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The Preppy Murder: Death In Central Park

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A definitive look at the notorious 1986 murder of Jennifer Levin in Central Park, featuring exclusive interviews and never-before-seen archival material.

Premieres on November 13 on Sundance. Five episodes.

I remember when this happened. I was a teenager, but it was all over the teevee. I've been seeing the clips Sundance has been airing ad naseum, and all I can think is: WHY? The asshole Chambers is in prison for something else, drug charges and whatnot and isn't expected to see the light of day for another five to ten years. It's public knowledge that he pled to manslaughter, but one person keeps saying

how he got away with murder. Maybe she means a jury didn't convict him of murder, since there was a hung jury/mistrial that led to his plea?

And from what I can see, it appears they'll have "dramatizations" something I LOATHE. It gives tragedies such as this a sensationalistic, tawdry look. Maybe I'm jumping the gun. But again, why? And that ass, Linda Fairstein is also appearing on this.

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I've been seeing the clips Sundance has been airing ad naseum, and all I can think is: WHY?

True crime is hot right now, it's been over 30 years, there's a whole generation of people that don't know about this case, and the hook of Chambers being a really good-looking guy when he committed the crime is still a decent enough hook that it'll sell to a new generation of True Crime followers that find it interesting when good-looking guys are murderers.

I won't be shocked if there's a series that follows serial rapist Alex Kelley who fled from justice for 10 years.

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On 10/29/2019 at 9:19 PM, GHScorpiosRule said:

And that ass, Linda Fairstein is also appearing on this.

It's such a cruel irony that she could be right in going after this guy, yet completely wrong about the Central Park Five. 

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54 minutes ago, Camille said:

It's such a cruel irony that she could be right in going after this guy, yet completely wrong about the Central Park Five. 

The cynic in me believes her involvement in this--being on this special, is a way for her to "prove" she wasn't an incompetent boob. Which, one doesn't have a thing to do with the other. I will always side-eye her because instead of admitting her mistake with the Central Park Five, she's still doubling down. Yet here? She sounds so "righteous" in that one clip I saw during the promo.

And I'm a true crime buff as well, but it's more that I think this series will be more sensationalistic and tabloidy, if you will. I mean, there's NO NEED, as far as I'm concerned to do any "dramatizations" to "show" what happened and how he killed her, etc. There's more than enough of the real stuff and all those talking heads to tell the story. Those dramatizations are just sleazy, along with the OH-SO-OMINOUS voiceovers.

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10 hours ago, GHScorpiosRule said:

I mean, there's NO NEED, as far as I'm concerned to do any "dramatizations" to "show" what happened and how he killed her, etc.

Agreed, it's such a horrible thing for her family. They don't deserve this.

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Yeah Fairstein will be seen as non incompetent in this.   Oh hardly.    Central Park 5 (african-american BOYS) --- throw the book at them.    Preppie Murder (white MAN) -- eeh, he's got's issues, let's not ruin his life.    At the time there was OUTRAGE at how easily Chambers got off for murder.   He got the same sentence for KILLING someone as some of the Central Park 5 got for attempted rape.   15 years.

Oh and guess who had a record and reoffended after getting out -- and guess who didn't.

Edited by merylinkid
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On 10/29/2019 at 9:19 PM, GHScorpiosRule said:

And from what I can see, it appears they'll have "dramatizations" something I LOATHE. It gives tragedies such as this a sensationalistic, tawdry look.

For me, re-enactments ID-Channel everything up. They're terrible, they're unnecessary, and they pull me right out of the story. This crime happened in the 80s - there are plenty of news/tabloid-tv sources from which they could draw actual footage. There is absolutely no need to recreate Jennifer's death -- or anything else. 

I'll give it a try but the trailer for the premiere doesn't even seem all that compelling:

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True crime is hot right now, it's been over 30 years, there's a whole generation of people that don't know about this case

There was a poster ad for this in my neighborhood that I've been seeing on and off (sometimes we go different directions) on walks with my dog for a month or two. I was finally curious enough to look it up today. I don't think I get Sundance channel. I read the wiki for the guy though. The case sounds infuriating. What angle could they have besides, yeah, it was f**ked up that the church supported him and the jury couldn't come to a consensus to convict him?

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On 11/14/2019 at 5:11 PM, aradia22 said:

There was a poster ad for this in my neighborhood that I've been seeing on and off (sometimes we go different directions) on walks with my dog for a month or two. I was finally curious enough to look it up today. I don't think I get Sundance channel. I read the wiki for the guy though. The case sounds infuriating. What angle could they have besides, yeah, it was f**ked up that the church supported him and the jury couldn't come to a consensus to convict him?

