Dating game killer photographs
I'll never forget the phone call from my mother, telling me that Ellen had disappeared.It was July 1977—a hot summer day in those pre-Giuliani years of Manhattan's flamboyant filth and chaos—and I was a young single woman in New York, trying to make my way amid the city's grime and crime. That's because when I was 12, my father had cheated on my mother—with Ellen's mom, of all people.Our homes were blocks apart on the quiet streets of Beverly Hills, where homes were draped with bougainvillea vines, and movie stars were our neighbors, picking their newspapers off their dewy lawns just like everyone else.Our fathers were brothers-in-law: mine, a neurosurgeon; hers, the owner of Ciro's, the most glamorous nightclub in town."Nightclub Heiress Goes Missing," blared the New York tabloids through the muggy months during which the Son of Sam killings also took place.Ellen's case became one of the longest unsolved missing-persons cases in the city's history.He was "pressuring her to have lunch with him," as a close friend of hers remembers it. He'd nearly killed that child after striking her with a steel pipe—yet had served only 34 months for the crime before being set free.After that, he was arrested and jailed for giving marijuana to a minor, for which he served two years in prison.
All these things were true, and he most likely told them to her when he approached her with the offer of capturing her loveliness with his camera. She had no idea that this man, who went by the name John Berger, with his rock-star good looks and near-genius IQ, had brutally raped an 8-year-old girl nine years earlier.
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I created a monthly paper-clip-bound magazine named Ellen, a serene, brown-haired girl, had her swarthy father's dark eyes and her showgirl mother's delicate lips, high cheekbones, and long legs. She looked up to me, her cheerfully bossy older cousin; she believed that all I said was so.
Little girls are sweet almost by definition, but Ellen was especially—almost heartbreakingly—sweet. When Ellen was 23, living in New York City after college in the late 1970s, she jotted down a man's name in her date book.
His crime would catch up with him three years later, when the FBI placed him on their most wanted list.