Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Mysterious Charlie Chop-off


Around 5:30 in the afternoon of October 23, Mary Hubbard reported that her nine-year-old son, Wendell, was missing. She lived at 5th Avenue between 124th and 125th Streets on New York's Upper West Side (Lane and Gregg identify it as East Harlem, as it lies on the border between both), and said that she had looked out the window an hour before to see him playing in a yard behind the house. She had called out to tell him to come upstairs and thought he was doing so. But as time passed, she realized he had not come up, so she went looking for him and to her consternation, he was nowhere to be found. It wasn't like him to ignore or defy her like this.

Alarmed, Mary Hubbard notified the police. She was aware that two young boys had been attacked in the city and she wanted the authorities to start looking for her boy. After hearing her description of what he looked like and what he was wearing when she had seen him, they cruised the area and kept their eyes open for a kid who looked like Wendell. But after driving for several blocks and asking other boys who had nothing to offer, they had to report to the worried mother that Wendell had apparently wandered away. They believed he would turn up, but four hours passed with no word from him to his family before they all learned the truth.

Around 9:45 P.M., three boys playing on the roof of the Fifth Avenue building came across the motionless body of a boy. Certain he was dead, they ran down to the street to flag down the police, who were fairly certain this had to be the missing boy. His mother, in shock, identified him. Thus, Wendell Hubbard was the third victim to be assaulted and the second one killed.

Sketch: Wendell Hubbard
Sketch: Wendell Hubbard

Detectives from the Sixth Homicide and Assault Squad fanned out to search the area and go throughout the building, door to door, asking everyone who lived there if he or she had seen anything or anyone unusual. Wendell's mother had seen him only moments before he'd crossed paths with his killer, and since he was found on the roof of his own building, it seemed to the police probable that he had encountered the wrong person inside on his way up. Although no one offered a report of seeing anything unusual, investigators gave out a phone number in case anyone was afraid to tell them something in person.

The autopsy revealed, as detailed by Gelb, that the boy had been stabbed 17 times, and like the surviving West Side victim, his penis had been sliced off and carried away. He had also been sodomized. These details only surfaced later, as the entire story unfolded. With two boys killed in East Harlem, it seemed a sure bet that the killer was black, since a white man would have been noticed in that area.

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