A child of divorce, Charles Yukl was 31 years old and married, self-employed as a piano teacher in New York City, when he claimed his first victim in 1966.
On October 24 of that year, police responded to a homicide report at Yukl's apartment house, where they discovered the body of 25-year-old Suzanne Reynolds.
A student of Yukl's, she had been beaten, stripped and stabbed to death before the teacher "found" her in a vacant flat, investigating after he "noticed" the open door on his way upstairs. Arrested and charged with the murder next morning, Yukl confessed under questioning, before his attorney arrived at the jail. Months of wrangling over constitutional issues led to a plea bargain in February 1968, with reduced charges of manslaughter earning Yukl a sentence of seven to fifteen years in prison.
A model prisoner, Yukl was released on parole in June 1973, two years before the expiration of his "guaranteed minimum" sentence. Objections from the state were overruled, with Yukl cited as "a good risk for parole." He waited fourteen months before he killed again.
On August 20, 1974, the nude and strangled body of Karen Schlegel, an aspiring actress, was discovered on the rooftop of an apartment house in Greenwich Village. She had been dead twelve hours when a janitor discovered her remains, but authorities had no difficulty selecting a suspect.
Charles Yukl was a tenant of the house where Karen died, and he confessed to luring his victim with an advertisement placed in a theatrical magazine. Upon arrival, Karen Schlegel had been strangled with a necktie, stripped, and carried to the roof where she was found. Psychiatrists found Yukl competent for trial, and he was formally indicted on September 6.
On June 3, 1976, he managed to strike another bargain with the state, accepting a sentence of fifteen years to life in return for his guilty plea. This time, however, there would be no premature parole.
On August 22, 1982, the killer hanged himself in prison with a shredded mattress cover, and his death was ruled a suicide.
By David J. Krajicek - NYDailyNews.com
Karin Schlegel's starry-eyed dream seemed to be
Out of the army of actresses who troop to casting
calls in New York, she was chosen by director Charles Yukl for a feature
role in his new film.
Yukl added the condition that, since she was a raw
talent, Schlegel would need to attend after-hours tutoring - at the
It sounded fishy to friends of the pretty 23-year-old.
They urged caution, especially after learning that Yukl, 39, had never
actually directed a film.
But she thought it was absurd to worry about Yukl, a
short, soft-spoken stutterer who had the Old World habit of bowing to
say hello and goodbye.
Schlegel fairly floated to Yukl's Waverly Place flat
on the evening of Aug. 19, 1974, to begin the private lessons.
She arrived to find the apartment filled with
photographic gear - cameras, backdrops, lights, deflectors. Reassured,
she stood bathed in the light while Yukl made adjustments.
Then she realized that he was fondling himself as he
leered at her through the lens.
"What are you doing?" she demanded.
Two days later, Schlegel's nude body - strangled and
mutilated with a knife - was found on the roof of Yukl's building, 120
Benjamin Lichtenstein, a parole officer, happened to
see a TV news story about the murder, and a shiver went down his spine
when he heard the address.
He phoned a cop friend at the 13th Precinct.
"You know the body on the roof on Waverly Place?"
Lichtenstein said. "That's where Charlie Yukl lives."
After a brief investigation, Yukl was charged with
The homicide would prove to be a crime rerun that
left New Yorkers questioning the state's criminal justice system, with
its plea bargains, early parole and chin-stroking therapeutic approach
to men with sexual pathologies.
Charles Yukl, poster boy for the namby-pamby
treatment of sex killers, had that most clichéd of excuses: a lousy
He was born in Baltimore in 1935 to Czech parents,
talented musicians who tethered the child to a piano bench, determined
to mold him into a virtuoso.
By age 4, Yukl could sight-read music like a pro, but
nothing he did satisfied his taskmaster mother, Dorothea Freitag. If the
boy played a Chopin étude well, his mother would coldly push him aside
and play it better.
His parents split up when Yukl was 7. His mother
moved to New York, where she would have a long career as a composer and
Yukl, meanwhile, moved to Los Angeles with his father,
a trumpet player.
The father was remote, and Yukl began seeking his
attention by misbehaving - for example, by setting eight arson fires
when he was 9.
