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East Side Story

Indeed, coming from a Long Island suburb, she adapted quickly to the hipper styles and sensibilities of her Baldwin classmates and to the highly ritualized private-school scene. Friends recall laughing with her last summer at old photographs of her as a student at Port Washington's Weber junior high, with a feathered-back haircut.

"I remember when I met her, she was Little Miss Innocent," Pernice says. "I saw her change, grow up real quick in the city. She wanted to be everyone's friend, and she put herself on their level. She would sound like different people with different friends. She even began to look like them."

But her friends also remember that she could be direct and feisty, and that she would rarely back down. "If she was mad at you," says one, "she would come right up to your face and say, 'This is the deal, and I'm not happy about it.' "

"She used to tell off guys for wising off," says Pernice. "Two nights before she died, she nearly got in a fistfight in Danceteria [a Hamptons nightclub] with some guy she thought had pinched her. We had to have the guy thrown out."

Levin spent the summer of 1985 in the Hamptons working in a boutique. That fall, back for her senior year at Baldwin, she began to drop in regularly at Dorrian's. "She got too into the scene," Pernice says. "I tried to do other things with her. We went to the theater, formals, restaurants. But she always had to go by Dorrian's. That was where our friends were."

Despite her romance with Pernice, she had casual affairs with other boys—perfectly normal by the standards of the scene. "We're like 35-year-old people," explains one of Levin's closest friends. "We act like we were adults. Most of us have credit cards; we all drink; and we fool around, have flings."

Pernice broke up with Levin for a time that winter, and he blames the scene in part for their troubles. "Away from the scene," he says, "she was a totally different person. When she was with me alone, I really felt love."

During the summer of 1985, Chambers worked as a host at the Fulton Café in the South Street Seaport. He spent some weekends in the Hamptons, and dated a tall Chapin senior and model named Kristen Gesswein. Once, he ran into John Tulenko during a reunion with old friends from Saint David's and Browning. "He told me he was getting his act together and trying to get into Columbia," Tulenko says. "But I didn't believe him."

"We're like 35-year-old people," says one young girl. "We act like we were adults."

Indeed, that September, according to a new indictment, Chambers took part in three Upper East Side burglaries with David Fillyaw, who has since been charged with the attempted murder and rape of a Columbia student in her dormitory. Fillyaw, twenty, is said to have belonged to the 84th Street Gang, a group of youths from the Yorkville area who occasionally clashed with students from York and other neighborhood private schools. He and Chambers had been friends for four or five years, the authorities claim, and they used to hang out together in Sheep Meadow. In the burglaries, Chambers allegedly walked into the buildings and then entered the apartments through roof terraces. More than $70,000 in jewelry, silver, furs, and other things was taken, the authorities charge.

Chambers took courses that fall at Hunter College, but he continued to steal and use drugs. One acquaintance remembers, "We went out to dinner at America once, and he pulled out a credit card that wasn't his and said, jokingly, 'Should I use this tonight?' "

Money was disappearing from pocketbooks at Dorrian's and from the apartments of Chambers's friends, and Chambers was the main suspect. That winter, several girls laid a trap for him, and he was caught with someone else's identification in his wallet. Another time, friends found him with a stolen radio.

Yet there were few consequences to the discoveries. Chambers continued to hang out at Dorrian's, and he continued to socialize with the very people he had victimized.

Away from the scene, Chambers demonstrated a far different side. He has a mentally retarded cousin and has always shown a special interest in her; indeed, when she was young, he was sometimes the only one who could communicate with her. He arranged a full scholarship in the Greys for a minority youth and, as with Crespo, was a "big brother" to him for years. His neighbor Eve Murphy, who hired him as a caretaker and housepainter, was impressed by his diligence and honesty. Alone in her apartment, he had access to jewelry, credit cards, and cash, but never took a thing.


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  • Archive: “Features
  • From the Nov 10, 1986 issue of New York
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