Volume 74, Number 8 | June 23 - 29, 2004

Psychiatrist: Rakowitz ‘excited’ recalling grisly stew

By Tien-Shun Lee

Daniel Rakowitz, a former East Village man who admitted to meticulously cleaning off the bones of his ex-girlfriend after she was killed and chopped up, bragged about his infamous acts while locked inside a maximum-security hospital, a psychiatric expert testified last week.

Rakowitz’s body language while talking about his grisly past showed that he was excited, rather than remorseful about processing the remains of his murdered ex-girlfriend, said Dr. Jason Hershberger, director of psychiatry at Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Center, the maximum-security hospital on Wards Island where Rakowitz is currently living.

“He would smile, he would speak in an excited tone,” said Hershberger. “You would expect an affect of regret, sadness, remorse, guilt, disgust.”

Hershberger’s comments came as he was questioned last Friday in State Supreme Court at 111 Centre St. where Rakowitz is undergoing a sanity trial before Justice Donna Mills in hopes of being moved to a less-secure facility.

Rakowitz, 43, was acquitted of murder by reason of insanity after he confessed to cleaning the bones of his ex-girlfriend, Monika Beerle, in August 1989. Beerle’s flesh was boiled off her bones in Rakowitz’s kitchen, in a pot on top of his stove.

Originally from Texas, Rakowitz was known in the 1980s for walking around the East Village with a chicken under his arm. When Beerle was murdered around Aug. 19, 1989, Rakowitz was living on the second floor of a building on the corner of Ninth St. and Avenue C.

During the trial, Rakowitz has sat in court, not speaking, generally motionless. His dark brown hair is in a long ponytail and he has a goatee. He wears casual, non-prison clothes, favoring button-down patterned shirts. One of the few times he has moved noticeably — he shifted in his seat and tilted his head — was when Hershberger brought in as an exhibit a box of Rakowitz’s confiscated books, including “The Anarchist’s Cookbook” and “How to Pick Locks.” Hershberger took the books from the box one by one and read their titles aloud.

Rakowitz’s lawyer, Donald Graham, said on Monday during a lunch break at court that during Rakowitz’s first trial in 1991, a homeless man testified he found a finger in a soup that Rakowitz served to a group in Tompkins Sq. Park. The finger was thought to belong to Beerle.

Graham said Rakowitz may take the stand this Thursday.

According to both Graham and Assistant District Attorney Gary Galperin, Rakowitz has never admitted to murdering Beerle, a Swiss dancer who is said to have used drugs and to have performed in a former exotic dancing club on Sixth Ave. at 24th St. called Billy’s Topless.

Clayton Patterson, a Lower East Side documentarian who has photographed and filmed the Lower East Side for the past 20 years, said there were other people living in Rakowitz’s apartment at the time of the murder.

“Were there other people involved [in the murder]? Yes,” he said.

Patterson questioned why it took several weeks before police arrested their first suspect for Beerle’s murder. He said Rakowitz lived with roommates, and that a number of people had seen Beerle’s dead body in Rakowitz’s bathtub and Beerle’s chopped-up remains boiling on Rakowitz’s stove before Beerle was officially reported dead, with only bones as her remains.

“People were going to the police. Even the reporter for the Village Voice, Sarah Ferguson, went to the police,” said Patterson. “The newspaper The Spirit had a picture of a wad of hair in [Rakowitz’s] stove. Why is it that you have these people complaining about [Beerle’s dead body] and it takes a month to pick up the first suspect? And why weren’t all the other people brought in and videotaped?”

In court on Monday, A.D.A. Galperin said Rakowitz once told him that he had forged a deal with some “bad elements,” and part of the deal was that he would agree to confess to the murder. During a later account, Rakowitz backed off the “deal” element of his story, Galperin said.

In another account of his story, Rakowitz said he had actively tried to prevent Beerle’s murder, rather than standing by passively.

“I want to know what happened,” said Patterson. “We have a right to know who murdered her and who chopped her up.”

Patterson said he believes Kirby is the right place for Rakowitz. He has visited Rakowitz at Kirby during Christmas season every year for the past 13 years.

“I think Kirby is a very nice place. I think it’s safe, it’s clean, it’s neat,” said Patterson. “[Rakowitz] is not stressed out. He’s well fed. He’s not paranoid.”

In 1995 Rakowitz underwent a sanity trial but jurors didn’t believe he was a changed and sane man as a result of having quit smoking marijuana.

The current trial is the second to determine whether or not Rakowitz is sane enough to be transferred to a less-secure psychiatric hospital, such as Manhattan Psychiatric Center, which is located next to Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Center.

“This is a trial about his current mental condition and whether he is currently dangerous,” said Graham.

Justice Mills recently made headlines herself over a drunken-driving incident in which she was abusive to the arresting officers. But she has been generally quiet on the bench during Rakowitz’s trial.

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