A murder case has many layers: the victim, the crime, and the investigation. To truly understand it, you need to dissect each piece of a tragic puzzle. Join Anna-Sigga Nicolazzi and Scott Weinberger every Wednesday for an insider’s perspective, as they reveal to you the Anatomy of Murder.
Tue, 19 Jul 2022 07:00
Three killings with a mixture of gunshot and stab wounds drive hundreds of detectives to hunt down a serial killer. His home? A creepy abandoned mansion. His trademark? A duffel bag.
If you're looking for a new show unlike anything you've ever heard before, check out audio Chuck's latest series killed. Each episode of killed covers a story that you may have never read because it was killed before it got published. I'm Justine Harman, who some of you may know from my show OC swingers, and I'm here to bring these dead stories back to life binge killed right now to get the full story. Hi everyone, Ashley Flowers here and I have exciting news to share. My debut novel, all good people here is officially out now. Our fans are blowing up our social talking about it. You do not want to be left out and the worst thing that could happen is for someone else to spoil it for you because there are some wild twists in this book. If you love true crime content, mysteries, and a grown up Nancy Drew style detective work then I have a good feeling you won't be able to put this book down. So what are you waiting for? Grab your copy of all good people here. Now, wherever books are sold, how is the perpetrator just fleeing from these scenes? It's like, OK, you can walk into a store and maybe go undetected because you're just walking in as a customer and no one's going to pay attention to you. But now you're shooting somebody. So how is it that the perpetrator is getting in and out of these crime scenes with no one seeing which is disappearing into the night? I'm Scott Weinberger's, investigative journalist and former deputy sheriff. Delizie former New York City homicide prosecutor and host of Investigation Discovery's true conviction. It's anatomy of murder. In most of the homicides we cover here on AOM, there is a common denominator. Investigators are able to uncover a possible mode of to the murder or a reason why the killer decided to take a life. And knowing those critical details can be crucial and ideating a suspect. But then there are those cases that the murder just doesn't make sense whatsoever. For today's case, we spoke with Melissa Carvajal and I have to give a Full disclosure here. She's someone I know very well. I got to know her as a young ADA when she first came to homicide many years ago, and I watched her grow in her skill set, but at the end of the day, she also became a close friend. Honesty is the best. She made me want to continue in my career at the DA's office, who made me want to have her job. And have my job, she did. When I left the Brooklyn DA's office in 2017, Melissa took over not only my office, but my position as well. And that made me happy. Our story begins on July 6th, 2012 at a shop on 5th Ave in the Bay Ridge area of Brooklyn, NY and if you've been to New York, you've probably been by a shop like this. It was a clothing shop. It's the type that has the mannequins in front, maybe dressed in a men's suit with some high end women's high heel shoes. Next door on the floor and across the ceiling is that bold red banner. 50% off in the back is where you often see the store owner, Mohammed Jebelli, attending to a customer. While his television set played in the background. But on that night, after the store had closed, one of Mohammed's friends was walking by and noticed that something was off with the store. And he sees a light on in Jebelli store. And so he thinks it's kind of odd because Mohammed Jebelli shouldn't have been there so late. Concerning, the man enters the store to find his friend Mohammed on the floor, not breathing, with a gunshot wound to his neck. Before we get to the crime scene, let's talk a bit about Muhammad Jebelli. He had owned that store for a long time and he was a fixture in the neighborhood. All the store owners there knew him, just like I'm sure he knew all of them. There was a close knit area. He was a hard working 65 year old man who had come to this country in hopes of living the American dream. He had been in the country for a long time. He had raised his kids here. He was an immigrant from Egypt. He was a successful businessman who was also close with his family, in particular, his son. His family worked with him in the store and he cared for that store and he cared for the family. You know, always, every homicide case you put your head down, you think about the victim and all those that must have been impacted by the crime. But there's always like a an extra something when I hear about someone who came to this country to try to find a better life for themselves, but usually even more for their family. And in the end, they lost their life while they were here. Now it's time for crime scene investigators to get to work and just based on the location of the homicide here we have a store. The first theory would obviously be, was this a robbery gone wrong? Even though the cash register wasn't messed with and it didn't seem that there was, his wallet was still there. We thought it might have just been a robbery that got foiled. Meaning someone went in, attempted to rob him and either he fought back and they got spooked or they heard a car or they heard some type of noise and it spooked them and they ran out. One of the first steps her investigation is going to be to try to find witnesses or any surveillance footage there might be of the killer. But remember, this is Brooklyn. It's not a quiet residential area with just a couple passing cars or people. This is a busy commercial area. So to narrow down The Who, they needed to focus on the when. When was Mohammed Jebelli gunned down? Investigators did begin to develop the beginnings of a timeline. They knew from looking at phone records that Mohammed had spoken to his son. At 6:15 PM. And he had a