Saturday, June 8, 2024

Who is Daniel Rakowitz?



Tomorrow, we leave for Greece for several months to work on Kaldis adventure #15.  By now you’d think I’d have the transition routine down pat…bills set to be paid automatically by my bank, mail reviewed and forwarded to me as needed by my office, the farm protected by watchful eyes, and my departing MIE blog all set and ready to go.


But then came the unexpected. My longtime high-level-of-service bank fell victim to the financial upheaval of 2023 resulting in it being acquired by America’s largest bank. Merging those two approaches to banking presented a challenging test of cultures, and May kicked off long planned efforts to switch all of the acquired bank’s accounts to their new home.


That’s all well and good, but a daunting task when the transfer includes each client’s lifetime of bill paying records and payee information. By the way, did I mention there was but a narrow one-week window for the old bank’s clients to transfer the information to their new bank or risk losing that information forever?


Let’s just say my past week has been consumed with trying to sort things out before I leave, with fingers firmly crossed in the hope that on my return there will not be sheriff’s deputies lined up seeking to collect on unpaid bills. For my mail and farm preservation, I’ve crossed my toes.


As for my MIE post for this Saturday, it came to me by accident. I was looking up information on Manhattan psychiatric hospitals—just in case this banking mess should drive me nuts–when I came across the following Wikipedia post. It summoned up thoughts of themes found in some of the most influential thrillers of our generation.   Do you see what I see in this Wikipedia entry?


It kicks off with a killer opening line:

Daniel Paul Rakowitz is an American murderer and possible cannibal.

He was born in 1960 in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri where his father was a criminal investigator for the U.S. Army… He moved to New York City around 1985. An eccentric well known to his East Village neighbors as a marijuana dealer and owner of a pet rooster, Rakowitz founded his own religion - the Church of 966.

In 1989, he walked around Tompkins Square Park in the East Village bragging to some of the people he believed were his disciples that he had killed the woman he believed to be his live-in girlfriend. Monika Beerle, actually a roommate of Rakowitz's, was a Swiss student at the Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance, and a dancer at Billy's Topless.

Several of Rakowitz's friends disputed the notion that Monika was his girlfriend. Nevertheless, by his own confession, he dismembered her body in the bathtub, boiled the parts, and served some of her remains in the form of a soup to the homeless in Tompkins Square Park. He said that he had boiled her head and made soup from her brain. He had tasted it, liked it, and thereafter referred to himself as a cannibal.

At least one of the people to whom he had told his tale went to police. Rakowitz was arrested shortly thereafter and led the police to the Port Authority Bus Terminal storage area, where he had stored her skull and teeth.

On February 22, 1991, a New York jury found Rakowitz, then 31 years old, not guilty by reason of insanity for the killing of Monika Beerle on August 19, 1989. In 2004, a jury found Rakowitz no longer dangerous but decided that he is still mentally ill and should remain at the Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Center on New York City's Wards Island.

Just imagine what other blockbuster thriller tales must lie within those Psychiatric Center’s walls.  And while you’re doing that, I’ll be escaping to my Greek islands home…in search of other sorts of cannibalistic stories…perhaps about banks.



  1. I realize on appearance the account of Rakowitz’s crime reads like a “blockbuster thriller tale, and certainly the New York Post treated it as such when the murder happened. But to those of us born in the 60’s, who moved to NYC IN ‘85, who lived also in the East Village next to Tompkins Square Park, who had walked past Billy’s Topless numerous times and remembered that the victim worked there, the reality was more sobering and troubling. I imagine it felt likewise to Monika’s family and Daniel’s family. And equally, in regard to all the other mentally ill patients on Ward’s Island—they aren’t distant stories to marvel over, they are complex, damaged members of the human tribe kept now separate from the rest of us lucky enough to have relatively good mental health. There but for the grace of God go I.

  2. Hi Christy, or should I say "Hi neighbor." I'd been living in the East Village on East 12th Street for approximately a decade before Rakowitz, and spent many a day (and night) in Tompkins Square Park environs--I even part owned a celebrated bar-restaurant on First Street. In fact, my newest Kaldis book AT ANY COST, is set in part on St. Marks Place and in the Tompkins Square Park heart of the East Village, paying homage to what the neighborhood was like in its pre-gentrification days. Yes, I knew the people and place well, and from my days serving as Special Counsel to the New York City Board of Correction investigating suicides in the Manhattan House of Detention, aka the Tombs, I'd say the most frightening thing was how many wandering the streets of the East Village (and other parts of the city) in those days could well share Rakowitz's profile. And let's not forget David Berkowitz--the .44 caliber killer--but that's another story. Until the system changes--something society appears to have little interest in funding--perhaps the only thing that keeps the pressure on for change are the stories of how truly at risk we all are if we continue to ignore the serious mental health issues facing so many of those all about us.