WASTED: The Preppie Murder by Linda Wolfe

WASTED: The Preppie Murder

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The background and aftermath of the August 1986 killing of 18-year-old Jennifer Levin in New York's Central Park. The affluence and youth of both victim and killer (Robert Chambers was 19), plus Chambers' claim that the brutal act had happened accidentally during rough sex, spawned months of headlines. Wolfe (Private Practices, The Professor and the Prostitute) retells it all, fleshing out character portraits and chronicling the police work and the trial. Chambers grew up the focus of the ambitions of his mother, Phyllis, an upwardly mobile private nurse, who forced her shy son into the world of Manhattan's Upper East Side. Handsome Robert was trouble from early on, stealing constantly, using drugs and alcohol. He was kicked out of a string of prep schools, sent off to rehab twice, and committed more and more severe burglaries. Levin was a vivacious bundle of social energy who moved into Manhattan to go to high school. Travelling in roughly the same crowd of moneyed teen-agers who hung out at Studio 54 and Dorrian's Red Hand, Robert and Jennifer went out a couple of times before the late-night encounter that left Jennifer dead, evidently strangled. The police quickly found Chambers, but it took a long interrogation to obtain his ""confession."" The trial turned into a legal dual between hotshot defense lawyer Jack Litman and fervent prosecutor Linda Fairstein. Wolfe's overblown prose (""nor did they [Jennifer's new lovers] assuage the pain she still felt about that breakup, the hurt that clung to her heart like moss to a stone"") occasionally irritates, and much of the material will be familiar to readers who followed the case. But Wolfe does break some ground: the profile of Phyllis Chambers, for instance, is complex and fascinating, as is the account of legal gamesmanship that shaped the trial. So: no great surprises, but a copiously researched summing up of a sad, sad story.

Pub Date: Sept. 12th, 1989
ISBN: 0595004504
Publisher: Simon & Schuster