register receipt around the same time. So we knew he had some type of customer and that was the last time that anybody heard or saw Mr Jebelli again. So even though his friend found him at closer to 11:00 o'clock, you know, he could have been killed anywhere between around 6:15 at night to 11:00 o'clock. There were absolutely no witnesses, so no one knows the exact time of the crime. Nobody heard a gunshot. Nobody saw someone walking in and out of the store. So next they're going to look for a different type of eyes to look and see if there's any video surveillance, any video evidence of the crime anywhere nearby but here that ended up being strike two. You know, we also know that in the beginning of the investigation, several threads or theories emerge, but police began to question if the killer targeted Mohammed because of who he was. Mr Jebelli had the tenant upstairs from his store and there was a a maza that belonged to the neighbor upstairs, but it was the same entryway into Mr Jebelli store. So initially we were thinking, oh, maybe this is some type of hate crime that the perpetrator thought that Mr Jebelli was Jewish. And that is something that of course we're always looking at and especially at a time within these years we have seen opticks, unfortunately at different type of bias crimes. That's always something. But police and investigators will be particularly careful to watch, because if it happens once, it just might happen again. But my question would be, were there other indicators that point in that direction? Any threats, any incidents with customers that may be another customer may have witnessed many thing that may have been said to the owner based on his ethnicity. I mean I would really want to dig into that before I'm really ready to put my finger on that being a biased based crime. Be the big question that Melissa was going to be tasked with. So at that time I was a Deputy Bureau chief in the Homicide Bureau, and every murder that happened in Brooklyn I was in some way informed of. So investigators are left with no witnesses, no cameras, really no leads. But the heat was on to get answers for this family, but also for the community at large. But things were about to get much hotter. That was soon going to turn all this into a code red. Months later, on August 2nd, police respond to another homicide at another store and the similarities between the two cases come into focus. So then on August 2nd, Isaac Kadari is in his $0.99 store. He was 59 years old again, a family man, his wife and his four children all worked at the store with him. And on that day, he was found shot and killed in his $0.99 store. He's also shot with the 22. There's no surveillance cameras, there's no eyewitnesses. There's no what we call ear witnesses that even heard a gunshot. But there was something different about this murder from the murder of Mohammed Jebelli. There's bleach poured all over him, and he's covered with some other cardboard boxes on top of him. Talked about a body being covered after a homicide and why that could be significant when the body's covered. We both seen it as a telltale sign that the killer knew the victim and had at least some level of guilt. But it's also often a sign of this, of a rudimentary, simplistic attempt to try to hide the body. None that is ever going to last very long, but just in that panic moment that they almost like here, throw something on top of someone hoping that they won't be as noticeable. At least not as quickly. When you went to the $0.99 store, the entire front was glass. So it appeared to me and I think it also appeared to the NYPD investigators, that the reason that Mr Kudari's body was covered was that so if you were just passing by the store, you would just see like a pile of boxes inside of the aisle. You wouldn't be able to seem to kadaris body underneath them. You may be asking, So what about the bleach in this case? What I believed is that they were in close contact and that the perpetrator. Most likely got blood on his shoes and he most likely used the bleach which was right there in the aisle on the bottom shelf. So out of convenience to try and get any type of blood off of issues, he probably used it in order to clean his shoes. So the police are going to have to go back in time to earlier and Isaac Adari's day to figure out what exactly it is that they believed happened to see if they can start to put the pieces together to figure out the what and most importantly right now, The Who. In this fresh homicide, investigators sit down with members of Isaac's family to develop that timeline. They learned that the victim was at the store with his wife and two of his four children and his wife and his two children left to go home just before closing. To make dinner. When Isaac didn't come home to eat, they were immediately concerned and tried to call him, but there was no answer and so they immediately knew something was wrong and you could tell this by their phone records that we got later. As soon as he doesn't come home for dinner, they're calling him and trying to find out why he's delayed. So his time of death is a lot closer to when his family last saw him. I think we had only like an hour difference between when they left him to go home and make dinner and when he was supposed to arrive. It was about an hour later that Isaac's body was found. There was a man and woman that happened to be walking by, and when they saw him, they placed a call to police. And it was soon after that that his family, the same ones that had been working at the store with him only earlier to go back and make dinner, came back looking for him. And that's when they walked into not only what happened, but an actual bloody scene. Like the murder of Mohammed Sabelli, which was in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. This was in Bensonhurst. And here's something about those two neighborhoods. There are a lot of similarities, and people that live there might say no, no, my neighbor is very different, but certainly on their face or somewhere. But