I don’t recall following this case back in the day, but I vaguely remember the killing.   I was surprised to learn during the show that he had all that backing from the Catholic Church.  Why I’m surprised, I don’t know.  

Ive been watching on AMC because I also don’t get Sundance.  You can also catch it Xfinity/On Demand as well.

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I was basically her age when it happened and stumbled across the show.  Didn't get to see all of it, but I actually was happy I saw what I did.  What I remembered ("preppy killer," "east side," "rough sex") turned out to be barely applicable to what actually happened.  For those upset for her family, her mother and sister participated because they said Jennifer was portrayed by the media and defense counsel as a sex crazed fiend who caused her own death.  Her best friend who introduced Jennier to Robert said she was only discussing the case to correct the perception of Jennifer.  What I saw was really an indictment of (1) an out of control tabloid media that couldn't get enough of the rumors, regardless of their truth, and (2) the "blame the victim" defense that slut-shamed a girl with publicized rumors about a "sex diary," which didn't exist.  As the friend said, Jennifer was a teenager and enjoyed sex and people were outraged.  No one ever asked how many people Robert slept with.

I didn't see all of it, but what I saw was heartbreaking.  I think the detective said there wasn't even sex that night.  She caught him stealing from her and threatened to tell so he killed her and then pulled up her clothes to make it look like they had sex.  I had never heard that before.  The dramatization parts weren't as bad as I thought they would be.  I will probably watch the whole thing if I stumble across it again.

Edited by Crs97 · Reason: I don’t know why I was calling the killer Alex instead of Robert.
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I think it was well done. The best friend was a little strange. Good looking people really do get away with all kinds of things, it's horrible. 

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I can’t imagine realizing your best friend was murdered by another friend, and they knew each other because you introduced them.  Then your best friend is maligned by the tabloids, and there is really nothing you can do about it.  Maybe she was already a little odd, but I imagine that takes a toll as well.

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Halfway through the series. It is so hard to reconcile the Linda Fairstein/Mike Sheehan of this case with that of the Central Park jogger case. (Although, objectively speaking, I did wonder about the ethics/legality of questioning Chambers for all that time without an attorney present. Did Litman ever raise that as an issue?)

It took me the longest time to realize that Alex Kapp is not just a random friend/girlfriend, but a known actress. I wonder how much this haunts her.

Growing up in New York, I don't remember being sympathetic toward Chambers. And now in hindsight, he is the least sympathetic person I could imagine. What a sociopath. 

Also extremely hard to imagine that the police didn't stop the young man sitting on the stone wall to ask him what he witnessed (if nothing else). WTF was that?

The other thing I found so baffling--how was it that Jennifer's maternal grandfather ended up at Steven Levin's Soho loft and knew of Jennifer's murder even before Jennifer's mother did? How was she not Steven Levin's first call?

Edited by lovinbob
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On 10/29/2019 at 9:19 PM, GHScorpiosRule said:

I've been seeing the clips Sundance has been airing ad naseum, and all I can think is: WHY? The asshole Chambers is in prison for something else, drug charges and whatnot and isn't expected to see the light of day for another five to ten years. 

Because in general we continue to blame women victims for their own rape and murder, we continue to discount the pervasiveness and seriousness of these crimes and the justice system is still deeply, systematically misogynistic. Not much has changed since 1986. Think Brock Turner, think the two NYC cops (Kenneth Moreno and Franklin Mata) who were colluding in rape in 2011 who were found innocent despite Moreno confessing on tape, think Michael Pena, the guy in Inwood a few years ago who was caught in the act raping a young schoolteacher and whose jury deadlocked on a rape conviction (he was found guilty of lesser charges) because a juror said "If she doesn't remember these details [she couldn't remember the color of aa car parked nearby], how does she know she was penetrated," one of the holdouts reportedly said, according to sources."

The media acted abominably in this case. Steve Dunleavy and every one of those jackals should be ashamed for the rest of their lives over how they smeared this girl.

The sections with Jennifer's mother and sister were well done. It's haunting seeing the mother, whom Jennifer resembled so strongly, and seeing her friends 30 years later. Thirty years she was never given. I loved Linda Fairstein and Mike Sheehan meeting at the tree at the end. I loved seeing so many pictures of Jennifer, as a child, as a tween. I loved seeing the outrage of Jennifer's friends. I loved it when one of her friends told off the press at the funeral. Right on, girl. Dorrian's Red Hand is still there, on 84th and 2nd. That family owned another bar downtown, The Falls, where another horrible murder originated, that of Imette St. Guillen in 2006.