He was a bright but disinterested student who
excelled only at typing, thanks to his skills as a sight-reading pianist.
At age 17, he dropped out of North Hollywood High and
joined the Navy, where he spent two years chronically AWOL before he
Yukl moved to New York in 1956 and reunited with his
mother after 14 years. Their relationship had not improved.
He worked days as a typist and nights as a pianist,
earning a reputation as a
ragtime specialist under the stage name Yogi Freitag.
Yukl appeared regularly at the Red Onion in Manhattan
and the Band Box in Union City, N.J., and he took weekend gigs in Bucks
County, Pa., the Catskills and Lake George in the Adirondacks.
He was a shutterbug, and in a photography class he
met a young Danish woman, Enken, whom he married in 1961.
He was a 26-year-old virgin, and they had a
disastrous sex life. Enken would later estimate that they had sex less
than once a year.
By 1966, Yukl had begun a sideline as a $5-an-hour
piano teacher and accompanist. One of his clients was a vivacious native
Floridian named Suzanne Reynolds, an aspiring singer.
During a session at his E. 28th St. apartment on Oct.
24, 1966, Yukl suddenly accosted the woman. He strangled her with a
necktie and dragged her to a vacant unit in his building, where he used
a knife to mutilate her naked body before committing sodomy.
He then went home, enjoyed a Rheingold beer and took
his dog for a walk.
A blood trail led to Yukl, and he was charged with
murder. Under a plea agreement, he was convicted of manslaughter and
sent away for 71/2 to 15 years.
After two years at tough SingSing, Yukl was
transferred to cushy Wallkill prison, where he was a model inmate. He
formed a prison band, took college classes, volunteered as a typist and
photographer and enthusiastically attended therapy.
Yukl was released after serving just six years and
eight months. And 14 months later, he repeated the same hideous crime
The wardens and shrinks whom Yukl had conned were
"I've seen thousands of inmates, and if we're
supposed to release anyone, he was the right guy," Wallkill Warden
Harold Butler told one reporter. "There wasn't a mark on his record ...
I trusted him so much that I probably would have left him alone with my
wife or daughter."
Dr. Emanuel Feuer, a state psychiatrist who had ogled
Yukl's id in more than 20 therapy sessions, added, "We were sure he was
rehabilitated and one of the best, brightest, most articulate prisoners
I have ever seen."
Asked to explain Yukl's violence, Feuer said, "He
hated women, who reminded him of his mother. He resented the pressure
she put on him ... to succeed as a pianist."
Yukl pleaded guilty to murder. When pressed by a
judge to account for his actions, he simply said, "I-I-I had an urge to
He was sent away for 15 years to life.
On Aug. 21, 1982, Yukl barricaded himself in his cell
at Clinton prison. Talked out by a shrink, he was sent to the infirmary.
He was found dead there the next day. He hanged himself with a strip of
sturdy cloth he tore from his mattress cover.
By Robert K. Tanenbaum and Peter S. Greenberg
It was an unseasonably warm fall Monday night in
New York City. Suzanne Reynolds, an attractive twenty-five-year-old
secretary, decided to walk to her regular 5:30 P.M. appointment.
There was no need to change. She wouldn't need a sweater or a jacket
this evening. Her thin red coat would suffice.
At 5:10, she left her cluttered office on Twenty-sixth
Street and headed uptown. Suzanne was a newcomer to the East Side. She
had left Florida eighteen months earlier because she craved the action
New York City promised. The opportunities were bigger and they seemed
better. Also, Suzanne was fascinated with show business. She was a
pretty, bubbly, and some would say, a sexy redhead. Reynolds had been
told more than once back in Florida -- and was now convinced -- that she
had the looks, the personality, and the stamina to make it. She was
going to be an actress.
Soon after she arrived in Manhattan, Suzanne began
taking acting and voice lessons. They seemed mandatory, unwritten
requirements, and she eagerly signed on. Reynolds possessed at least the
first prerequisite for moving north: she had ambition.
Ambition like Suzanne's was not easily rewarded at D.
L. Blair, the sales promotion company where she worked to pay for her
acting lessons. Reliability was. And Suzanne was a very reliable $125-a-week
secretary. She helped supervise the other girls and distinguished
herself within the company by never talking about her personal life,
never having friends visit her at work, and by always keeping her
ambitions to herself.