more importantly, they are close to one another within Brooklyn. But then you start to wonder, OK, similar neighborhoods, nearby shopkeepers. The method of killing both victims were, as you said, Middle Eastern descent. Tech. Both were shot. Mohammed was stabbed. Isaac's throat was slit. I'd say that's a check too. Police had found shell casings from a 22 caliber weapon at both crime scenes. Those shell casings were sent off to Ballistics protesting, and yes, it came back to a match. These two homicides are connected by the same weapon. The question starts to become, is this the work of a serial killer? So at that point when the murder weapon was the same, we're thinking we have a serial killer on our hands. And the thing with serial killings is that first of all, it has to be 3. But there is this period of time, it's often called this cooling off. While they're both shot. But now there is the one that has their throats slit. So is it the same person that is kind of upping what they're doing as they're getting more confident? When you have a serial killer, you're always nervous when is the next time he's going to strike. However, if there's going to be 3, it had to start to two, and the police don't want to give whoever did this, the person or people, the opportunity to strike. Again, police do decide to reach out to the media to alert the public that there may be danger from a potential serial killer. Tensions were high, especially in the immigrant community here in Brooklyn. So you had a lot more anxiety because now you feel that there's going to be more. There's a pattern here. If we're staying with the theory of a potential serial killer, there are case studies which point towards killers using a common reason or connection to the victims. And as an example, color of a victim's hair. As in the son of Sam murders, almost all of David Berkowitz's victims were women with brunette hair, and most of them had a length which was considered to be long. Now, you may know I sat down for a rare interview with Berkowitz in prison several years ago. In fact, I'll post a picture of my. Instagram at Weinberger Media, to give you a look of that interview, back to our Brooklyn homicides, how a serial killer may be driven by some commonalities. Investigators in these murders were looking at one more fact. On the night of each of the killings. The moon was at Half Moon phase. And that literally meant that people said, well, OK, you could only see half of the moon on both these nights. So was there something about that was making this killer strike? You know, here's the thing about serial killers and serial murders in particular. Fortunately, they account for less than 1% of all murders in a given year. But you're always looking at motive, because if it is someone who is committing these multiple homicides with ammo or modus operandi, there's going to be something that connects them to the person that's committing it. And so the motives for serial killers are usually sexually based is going to be anger, thrill, financial gain, or they're an attention seeker. So here the police, they don't have a lot to go on, but if they can't decipher the motive, it might put them on the track to try to figure out who is responsible. Mr Gabelli and Mr Kadari. Were they related in some way? It was there any people in their lives that they would have both crossed paths with? You know, they're both business owners. So do they have the same electrician? Do they have the same plumber? Do they have the same person that's doing their payroll? Like, is there any person that is consistent between the two? Over the next few months, investigators continue to knock on doors and hope Press attention would bring new leads. It's quiet in September, it's quiet in October. And then on November 16th, he struck again. Let's turn to somebody else. Rahmatullah Vapora was a 78 year old shop owner in Flatbush, Brooklyn. He owned a clothing store. He's been working in the same store for, like over 50 years. He's from Nassau County. He's again married. He has children. He has grandchildren. This is a man who had his schedule down Pat. Seven days a week, he would take the train from Nassau County to Flatbush to work at his store, and every night his daughter would pick him up from the same train station at the same time. And that was his routine for 50 years. But on November 16th he was nowhere to be found. In the days leading up to November 16th, New York City had a big snowstorm. Plows had cleared the roads and the train stations, pushing the snow into mounds. And so that night, like every other night, she goes to pick up her dad from the Long Island Railroad. And so when her dad didn't get off the train and meet her at the exact same spot that he met her at, you know, countless times before she started circling the block. And she wondered. Perhaps he fell trying to walk around that snow. Or was he even confused about where to meet her? So she started to think, Oh my God, you know, what if my dad had a heart attack or something, you know, physically went wrong with him and he fell and now he's like in a mound of snow, you know? So she started driving really slow past all the snow banks, and she's not able to see them because it's dark out. So she's circling, circling and to the point where as soon as she gets home and she can't find her dad, she's already hysterical. And she calls the police. Once the Nassau County police officers are beginning to do the missing persons report, obviously there's things that they're going to check. They're going to check potentially where the victim works and what transportation the victim was on. And could he have been injured on the way to or from work. And remember that the store wasn't Nassau County, it was in Brooklyn, which is part of New York City. So it's NYPD detectives that are actually checking the store and ultimately related to what was found to his daughter. But I'll always remember, the detective told me that when he pulled it to the house, he was shocked because there was a cop car there. When the