There's a book out about this case called Wasted, a brilliant title IMO. Jennifer's life and intelligence and energy--wasted. A potentially brilliant career and adulthood (Chambers had the connections and the support system had he chosen to apply himself--my God, he went to Choate at one point)--wasted. And of course it refers to Chambers's preferred state of being, with his constant substance abuse.

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11 hours ago, CeeBeeGee said:

I loved Linda Fairstein and Mike Sheehan meeting at the tree at the end.

If not for hearing about how she's still doubling down how the boys that were innocent in the Central Park rape two years later, as still being guilty, and that she didn't make a mistake, I'd probably like that as well. I'm thinking this was probably done before the latter came out. I can't not side-eye her. It shows how very selective she is about who she's prosecuting.

And I have all the episodes saved on my dvr, but have yet to watch. I started watching the first part, but fell asleep. But that's due to having taken a pain killer that finally kicked in, and not the subject matter. I have to prepare myself to watch this.

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On 11/18/2019 at 6:07 AM, lovinbob said:

It took me the longest time to realize that Alex Kapp is not just a random friend/girlfriend, but a known actress. I wonder how much this haunts her.

Heather McDonald is very good friends with Alex Kapp and interviewed her for her (Heather's) podcast, Juicy Scoop.  The interview was so riveting that I sat in my car, outside of my house, so that I could finish listening to the rest of it.  It's episode 390 for anyone who is interested.

Edited by luckyroll3

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On 11/16/2019 at 3:27 PM, Crs97 said:

I was basically her age when it happened and stumbled across the show.  Didn't get to see all of it, but I actually was happy I saw what I did.  What I remembered ("preppy killer," "east side," "rough sex") turned out to be barely applicable to what actually happened.  For those upset for her family, her mother and sister participated because they said Jennifer was portrayed by the media and defense counsel as a sex crazed fiend who caused her own death.  Her best friend who introduced Jennier to Robert said she was only discussing the case to correct the perception of Jennifer.  What I saw was really an indictment of (1) an out of control tabloid media that couldn't get enough of the rumors, regardless of their truth, and (2) the "blame the victim" defense that slut-shamed a girl with publicized rumors about a "sex diary," which didn't exist.  As the friend said, Jennifer was a teenager and enjoyed sex and people were outraged.  No one ever asked how many people Robert slept with.

I didn't see all of it, but what I saw was heartbreaking.  I think the detective said there wasn't even sex that night.  She caught him stealing from her and threatened to tell so he killed her and then pulled up her clothes to make it look like they had sex.  I had never heard that before.  The dramatization parts weren't as bad as I thought they would be.  I will probably watch the whole thing if I stumble across it again.

Some of the stranger details of the case: 

1) Jennifer was found with an empty wallet and all her cards and ID gone

2) They went to Central Park but if they had wanted to be intimate they could have gone back to either his or her apartment -- both of them lived fairly close by

3) No sign of any sexual contact between Jennifer and Robert Chambers that night

4) Jennifer was leaving for college in Boston the next week and had recently reconciled with her boyfriend whom she had told about the one-night stand with Chambers

5) Her blood alcohol level was almost zero. She was not drunk that night

6) She had some money as that summer she was working long hours at a restaurant in Manhattan

My theory is that Robert took Jennifer to the park "wanting to talk" but ended up robbing her. She was known to be a feisty girl and probably fought back. He had already been arrested for stealing/robbing/scamming. I don't think she had much interest in him by then.

It's sad how society assumes the worst about female victims when they are killed by an acquaintance. If this had been a stranger who attacked Jennifer in Central Park, and she was found strangled and with all her cash and cards gone, they probably would have rounded up the "usual suspects" which would have been teens very much like the Central Park 5. 

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I was twelve when this story broke in the 80's and living in the southwest. This story was HUGE. I watched crappy tabloid news like A Current Affair religiously and the 48 Hours episode when Chambers was released from prison before promptly returning, thanks to his sociopathic behavior and drug addiction. As soon as I heard the name "McCarrick" I finally realized why Chambers had the full support of the Catholic Church. Yikes.

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The disgusting victim blaming in this case was horrible.    Chambers lied about everything, his attorneys helped him trash the victim. 

He's eligible for parole in 2024, and will be released either way in 2026.    

Edited by CrazyInAlabama

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