Next to acting and singing, Suzanne wanted more than
anything to travel. All of her friends had vacationed in Europe and she
wanted to be next. Her salary barely paid the rent and the phone bill,
but Suzanne was determined. She thought the classwork would end soon.
Then, she hoped, with the money she would earn from some theater and
night club work, she could afford to cross the Atlantic.
Twice each week Suzanne took acting classes. And once
each week, she took voice lessons. Monday night was voice night.
Three months earlier, she had found the right voice
teacher, a thirty-one-year-old piano player named Charles Yukl. A good
pianist, classically trained and extremely well mannered, he played
professionally in the Catskills on weekends. During the week he worked a
host of happy hours at West Side piano bars. He was a slender, quiet man
who lived in a small, unpretentious apartment on East Twenty-eighth
Street with his wife and pet dog.
He also managed the apartment building.
Charles Yukl wasn't an arrogant or pretentious
cocktail lounge pianist, he just liked to play the piano. At least
that's what he said. He was also inexpensive. He charged Suzanne
Reynolds and his other students five dollars an hour for their lessons.
Suzanne had worked on a new routine with him the week
before. It was standard nightclub fare -- songs like "Alexander's
Ragtime Band" and "Hello Dolly" interrupted by some transitional
dialogue Yukl wrote to bridge the music. But the routine wasn't quite
ready yet, and she was anxious to work a few more tunes into the
repertoire before going out on her first auditions. Yukl said she was
close to getting it all together. Tonight, he said, they would make a
It was already dark outside when she arrived at his
building. She was five minutes late, and quickly walked up the stairs to
Yukl's third floor apartment. On the door to the apartment was taped a
note on a white piece of paper with scrawled handwriting: "Hi. Just went
out to walk the dog. The door is open. I'll be right back. Charlie."
Suzanne let herself in. As soon as she opened the
door she saw the big dog sitting quietly in the small living room. There
was not much to the room -- a small, brown couch, two small end tables,
a few plants, a wood-laminated coffee table, and, of course, the piano.
It always struck Suzanne as strange that a man would
keep a Great Dane in such a tiny apartment. She sat down on the couch to
wait. For a moment, the room was quiet. Then, Suzanne heard a noise
coming from the bathroom. It sounded like someone running the bathwater.
Charlie must be in there, she thought. He must have
forgotten to take the note off the door. Perhaps she should announce her
"Okay, you lucky boy," Suzanne bellowed in her usual
effervescent way, "I'm here."
The door to the bathroom opened quickly and out came
a naked, dripping man. "Oh," Yukl apologized. Suzanne looked quickly
away. "I didn't realize you were here," he offered. He stood there for a
few more seconds, then abruptly retreated to the bathroom. Yukl grabbed
a towel. "I'm sorry," he called out. "I'll be with you in a minute."
Suzanne thought nothing of it. She shrugged and headed over to the small
upright piano. New York, she had always been told, was full of colorful
characters. Charles Yukl was just one of them.
Two minutes later, Yukl came out of the bathroom
dressed in an unironed short sleeve button down shirt and slacks. He
didn't go to the piano. He walked silently, nervously over to a small
chair, sat and stared at the floor.
"Charlie, are you okay?" Suzanne asked. He didn't
respond. "You want to forget about tonight? I could come back." Yukl
shook his head. "N-n-no," he stuttered. "Y-y-y-you can stay."
His behavior this evening was strangely different.
The drapes were closed. The room was dimly lit. She could see that he
had been drinking. A half empty bottle of vodka sat on the table. And
his wife wasn't home.
"I'm sorry about the bathroom," he murmured, barely
audible. He was still sitting in the chair. Without waiting for
Suzanne's response, he began to ramble, making little sense. He started
to mumble things about sex. "Did you get excited at seeing me?" he asked.
She didn't notice that his eyes had begun to widen.
Suzanne tried to change the subject. Men had come on
to her before. She could handle this guy. "Let's get to work, Charlie,"
she said. "We can talk about that later." But he was still sitting
across from her on the chair, mumbling. He seemed lost in a host of
confused thoughts. Suzanne waited for him to snap out of it, but he
didn't. "Charlie?" she asked. "Charlie, are you all right?" He looked up
Suddenly, he blurted out, "Did you bring the songs?"