detectives from the NYPD asked, like, why are you there? He was like, you know, the daughter goes to pick him up and he hasn't come home and he's 78. You know, there's a chance that he's just wandering around aimlessly and it's freezing out. And obviously the detectives have to tell both the police officer and then the family that he was murdered at 78 years old in his store. Three store owners shot and killed three families, mourning the loss of the head of their households. All left for work every day. Their family likely had concerns, but not this. And moving to the crime scene for a moment. Rahmatullah's death is a little different than the other murders. First of all, he shot three times and then it looks like he's either hit or punched in the face. Or maybe he had suffered that injury when he had fallen to the floor. But also, the area of the murder is a little bit different. On Flatbush Ave, which is a heavily trafficked area in Brooklyn, I look at it as one of the main commercial arteries that runs through Brooklyn. So now your third victim, Rahmatullah vapor, is killed in a more public area. There is no mass transportation there. There is an Uber stand that's there. There's people that are always walking up and down Flatbush Ave. So besides the fact that you now have three innocent men that are killed, you're now really on edge because you're like, the killer is getting more brazen because now he's going from these more quiet communities to a more public area and now you're thinking, OK, what? What's going to happen next? Because it's going to happen next. The most significant difference in these cases may in fact lead to the biggest break in this case. This busy area has surveillance cameras. Each and every camera, each frame of videotape would be collected, scrubbed by investigators, and it was a completely arduous process. But you know, things are a blessing and a curse because now you have hundreds of hours of video surveillance to go through. So while people are used to hearing that a task force was formed, in this case it was over 100 detectives big, and there was many other people working in between. So all these detectives, investigators, foot patrol officers, they are canvassing the area, trying to retrieve any and all video footage that there might be, from video surveillance going to every cab stand, going to all the Uber stands, going to like the MTA to see if buses were passing. And there's video surveillance on the buses. You are expanding, you know, much more you're going. You know, 10 blocks of the left, ten blocks of the right, ten blocks N, 10 blocks S to try and find out, how is the perpetrator just fleeing from these scenes? Is he jumping on a subway? Is he, does he coming in a vehicle? Is he taking a cab? It's like, OK, you can walk into a store and maybe go undetected because you're just walking in as a customer and no one's going to pay attention to you. But now you're shooting somebody, so there's a gunshot, which people should hear, and most people run away from a crime scene. So how is it that this, the perpetrator is getting in and out of these crime scenes? With no one seeing him, which is disappearing into the night. You know, if it was just a few tapes, Fantasia, it probably would just be case investigators. But when it's hours upon hours, it is all hands on deck. You know one of these, you take these boxes, I'll take those. You know, with the newer systems, it's a bit easier now because most of them work off of motion triggers, but the old systems had to go through every inch of tape. And that is an arduous process. And having sat through gosh countless hours myself and seen so many detectives do so much more. Just body after body of law enforcement sitting next to one another, just going through hours and hours of tape just looking for something. This isn't looking for a needle in a haystack. This is looking through a haystack for something you don't know what it is. There's no eyewitnesses, there's no description. Police are looking for anything quote UN quote suspicious. But that could be so many things. You're just watching people walk from left to right, left to right, left or right. Unless somebody is like sprinting away, running, you know your eye has to catch something that just looks suspicious. And, you know, hundreds of detectives were doing that for hundreds of hours. Then two images catch their attention. Could this be the break they were waiting for? So there actually was two people that were running away and that they took off their jackets and they threw them into the garbage can. Unfortunately, the two people that were spotted were running away from a different crime. They actually did steal something and they were running away and tossing their jackets, but it had nothing to do with Mr Vapores crime scene. I could just imagine the deflating feeling that brought but all of the patients, all of that grunt work would end up paying big dividends. Active, who was like, oh, this is interesting, there's a man and he's carrying a duffel bag. A duffel bag? That's pretty significant if you're thinking about potentially evidence of a robbery, things you could have put in there, changing your clothes, or how about maybe a weapon? That kind of clicked in his head like, ah, maybe that's how someone is getting the gun in and out of these crime scenes, going undetected because based on the Ballistics, we knew that it was a rifle. No one's walking through the street just like holding a rifle up, you know, like they're in the military. So he saw this person with a duffel bag, you know, light bulb went off like, oh, this is how he's getting this rifle in and out of these stores. He's carrying this large bag. Guy who is acting, as we call, hinky. At that very moment, my eyes are on him. So you could tell it was a white male, you could tell he had a mustache, you could tell he had on like a long trench coat. They see this person that captures their attention and he's going from store to store. And at one point they see him with the duffel bag, but then