1986, while Chambers was at Dorrian's with friends, he met Jennifer Levin. He had told one of her friends that Jennifer was "the best-looking girl in the world." Jennifer was elated. She had seen Chambers several times at the bar but had never spoken to him. She thought he was gorgeous. Jennifer's friend told her that he wanted to talk with her but his girlfriend was in the bar. That night though, she left Dorrian's with Chambers for the first time and soon, they had sex together.


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