Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Mysterious Charlie Chop-off

Uneasy Wait

Linda Greenhouse, Reporter
Linda Greenhouse, Reporter

The following day, Times reporter Linda Greenhouse walked through the wounded neighborhood to assess the mood. She noted that a "Wanted" poster had been reworked to reflect the general sense of anger: "Dead or Alive" had been added by someone with a marker, and this had then been crossed out and replaced with "mostly dead."

The residents with whom she spoke admitted to being afraid, because they did not know if or when the killer would strike next, but they believed he would. They were also angry because they feared that even if he were caught, he'd probably receive some sort of psychiatric mitigation and not be fully punished or locked away. They assumed he'd have a brief hospitalization and then be back among them. In other words, they felt unprotected.

Greenhouse noted that the area is the tenth poorest precinct in the city, with a median family income of only $6,400. Over the years, the area has gone from largely Jewish immigrants to Italian to Hispanic. It was overcrowded and rife with crime, ranking 39th in homicides, 32nd in burglaries and 18th in robberies in the city.

Given the pervasive fear and tension, the children had been kept off the streets, so the area was quiet, even at the community pool, which usually hosted 300 children each day. The occasional boy to whom Greenhouse spoke admitted to being afraid that a strange man might come along and grab him. Having nothing more to write about, she ended the piece, but in less than a week, she would be covering the indictment of a viable suspect.

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