from another video surveillance, he stops. And he starts like scraping something off of the bottom of sneaker. Like those light posts that are on those cement blocks, that's what he kind of uses to get his foot up. But then all of a sudden it looks like he's scraping something off the bottom of his shoe. You know, you don't know if it's from an animal or a piece of gum or in this case, something much more sinister. But what was odd is that he had this duffel bag. He was coming from the vicinity of the vapor murder. And you think to yourself, did he have blood on his shoe? Is that what he's wiping off? You know when you picture a bad guy in a movie and here's this guy sulking on a street with a black trench coat and a black duffel bag, walking sort of slowly? He's not running away. He's not fleeing. He's just walking methodically down the street and trying to discard something from the bottom of his feet. And then they went back and they pulled, you know, video surveillance from, again, a wider range from the Isaac Kadari murder. And lo and behold, we see a figure and you can tell he's holding a bag. And so putting those two pieces together, we're like, we have our guy. But also a very important fact is there is a timestamp of when that specific camera caught that image. And obviously the best way to build your movements is to sync potentially other cameras in the area. Could they get a better look at their target? Perhaps a useful enough look to ID him? So they immediately went to the press and they put his picture out and what they did was they put out a bunch of pictures. And only in New York Fashion, right? They come up with a really great media name for this guy. They called him John Doe dufflebag. Soon after this media blitz police received several tips about JD Duffel bag and they came up with a name, Sal Peron. So the question is, who is Sal Peron and where can police find him? So we do some checks and we see that there is a Sal Perrone that lives in Staten Island. So Saffron was of Italian descent. He had been married, he had a very tumultuous relationship with his wife, and he had one daughter who he seemed to be estranged from. He had formerly been a successful women's clothing salesman, but his business was taking a hit and he now has no money left. He had a prior DWI, so he does have a mug shot, and when they compare his mug shot with the image and the video, they confirm it is. The same man. How to solve her own know these three men that during the investigation we couldn't tie together at all. So now you have to remember, the only evidence that we have at this point is we do know that the murder weapon is the same, but we don't have the murder weapon and we don't have any eyewitnesses. We don't have any ear witnesses. We just have this man with a duffel bag leaving the vicinity of the third crime scene. It's not like we see him walking out of that of course door. We don't have anything to go on at that .1 of the things that's odd is that he's from Staten Island and he's killing people. Brooklyn. And here's the thing. Even if they have probable cause to arrest, they certainly have the right to detain. Then it's this race to get it in front of the grand jury. Do they have enough evidence? We had no forensics at the crime scene other than that piece of Ballistics. We didn't have a fingerprint that we could go on. We didn't have any DNA that was gonna be conclusive. Like, ohh, this is our killer. So once we scoop up parone, what are we presenting to a grand jury other than our theory that we think there's a rifle in a duffel bag of a man that's walking calmly down the street and then wipes his foot off on a cement pole? Police decide to drive out to Staten Island to do a surveillance on Sal Peroni's home, and when they pull up, a lot of big red flags were popping up. He lives in probably the creepiest house in Staten Island. The mansion is in complete disarray. It looks like he started about 150 home improvement projects and never finished them. You know, look at your photos and look like the house on Haunted Hill for me. So when you actually look at this house on a hill, it has no doors, it's all plywood. And he was actually going through the basement because the door was plywood up. They can almost just picture the tension in the air as they walked up to. Just wonder if would he be inside and what else they might find. But it's Sal Peroni's home when officers peek through the windows they see inside and it looks completely gutted. But what? Police also obviously noticed that Sal was nowhere to be found. Police then would turn to digital forensics to try to tie Sal Parone and these three murders, we do searches to just find out his cell phone to see if maybe we could get cell phone records that would put him at the crime scenes. And they did find 1 number in particular that Sal called a lot. We find out that he also has a girlfriend, Natasha, who lives in Brooklyn. You know, Scott, I think this is really interesting and maybe you can talk a bit to this is that, you know, you really have to strategize. Are they just going to tell her, hey, we suspect that he's a serial killer? What can you tell us? Or are they going to play it closer to the vest and just make up, as we've heard in other cases, some kind of nonsense scenario just to get her talking and try to a little more, in a clandestine fashion, get the information they're hoping to find? I think it's about reading the room in a sense, right? Reading how Natasha is acting and how she's speaking in a sense, because ultimately, if you start taking a harder line. Of questioning she major shutdown investigators went to Natasha's apartment and she just might be the key to connecting Sal Peron to the murders and so just picture what they must have been wondering what they were going to find. After they knocked on her door, they found someone who was very welcoming. Natasha let them right in and it was clear to investigators that she was unaware that her boyfriend may be the target of a serial killer investigation. So when Natasha let