Good, she thought. We're back on track. Maybe this
silly episode is over. "Sure," she said, reaching for her purse.
"Thought you'd never ask. Got 'em right here."
As Suzanne opened her brown leather handbag, the
clasp snapped and everything fell to the floor: compact, lipstick,
apartment keys, handkerchief, address book and wallet.
Charlie jumped quickly out of his chair. Both he and
Suzanne got down on the floor to retrieve the items. "Where's the sheet
music?" he asked. They both looked. "Where is it?" he repeated himself
Suzanne realized it wasn't in the bag. She had
forgotten it. "It's not in the purse. I'm sorry, Charlie, I guess I left
it at home this morning." She managed a silly, embarrassed laugh. "But
we could work on another tune."
He stood up suddenly, almost jerking himself from the
floor. "You're a slob. You're a goddamn slob," he yelled. Yukl had
always been quiet around Suzanne. But now he was loud. He began pacing
nervously around the small living room, staring directly at her. He made
a fist and began pressing it hard into the palm of his left hand, mortar
and pestle style. This time she could not avoid looking at his eyes.
"C'mon," she said soothingly, trying to hide her
growing nervousness as she moved over to sit on the couch. "I said I was
sorry. So, I'll sing something else. Or maybe I should leave. What do
you think?" Indeed, it was a rhetorical question for Suzanne. She could
no longer give this guy the benefit of the doubt. She had to exit. Now.
Suzanne got up from the couch. Charlie now turned
toward her as she rose with the handbag. He was no longer looking at
her. His eyes were focused on his hands as he grabbed her by the
shoulders and violently pushed her up against the piano. Her buttocks
pressed down hard against the white and black keys, producing an
atrocious diminished chord.
"Hey," she shrieked, "what are you -- " Before she
could finish, he yanked at her blouse and ripped it, trying to pull it
off. Incredulous at first, she didn't struggle, hoping he might stop.
But Yukl didn't stop. He kept grabbing for the blouse. She tried to
fight back -- she swung at him with the now-full handbag, but he saw it
coming and put up his left arm to block it. She tried again to use the
This time he grabbed her arm, and held on. He was a
little man, but he was strong. She grabbed for his arm and squeezed it,
hoping to stop any further advances. For the briefest moment there was
silence as they stood in the living room, faced each other, and
arm-wrestled. The nails on his right hand began to dig into her skin.
"Charlie," she cried, trying to push away from him, "you're
hurting me." He just stared back at her, his face contorted in rage. In
the corner of the room, she caught a glimpse of the Great Dane. The dog
was sitting, quietly watching the struggle.
He forcefully pushed her away and onto the couch. "You're
a slob," he repeated and started toward her again.
Yukl was crazy. She had to get away. She was no
longer just nervous. Suzanne was now very frightened.
The situation was not manageable. "We can work on the
songs next week, okay?" she asked, hoping he would give her an opening
to say good-bye and leave quickly. He didn't answer. His eyes were still
glued on her scarf. "Okay?" No answer. "Look, Charlie," she said,
raising her voice for the first time, "this isn't very funny."
Charlie didn't hear a word she said. He turned and
ran toward the closet. He swung open the door, reached inside, and
grabbed a large black necktie. She had run out of time. Suzanne bolted
from the piano and headed for the front door, twelve feet away. She made
it. But then she suddenly stopped. Pausing for no more than a second or
two, she turned and went back to get her red coat. It was a fatal
Charlie had twisted the tie around in his hands.
Before Suzanne could even reach the front door bolt, he came up behind
her. He jumped up, threw the tie over her head and around her neck,
quickly crisscrossed his hands around each end of the tie and pulled
hard in opposite directions. She reached up to grab it but she was too
late. His grip was firm.
