‘The Butcher’ made headlines in ’89

Daniel Rakowitz in Tompkins Square Park.

Daniel Rakowitz in Tompkins Square Park.

BY YANNIC RACK  |  He was known among locals as the rooster man, Jesus, a cop-hater, a marijuana advocate and dealer, and just plain weird. He stood out from the crowd in an area where it is easy for unusual people to blend in with the scenery. He eerily made threats as he smiled, boasted of feats, and at times his behavior was volatile. But no one took him seriously.”

So began an article in the Sept. 28, 1989, issue of The Villager, headlined “Murder in the East Village.” The story, by Betsy Herzog, was published a week after Daniel Rakowitz, a 28-year-old Texas native, was charged with killing and dismembering his roommate in their E. Ninth St. apartment.

His arrest ended a two-week search for the woman, Monika Beerle, a 26-year-old dance student from Switzerland, who had been missing for a month. After denying he knew anything about her whereabouts, Rakowitz eventually led detectives to the Port Authority Bus Terminal, where he showed them Beerle’s skull and bones, stored in a five-gallon bucket.

“ ‘They got into an altercation, he beat her, then stabbed her, resulting in her death,’ ” said [Deputy Chief Ronald J.] Fenrich. ‘Rakowitz kept her body in the apartment at least a week before decapitating it, boiling the flesh away, and cutting the larger bones into smaller ones.’ ”

The couple had been living together for a few months, according to the article, and neighbors in their building claimed the two frequently argued over the rent. When one neighbor started smelling “something funny” one day, they became suspicious. But it wasn’t until Rakowitz allegedly boasted to the building’s super of killing Beerle that a tenant notified police.

“Detectives located Rakowitz through his beeper, common to many drug dealers,” the article read.

A jury eventually acquitted Rakowitz by reason of insanity — he admitted to dismembering Beerle’s body but not to killing her. In one of the more gory details to emerge at the time, it was said Rakowitz had served soup cooked from Beerle’s brains to the Tompkins Square Park homeless.

According to The Villager article, Rakowitz had, in fact, first appeared in the neighborhood around the time of the Tompkins Square Park riot of 1988.

“The tall blond-haired and blue-eyed man was easily recognizable with his long, straggly hair and beard,” Herzog wrote. “He was especially known to police because he continually threatened them.”

In a separate article, Villager reporter Michael Crewdson recounted how he had met Rakowitz the month before in Tompkins Square Park, bringing groceries for the homeless people there.

“He was weird, perhaps, but in no way do my notes or my memory suggest he was the least bit menacing,” Crewdson wrote. “He was just a guy in the park with an umbrella over his head who was trying to help people who couldn’t help themselves.”

In 2004, a jury found Rakowitz no longer dangerous but decided that he was still mentally ill and should remain at Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Center on New York City’s Wards Island.

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