the police into the apartment, he had a closet there that he kept closing. And there was shoes that matched or looked like the shoes that we saw in the video surveillance. And there was a coat that looked like the coat that we saw in the video surveillance that this individual was wearing. So that was interesting. You couldn't prove that it was the exact code or the exact shoes because it wasn't anything so defining about them. But there was still going to be more in that apartment for police to find. She had said to the police, oh, he keeps some of his stuff over here, and there was like a couple of plastic bags. And then this black duffel bag. Just like one of those moments where you're like, Oh my God, this is the duffel bag that we've seen him carry in the video surveillance. So is this the bag they're looking for? You've got a bag in front of you. It's closed. You have to take one more step to determine that answer. There is nothing exciting and thrilling about waiting for a search warrant. It takes hours to get it done. You could watch paint dry. It would be more interesting sometimes. So they're sitting and they're waiting and thinking that inside this bag just might be the murder weapon that is responsible for not one, but two, but three homicides. And it's not just them. They're in someone's apartment. Natasha is there with them too. Natasha was like, open the bag. I wanna see what's in there. I wanna see what's in there. And they were like, yeah, we have to wait for a warrant. She was like, it's my house. He's keeping it in my house. I wanna see what's in there. And so she was, like, very annoyed he was keeping the bag in the house. Police were obviously safeguarding the bag there. On the other side of town. Melissa is anxiously awaiting also to find out what was in that bag because she knew they made a discovery and she was involved in the process, hoping they would find the murder weapon that would make it possible to charge Sal Pirone. Of these three unprovoked, brutal murders, we went to court like 11:00 PM at night, and we didn't get the warrant signs because Brooklyn is busy until, you know, after midnight. And there were still police in her house that moment when, you know, you gave the detectives that weren't. And they opened it up and it was like, Yep, there's sort of rifle in here. They opened the bag and inside a 22 caliber long rifle with a small flashlight taped to the barrel. The stock of the rifle had been cut to fit the bag. There was a 22 caliber gun check. There was fingerprints. They came back to Peron's check and DNA on the weapon and the tests would confirm. That Sal Peroni's DNA was found on that very same weapon. 3 homicides, 1 weapon checkmate. It is such the moment of we are right. We may not have them yet, but now we have the evidence to hold them once we get them. I mean, I'm waiting for that law and order music to come in when they find the bag. Yeah. I mean, clearly there's the same moment. Arrested, charged, and now he's heading for trial. And Melissa has lots of different pieces of evidence, but the big two that she's going to walk into that courtroom with are obviously the murder weapon. But she also has a Natasha. I felt like Natasha was a very important witness because she kind of explained to the jury who sell Peron was otherwise the case would have been heavily forensic evidence. She knew about who he was before, she knows who he is now, she knows about his day-to-day, and she can also identify these items. She knows who owned that duffel bag, she knows who placed that duffel bag with her home, and also the jacket and other clothing. So she is connecting directly with the murder weapon and the contents and what Sal Peron was wearing on the night of at least one of those homicides to sell parone directly. You know, I do think it's fair to ask this question. Brooklyn's a very small community. His picture was on the front page of every newspaper in New York City. How would she not know that? How would she not recognize her own boyfriend in that media blitz? So I think. It's interesting to think that maybe she was protecting herself and not wanting to be implicated as an accessory to this situation by maybe collecting these things and leaving his things in the house. How difficult that isika is that when judging the viability in a sense of your prosecution witness, maybe even your star witness, and that connection of could she have known prior? And I think that's a really fair good point to make and one that the defense is certainly, I would expect, likely to try to bring out. But here's the thing, you know, first of all, it's not a crime to not report something, even if she had acknowledged it is a crime if she is helping him in any way to try to secrete anything. But by all accounts, as investigators and Melissa looked into it, they never had that. And, you know, there are people that don't watch the news and don't read the papers and I have to raise my hand quietly here and sometimes. And on one of those on a given week to just be a little out of the loop with too many other things going on. But again it is the type of thing that I think her presentation on that stand, her credibility as you question, you know as a defense attorney rightly woods Scott is going to be the exact thing that's going to make all the difference here. During her cooperation, she was able to paint a picture of who Sal was prior to these homicides. So you have this guy with this big house and this family, you know, he's married and he had a daughter. He had a successful business. He had a lot of money when he first met Natasha, money that he freely wanted to show that he was always walking around with, as she said, like a wad full of cash. I remember she always said, like when I first started dating him, he had a lot of money and he always had $100 bills. And then as we were dating, it became like once and singles. Saul seemed to be in a downward spiral and began blaming those who had a better life than he did, those who had close relationships with their families and