Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Mysterious Charlie Chop-off


Given Soto's mental illness and the lack of physical evidence linking any murder to him, the crimes could not be officially solved. Soto's confession might have been nothing more than a delusion, devised from exposure to the news. In July 1976, a brief story ran in the Times indicating that Soto had been cleared in the three sex-mutilation murders, although he continued to be a suspect in the killing of Steven Cropper, despite the acquittal. Still, the mutilation-murders of young boys did cease once Soto was off the streets for good, although this is less an argument for guilt than many people believe.

Three Victims of the Charlie Chop-off murders
Three Victims of the Charlie Chop-off murders

As Newton points out, the files on these murders are still technically open today, and Soto remains in a psychiatric facility. Recent attempts to learn if he was still alive proved difficult, but if he is, he would be in his late sixties.

A related incident, described by Gelb, adds a bizarre side note. Soto's brother, Pedro, got into an argument with their father over Erno's arrest, accusing him of being a bad father. As their quarrel escalated, Pedro had stabbed the older man repeatedly, killing him. So he went to prison for this homicide.

Some crime writers have identified Soto as 'Miguel Rivera.' Apparently that's because Gelb, in her account, disguised Soto's identity with this name. Peter Vronksy, and Lane and Gregg are among those writers who continue Gelb's practice, which causes some confusion. Vronsky also fails to note that the final victim was on the Lower East Side, not in Harlem, and that he had not been sexually mutilated as the others were. That does set this victim apart on several key factors.

Nevertheless, these murders remain unsolved.

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