DEADLY MASQUERADE: A True Story of High Living, Depravity and Murder by Richard T. Pienciak
Kirkus Star

DEADLY MASQUERADE: A True Story of High Living, Depravity and Murder

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Money and murder in Manhattan involving a unique custody battle, by the New York Daily News reporter who originally covered the story. Pienciak does a remarkably thorough job that leaves few questions unanswered as he assembles his grim and grisly ironies. On the October weekend following the Black Monday stock-market crash of 1987, wealthy stockbroker Joe Pikul bludgeoned and strangled to death his wife, Diane, a publisher's assistant whom he'd met at an AA meeting. When arrested a few days later, Joe was found to be wearing a bra and panties and turned out to be a cross-dresser with a large wardrobe of ladies' undergarments. He was a classic schizophrenic with two alternate female personalities, Jasmine and Chloe. Although Joe was gifted with a phenomenal head for figures and rose to millionaire status on Wall Street, he repeated the sins of his brutish, alcoholic, wife-beating father and became an alcoholic who beat and terrorized his first wife, killed his second (Diane), and beat and chased his third with gun and knife. Diane had discovered Joe's cache of ten suitcases of ladies' clothes in their Greenwich Village duplex, plus Polaroids and a videotape of Joe in orgiastic sexual activities. What's more, Joe had AIDS, and Diane feared he may have given it to her and possibly to their two young children; she left the Polaroids and tape with a divorce lawyer just before Joe murdered her at their Long Island summer home. Despite being indicted, Joe was released on $350,000 bail. He demanded custody of his two children, and since there was no legal precedent concerning custody rights of a surviving parent in a murder case, Joe was awarded the children, despite a vast outcry that the children's lives were in danger from their psychotic father. Pienciak draws an amazing and depraved figure in Pikul, a moral cripple who takes on the dimensions almost of folklore as he walks free again and again--and even had his conviction vacated when he died of AIDS before his appeal could be ruled on. A spellbinder. (For a fictional treatment of this case, see Rafael Yglesias' The Murderer Next Door, reviewed above.)

Pub Date: Sept. 28th, 1990
Publisher: Dutton