Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Mysterious Charlie Chop-off

Unfortunate Suspect

Within two days, reporters had spoken with neighbors on the Lower East Side and learned that some of them had seen a man who resembled the composite drawing of the suspect from the previous three slayings. He'd been talking to young boys not far from the victim's Pitt Street home. They were able to tell the police that he'd been wearing a white short-sleeved shirt, dark trousers, and sneakers.

In an effort to find a lead, the police had pulled in one hundred suspects for questioning, many of them convicted sex offenders, but had failed to make any noticeable progress. They also ordered their anti-crime units to visit methadone clinics around the city because they believed the man might be an addict, perhaps because he carried a razor. More than 350 calls were logged on the call-in line, with numerous alleged sightings of the suspect, but when police ran down each lead, they came up with nothing. "Every lead is investigated," one officer said, "no matter how whacky it seems." They alerted law enforcement on Long Island, in the five boroughs, in Connecticut and West Chester, and even in New Jersey. Finally, one lead looked promising.

During the afternoon of August 21, an employee at the NENA Comprehensive Health Service Center called the police to report a man in the office at that moment who resembled the sketch. He was going through a job interview.

A squad car from the Seventh Precinct pulled up while the man was still there and the police took him into custody for questioning. By the time they had taken him to the car to drive to the station, people had gathered, and word spread quickly that the killer had been apprehended. Some of the residents wanted to "get him." The police called for assistance from more patrols, just in case the situation got ugly.

Unconscionably, the Times printed his name, L____ Gonzalez, age 22. He lived on East Houston Street, was unemployed and had been discharged from the Air Force the previous summer. He apparently had hoped to find a job in the Center's medical records section. Once he was in police custody, since he had dark hair and a slight build, area residents judged him to be the man. And they wanted blood.

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