their kids, things that he himself did not have. He had lost his family. His home was in disrepair, and now he makes no money. And he was like going door to door, like trying to sell like spools of thread at some point to some of these shop owners that we spoke to. And yet this big house that he boasted about, it was in such disrepair. It was like he started all these projects and then he couldn't finish the siding, he couldn't finish the electricity, couldn't finish the landscaping, you know? Now his he's estranged from his wife and his daughter. And now he had kind of become this crazy neighborhood story about crazy Sal, who lives in the creepy. House. Natasha was giving great insight to investigators and to Melissa to prepare for trial, but here's something to know about Melissa herself. She wanted to be a prosecutor from the time she was very young. You know, I'm of the law and order generation. You know, Sam Waterstone and I just felt like he had such an important job. He had an important job for the family members of the victims. You know, I've been fortunate enough to spend some time with Melissa a few months ago when all three of us got together. As you know, Anna Sigga and I was thoroughly impressed with her about her passion, like we have for cases and passion for victims and as they continue to investigate and prepare this mammoth of a case for trial. Melissa learned that Sal did actually have a connection to at least some of his victims. In 2007, he registered a trademark of a line of clothing under his own name. But that never happened. And each week he would visit shops, several in Brooklyn, filled by several generations of family members who had immigrated to the US. Many were successful and many were turned down Peroni's requests to buy from him. You know, Mohammed Ali's son was always in the store. He had known and seen Sal Barone. Isaac Kadari worked in the store with his kids, his wife. They had been there every day. So if Sal. Came to see him prior to committing the murder, he would have seen Isaac working with his wife and his kids. Ran a total of out of four had worked in his store for, I mean, decades. And there was still one other thing that puzzled detectives as well as Melissa. On the night of November 16th, which was the same night Sal Peron allegedly shot Rahmatullah, Sal and Natasha had gone out dancing. We had a video surveillance of him walking in and out of the Knights of Columbus, just happy as can be. So that's not in any way necessarily an alibi, right? Because he clearly could have done the murder before, but it is so hard to wrap your head around how an individual is able to soak, compartmentalize. They just committed this brutal cold blooded crime and then just go out like nothing happened and go dancing. So every good prosecutor Hennessy goes, you know? Going into court is always anticipating what is the defense thinking. And of course, as you always say, the defense don't have to put on a case, but in a sense, you have to anticipate what they may be thinking and just based on what we're talking about, Sal Parone state of mind. So you'd have to imagine a mental health question would come up and evaluation in a sense, to see whether he was insane when he committed these three murders. So obviously if somebody that's committing these murders and they're heinous and there seems to be like no good reason and not that there's good reasons for murdering people, but usually some people have reasons, even if they're bad reasons, this seemed to be like there was no reason. So you have to think to yourself, is this person insane? And if they're insane, then you have a completely different trajectory of how your child is going to go. There's competency, you know, is he even fit to stand trial? Is his mental makeup at the time he's arrested and goes to trial, is he able to assist in his own defense? And that's a question that has to be grappled with first. I think right from the onset, Judge Maris was like, well, something has to be wrong with this guy, right? That's just even what, like the normal person the layperson's thinking like, who does this? So he was what's called 730, which is the statute where, you know, there's a mental health assessment done and someone is found whether or not they're competent to stand trial. She believed he was going to be found competent first. He would be in court and he was participating in the proceedings. And that is something that. The doctors that will be examining him are going to look for and that the judge is going to be looked for. He was offering up different alibis, which means he's thinking defense. And, you know, doctors are going to examine him, see if he's able to understand what's going on around him. And then also, even in talking to him about these crimes, does he know what's happening? And all the answers to that ultimately were yes, and that would now get them into the courtroom for a trial? That would be a big victory for Melissa in this case. But it wasn't the end of the mountains she needed to climb. Melissa was going to face another big challenge. South Korean wanted to represent himself. What does that old adage like anybody that represents themselves has like a fool for a client? And that's true. You know, I've had defendants that have represented themselves in various hearings. I don't think I've had them that ultimately went the whole way through to trial. They always change gears at some point. But here's what's so challenging about it is that as the prosecutor, you almost have to take on the role of both prosecutor and Defense attorney because the jury is going to be so much for watchful for the defendant making sure that. They think they are being treated fairly, even though they are being given everything that's necessary. Almost. You need to bend over backwards to make sure they have what they ask for, not once too, but three times to make sure there's never going to be that question in the jury's minds. What's the sense of going through like a four month trial and a three-year investigation calling 