She was only inches away from the door. She could
feel her arteries futilely trying to pump blood to her head. She reached
out for the door and managed to grab hold of the lock. But Yukl pulled
As she moved backward, Suzanne took her elbow and
jabbed Yukl in the rib cage, then tried to use the fingers on her left
hand to gouge his eyes. But somehow, Yukl kept his right knee planted
firmly in the small of her back while he pulled on the tie. She couldn't
reach him. He drew her head close to his. "Don't scream," he said
soothingly, "P-p-please don't scream," he stuttered, his voice growing
Suzanne had only one choice. She wrenched around,
moving her full body weight in an attempt to face Yukl. But he held on,
and swung around with her. She tried to push him away. But his grip was
too firm. She gasped and fought for breath.
She spun around once more. This time she managed to
face him. With what little strength was left, she used her right hand
and tried to hit him. He blocked it and landed a right punch in the
middle of her face, drawing blood and breaking her nose. The Great Dane
retreated to the kitchen.
Instinctively Suzanne put her hands up to her face
and looked at her fingers, now dripping with blood. Yukl used the moment
to spin her around and again thrust his knee in her back. Charlie
tightened the silk noose. She gasped again. When she tried to scream,
she couldn't. Suzanne grabbed one last time for the tie, but Charlie's
grip was still too tight. Now Charlie was pulling her into the bedroom,
fifteen feet away.
She tried to pull away. She was taller than he by a
full three inches, but height was no longer a factor. She started to
backpedal as he now pushed her closer to the bathroom. Blood was running
down her face. Suzanne could sense the air leaving her lungs all too
fast. She reached out one last time for him and tried to grab his cheeks,
or his hair, or anything.
Charlie maneuvered around her flailing arms. Her eyes
widened as she looked into his face for the last time. His expression
was rigid, his eyes fixed in position. His forehead was sweating. And
his mouth was wide open. But he wasn't looking at her. He was still
staring at the tie. He pulled the tie again and again and spun her
around. She tried to kick him, but couldn't. He twisted her head
violently. Her hands stabbed the air uselessly as the last of her oxygen
Her knees buckled as she began to collapse. Yukl
twisted the tie once more. But it was no longer necessary. Suzanne was
already falling backwards. He released his grip and watched with a slow
motion fascination as her arms drooped limply, her mouth opened, her
lifeless legs gave way, and the corner of her head hit the rim of the
bathtub with a final, hollow-sounding crack.
The voice lesson was over. Suzanne Reynolds was dead.
The struggle had taken less than two minutes. There
were no screams. There were no witnesses. And there was no apparent
motive other than what seemed to be the obvious: Charles Yukl had
experienced an unstoppable psychotic episode. He had had an irresistible
impulse to kill, and he had succeeded.
Yukl sat in the bathroom for a few moments with the
body. He was sweating, breathing heavily as he inspected the corpse.
Reynolds's eyes were fixed open, staring up at the ceiling. Some blood
had trickled into the bathwater. He leaned over and lifted her head up
by its hair, removed the tie. He rose and, clutching the silk weapon,
walked a few feet back to the small kitchen and opened the old white
refrigerator. Inside was a carton of milk, some eggs, and what was left
of a six pack of Rheingold, his favorite beer. He took out one of the
red and white cans. He drank it quickly. Then he had another.
The beer felt good. It relaxed him. There was silence
now, broken only by a few car horns on Twenty-eighth Street. Even the
dog knew its place at a time like this and stayed in the kitchen.
On top of the earlier vodka, the second beer hit Yukl
hard. He put his left hand down on the sink to steady himself.
His heart was pounding faster now than when he had
killed her. He was excited. His whole body shook with a strange
exhilaration, and he smiled as he felt himself having an erection.
Suzanne Reynolds's blood had already dried on his
brown shoes, but Yukl didn't notice. He went over to the body and
unbuttoned her blouse, already badly torn. He unfastened her
wine-colored wool skirt, and tried to slip it off. It was stuck under
the deadweight of the body. He yanked it harder, and it finally moved
freely. Next he tore at her white lace-fringed half-slip, then her
stockings. He grabbed her head and pulled it up. The blood had dried and
caked on her face, running from her nose to her chin. "You're a goddamn
slob," he repeated. He dropped the head back down.
He was moving faster now. He rolled her over,
unfastening the snaps of her black lace brassiere. Then he removed her
black bikini panties. He rolled the body over again. One hundred and
fifteen dead, very heavy pounds. It wasn't easy.
He dragged her back into the living room. He sat down
on the couch. "Goddamn slob," he mumbled. Then he remembered he had left
the water in the bathtub. He walked quickly back in and pulled the plug
and the now-rose-colored water slowly drained from the tub.
Charlie looked at his watch. It was six o'clock. His
wife would be home soon. He started to leave the bathroom when he
remembered something. He opened the medicine cabinet near the bathroom
door. Sitting on the glass shelf was a Duridium single-edge razor blade.
He put it in his pocket and walked back into the living room.
He opened the apartment door. It was quiet out in the
hall. It was also dark. Yukl had yet to put a new bulb in the vestibule.
Returning to Suzanne's lifeless body, he attempted to lift her, but
struggled unsuccessfully under the weight. So he grabbed Suzanne's arms
and started to pull, moving slowly across the old shag carpet and out
into the hallway. Charlie looked quickly around the deserted stairwell.
It was still very quiet.
He had to move fast now. He pulled the body along the
dirty floor. When he reached the stairs, he turned around and started
backing down as the body took each stair with a thud. First the head
hit, then the shoulders, the back, the legs and the ankles. Once there
had been a cheap linoleum tacked onto the stairs. It had long since been
removed. But the tacks and staples remained, and ripped the skin off as
the body passed over each step. Skin stuck to the staples, and blood
formed a narrow streak that ran down the stairs. In less than a minute
Yukl had reached the second floor. As the manager of the building, Yukl
knew there was a vacant apartment on the floor. Charlie found the door
open and pulled the body inside.
He closed the door. It was dark. It was cold. The
room was empty except for a ceiling light fixture left in a corner.
He sat for a moment on the low bare white-wall
bookshelves and stared again at the body, lying faceup on a decaying
fiber carpet mat. Though the room was dimly lit by the street lamp
outside the window, Charlie went back upstairs and returned with a
He felt safe now. He took off his shirt. Then his
pants and shoes. He got down on his knees and straddled the body. He
rubbed his hands over her cold and flaccid breasts. Then he squeezed
He removed his underpants and rolled the body over.
As with the bloodstains on his shoes, he didn't notice all the blood and
broken skin left by the stairway carpet tacks.
Charlie got on top of the body now and began rocking
back and forth, riding the dead girl. He then slid his body down
Suzanne's back. He placed his lips and mouth all over her, oblivious to
the blood, and worked himself into a sexual frenzy. It was as if an
internal stopwatch was ticking. With a mad precision he beat at the
body, slapping her face, her neck and shoulders. He was breathing
heavily now as he continued his gruesome ritual for another few minutes.
He had an orgasm, and punched the corpse hard in the face when he was
"Goddamn slob." He kept saying it. But Charlie wasn't
finished. His level of excitement had only increased. He got up from the
body and went over to the top of the bookcase, where he had placed his
trousers. He removed the razor from the right pocket, turned the body
over, and started to slash violently with the sharp blade. He cut deep
into the breasts, the forehead, the chin. He couldn't stop. He cut
deeper into the stomach and abdomen, the thighs, the legs, and the
crotch. Then he slashed at her stomach again.
It was 7:30. Charlie dressed, and calmly walked out
into the hall and returned to his apartment. His wife had not yet come
home. He found an old paper grocery bag in the kitchen and retrieved all
of the clothes. He returned the crumpled black tie to a hanger in the
closet. He had another Rheingold and combed the apartment for any
remaining evidence. He then grabbed a leather leash and without further
hesitation took the dog for a long walk down Twenty-eighth Street.
A few doors down he took the clothes out of the
grocery bag and dumped them in an outside trash container. He threw away
the leather handbag on Twenty-ninth Street -- right on the street
itself. He returned to the building as his wife, Enken, arrived. Charlie
calmly and quickly took her to the vacant apartment and showed her the
At 9:45, the cops at the Thirteenth Precinct received
a call that a body had been found at 29 East Twenty-eighth Street. The
caller was a man named Charles Yukl.
Patrolman Charles McMillen took the radio call and
arrived at the apartment shortly after ten. Yukl told McMillen that
Reynolds had been in his apartment for a voice lesson earlier that day.