60 something witnesses and then you get a conviction. And then a year later appellate court is going to say this guy didn't get a fair trial because his attorney didn't do enough forum or he didn't know what he was doing. And so you have to do so much extra work. Like I remember every single day having a list of witnesses and I would make extra copies of all the DB fives that were relevant for that witness and I would hand them to the defense counsel. So he couldn't say like, oh, I had no idea this witness was being. Older, I couldn't find the paperwork I had to call the prison and I had to make sure he got extra time the law library and I had to make sure every DVD worked so he could watch all the video surveillance that I was able to watch. I couldn't just say, oh, there's nothing relevant on that video surveillance because maybe it would have been relevant to him. And in the end, doing all of that, he came to me with like a legal sized page written of alibi witnesses that said like John Doe at Pizza Place, Jane Doe at you know, Yarn store. You had to make sure every step of the way that. His rights were protected, which for a prosecutor, it's so much extra work. All you want is there to be a competent defense counsel there to do that work, because now you're taking on the work of ensuring the trial is fair on both sides. As soon as the trial began, it was very clear to the jury that Sal was erratic. He had multiple outbursts in the courtroom, and he also was making some pretty wild claims. As soon as the jurors came in, he had an album. So I think that they saw what we were dealing with and I wasn't nervous about. You know, there was nothing that he was going to be able to say that was gonna undo the evidence in the case. But you just had to, like, curtail it because you didn't want the jurors to say, oh, you know, something is wrong with him. Like they shouldn't be going after him when he clearly has some type of mental incompetence. Sal's erratic behavior continued. When he actually took the stand, there was confusing rants and saying so many crazy theories. He had the I have an alibi. I wasn't there. Then he had the the police framed me, kind of. They didn't do their job. And that all started with the signing of the search warrant that he just focused in on. And then there had been a sketch done of somebody that was a person of interest that he tried to say, well, that must have been the person that did it. And, you know, that's what you jurors should be focused on. Melissa decided to take a line of action here, and her best course of action was to take no action. I knew as soon as he took the stand I was not going to question him. He was going to say whatever he had to say. He could have said anybody did it. He could have blamed it on the president. He could blame it on his cat. I was not going to ask him any question because I didn't want the jurors for one second to believe that I thought anything he was saying was credible. And I thought that was so interesting and I've never taken that tact. And I sat back because once I thought about and I don't think I would have taken the same tact. I would have had at least a few questions to point out how ridiculous what he was saying was to the jury. I think hers was really smart and clearly very powerful for the jury. I thought it was really ingenious in a sense, because I think the jury had recognized that the things that Sal Peron were saying did not make sense, so why give it? Anymore legs the trial itself dragged on for multiple months. It was exhausting because, you know, you're really like working two jobs. You're in court all day, and then you come back to your office and you have to work a second job of preparing for court the next day. Here she was trying 3 cases together at the same time and it is just, it's not even just physically exhausting. It's mentally exhausting because again, she is doing it to hopefully achieve justice for accountability. But she has three families looking at her everyday and she knows this is the only shot to get them what they need in the court and that is accountability for the person who took so much from each one of them. I had charged him with three counts of murder. A second degree which would be for each of the individual victims, and they found him guilty on all three counts of murder. In the second degree, Sal Parone was sentenced to 75 years to life. And asking Melissa about why she wanted to become a prosecutor, she said that it was so she could give a voice to the victims, and in this case, that's exactly what she did. I wanted to be a homicide prosecutor, to be there for someone who could no longer, you know, fight for themselves, that to get justice for someone who was taken away violently and tragically. And then there was, you know, a mess left behind. So to me, I always felt like being a homicide prosecutor, I was able to give some Peace of Mind that at least there was a little bit of justice that was done. You know, in thinking about this case, there's the obvious. It is three men who were fathers and grandfathers. You had Mohammed Cabela's son who just had rage as he spoke at the sentencing about how could this man have done this and taken his father from him. You had Isaac Kadari's young children who missed their father and never got to grow up with him and just missed so much over those years. You had Rahmatullah vapor, who was almost 80 and been married for 60 plus years, and his wife and his daughter were left with such a hole that, in Melissa's words, the daughter was just and remains shattered. You know, just all these families robbed of these moments. 3 hard working families who found a way to thrive, lives taken by a man who was failing by no fault except his own. TuneIn next week for another new episode of Anatomy of Murder. Anatomy of Murder is an audio Chuck original produced and created by Weinberger Media and for SETI Media. Ashley Flowers and submit David are executive producers. This episode was produced by Phil Jean Grande. So what do you think, Chuck, do you approve?