He explained that at 9:40 he returned from walking his dog, noticed the
apartment door open, entered, found the body, and promptly notified the
McMillen put out an immediate call for assistance.
Detectives were summoned. So was the medical examiner. While photos of
the badly beaten, bruised, and mutilated body were being taken a floor
below, the questioning began.
The detectives talked to Yukl for more than three
hours. His story remained straightforward, consistent. They talked some
more. Intuitively, the cops suspected that Yukl knew much more than he
was volunteering. But they had no hard evidence, no witnesses, no
motive, and nothing more to hold him on than guilt by association.
Shortly after one in the morning, one of the
investigators noticed the unusual bloodstains on Charlie's shoes. At
1:30 in the morning the police asked him to accompany them to the
station house on East Twenty-first Street. He didn't have to go. He
wasn't under arrest. Strangely, he willingly consented.
Once there, the questioning continued. The cops asked
if they could borrow Yukl's shoes. He consented. And the questions
continued until dawn. Still, none of his responses implicated him in the
During the questioning at Yukl's apartment, it hadn't
taken the detectives long to deduce Yukl's involvement in the case. Of
all the tenants in the building, only Charlie knew the woman. He had
found the body. And, in a strange and demented way, he almost seemed to
be welcoming their questions. Still, there wasn't enough to hang him
with the crime. There was only the barest circumstantial evidence, no
motive, and no witness.
And so the questions kept coming. Important
questions, silly questions, questions designed to build rapport, and
questions aimed at antagonizing the man, questions planned to throw him
off balance, to make him slip and reveal a little bit of what really
The first story of the Reynolds murder was out in the
early Tuesday edition of the New York Times while the cops were still
talking to Yukl. It was buried in the back pages of the paper -- a
small, four-inch item slipped in next to the Times's Theater Directory
announcing such shows as Cactus Flower, Cabaret, and Fiddler on the
Roof. Suzanne Reynolds was identified as a singer whose "body was found
by a friend, Charles Yukl." The Times story was already dated by the
time it hit the stands: the police had long since abandoned the thought
of Yukl as anyone's friend.
Dawn failed to stop the endless coffee and
cigarettes, or the questions. It just seemed to light the squad room a
little better. At 6:45 a.m., one of the detectives suddenly noticed
stains on Yukl's trousers. "What's that?" asked the detective. "It's
some soap, I think," Yukl answered. "Do you mind if I look at the stain
closer?" the cop probed. Yukl looked down, and silently dropped his
trousers and handed them to the detective.
It was an ugly sight. Immediately the officers
noticed brown stains on his jockey shorts. When Yukl agreed to remove
them as well, they saw the same stains on his genitals. He was now a
formal suspect. "Mr. Yukl," began one of the detectives, "I want to
advise you of your rights. You have the right to remain silent..."
Yukl chose to talk. He also submitted to having skin
scrapings and samples of pubic hair taken from his legs and genitals.
His trousers were returned and the questioning continued.
Ten blocks away at 520 First Avenue, the body of
Suzanne Reynolds lay on a stainless steel refrigerated tray at the
office of Dr. Milton Helpern, New York City Chief Medical Examiner. It
was recorded as case number 9198, and an appropriately numbered paper
tag was placed on the body's right big toe.
Dr. Elliot Gross began the autopsy. Four other
doctors were present, including Helpern. In New York City, when a white
woman is murdered, one doctor is politically inadequate. The brass
always steps in. Besides, this was a very messy case.
With the other doctors assembled, Gross wasted no
time in looking at what was left of Suzanne Reynolds. Speaking into a
tape recorder, he coolly inventoried the damage he could easily see:
bone fractures, hemorrhages, abrasions, contusions of the face and neck,
face lacerations, and multiple slash and incised wounds. The examination
lasted longer than expected, but that was only because there was
pressure this time to be especially thorough, to look for the true
modality of the victim's demise.
Finally, Gross got to the bottom line. In this case,
as in most others, there was a distinct time progression to the death:
the bone fractures and face lacerations came first, followed by the
contusions of the neck. The specific cause of death: asphyxiation due to
strangulation. Homicidal. The body had also been sodomized.
Not far away, the press was already gathering in the
lobby at the precinct. They weren't particularly concerned with the
results of Dr. Gross's examination. They wanted to see an arrest. The
New York City Police Department is genuinely incapable of keeping a
secret. Not surprisingly, word had gotten out that there was a break in
Upstairs, in the precinct squad room, Yukl had just
ended a coffee break. His story was beginning to weaken, and like many
criminals before him, he was becoming a victim of the clock. He was not
a good liar, and it had become increasingly difficult for him to
remember his lies and maintain his fabrication with each new volley of
police questions. He was tired. Besides, as the late evening turned into
the early morning, he was discovering that it was far easier to remember
At ten a.m., Yukl decided to tell a little of it.
First, he confessed that he had sodomized the body upon finding it. He
told police that he had argued with Reynolds in his apartment and had
chased her downstairs.
Yukl's initial disclosure broke his composure. He
became agitated in his seat. He tapped his foot annoyingly. Suddenly he
started to stutter and motion quickly with his hands. He raised his
voice. Then, just as suddenly, he asked to see his wife.
It was a pattern well known to the police. Often a
suspect will want to confess to his wife or girlfriend before the woman
hears about his crime from a disinterested third party. It's usually the
first real indication of a major confession in the making. Without
hesitating, the police took Yukl outside the room to see his wife.
The next step, if the pattern were to repeat itself,
would be for Yukl to ask to make a formal statement. An hour later,
almost as if the scene had been scripted, Yukl said he wanted to talk. A
second coffee break ended and an assistant district attorney was
summoned to the precinct. His name was John Keenan.
Keenan wasn't just any young assistant. He was the
rising star in the New York County DA's office headed by legendary DA
Frank Hogan. He was the young prince of the homicide bureau and fast
becoming known as the number-one criminal trial attorney in the city. He
got -- or was now routinely given -- both the tough cases and the big
ones. Either way, he was guaranteed maximum exposure.
John Keenan's style was low-key, unemotional. In the
provocative art of adversarial questioning, he was always the gentleman.
He was a clever strategist in the courtroom and a brilliant tactician at
the crucial juncture of any investigation: the interrogation of the
suspect. In his questioning he always appealed to the suspect's inner
need to be respected, his need to be liked, and finally, his insatiable
(and often poorly hidden) desire to be relieved of his terrible burden:
the awful truth.
At 12:40 P.M., Keenan met Yukl for the first time. He
gently readvised Yukl of his rights. And Yukl again waived them. Charlie
began by repeating the story of the chase and the sodomy. But he was
leaving out major details. There was no time frame. Actions were out of
sequence. And important things were clearly out of place.
Keenan let Yukl finish his story. Then, in his
carefully crafted manner, he quietly asked Charlie to tell the truth.
And Yukl broke. "I'd like to make another statement if I could," he
requested. Keenan sat back in his chair and listened.
"Sir," Yukl said unemotionally. "I may have denied a
lot of things until I talked to my wife and Enken told me to tell the
truth. You can't just hide something like this."
Yukl admitted the earlier lies and now gave Keenan
and the detectives a detailed play-by-play of the vicious murder.
The formal questioning ended at 1:06 P.M. It was a
gruesome tale. It was bizarre. But it was now developing into an
airtight, by-the-numbers homicide case.
With Yukl's consent, Keenan dispatched two officers
to drive Enken back to Twenty-eighth Street and retrieve the tie. At
1:45 they returned and Yukl identified it as the weapon of record.
There would be no more coffee breaks. Six minutes
later, three homicide detectives escorted Yukl from the interrogation
room, through a pack of photographers, and up to the desk in the
Thirteenth Precinct. His hands were manacled behind his back. He rested
his chin against his chest as Sergeant Francis McCluskey asked the
routine booking questions.
Minutes later, Yukl was taken in a police van to
criminal court, where Judge Francis K. O'Brien ordered him held without
bail, pending grand jury action. Shortly before three P.M., Charles
William Yukl was officially charged with murder in the first degree. The
date: October 25, 1966.
Copyright © 2001 by Robert K. Tanenbaum and Peter S.
- Robert K. Tanenbaum y Peter Greenberg: The Piano
Teacher. The True Story of a Psychotic Killer (1987).