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Sunday, October 8, 2000

10/08/00 Police probe role of drugs in Margolies murder

By J.A. Johnson Jr. - Greenwich Time

Investigators of a long unsolved Greenwich murder are examining the role drugs may have played in the killing of 13-year-old Matthew Margolies in 1984.

The detectives who began a re-investigation of the case earlier this year are looking into information that one of the suspects may have been under the influence of a hallucinogen on the afternoon of Aug. 31, 1984, the day Margolies was tortured and brutally murdered in the woods about a mile from his Pilgrim Drive home.

Police last month revealed detectives were tracking down new leads that could help them to pin down the whereabouts of one or more suspects the day of the crime, but they would not elaborate. Greenwich Time has learned that some of those leads involved information that a suspect may have ingested multiple doses of mescaline the day Matthew was slain.

Deputy Chief James Walters, commanding officer of the Greenwich Police Department's Criminal Investigations Division, refused comment when asked about the role drugs may have played in the murder. However, he did say that investigators suspect the crime may not have been premeditated.

"There is the possibility that the initial intent of the perpetrator was not murder, but it got to that stage as things spiraled out of control," Walters said this week.

One premeditation theory is that the murder may have been sexually motivated, possibly committed by a pedophile who knew Matthew and targeted him. Although there was no evidence of a sexual assault, that Matthew had been stripped to his under shorts and died from an "overkill" of multiple stab wounds and asphyxiation were among the reasons investigators had considered an FBI profiler's theory that the crime was sexual in nature.

Police Chief Peter Robbins seemed to discount that theory last month, when he said a sexually motivated murderer would likely feel compelled to kill again, but that "no similar crimes have been committed anywhere else" before or after the Margolies murder.

Another theory investigators explored is that the murder was not premeditated, but began as a confrontation that rapidly escalated because the assailant was both angry at the victim and under the influence of drugs.

In addition to being stabbed over a dozen times, mostly in the upper torso but also in the neck, Matthew had dirt and a stick forced down his throat while still alive. He was strangled with his own T-shirt and one of his socks was used to gag his mouth.

The teenager's body was concealed beneath a pile of rocks, tree branches and leaves on a wooded hillside between Pemberwick Road and Greenway Drive. The murder also occurred at that location, police said.

Charles Bahn, a forensic psychologist who reviewed the Margolies case for Greenwich Time, said the nature of the attack pointed more toward someone seeking to settle a score with the victim than being sexually motivated.

"There are patterns consistent with different kinds of motivations, and very often a very large number of multiple wounds - 30, 40 stab wounds, or more - implies a motive to obliterate an individual, wanting to literally cut them into pieces," the John Jay College of Criminal Justice professor said. "In certain sexual crimes, where the sexuality that occurred is repugnant to the doer, it produces feelings of disgust and shame, and one way to deal with that is to obliterate the victim.

"But you don't have that in this case," added Bahn, who has consulted on homicide cases for the New York City Police Department and lectures on psychological profiling of criminals at the FBI National Academy. "The number of wounds and their locations implies not only some torturing, but a revenge motivation, with the person's thinking being the victim should hurt as much as he made me hurt."

Bahn based his conclusions on details from news accounts, as well as details from the Margolies murder case file and autopsy report that were recently obtained by Greenwich Time. An edited version of the case file was given to the newspaper in a settlement brokered by the state Freedom of Information Commission.

Of the eight "key" suspects Greenwich police identified in their extensive investigation of the Margolies murder, one is thought to have had a possible revenge motive. According to police, the then-17-year-old suspect may have harbored a grudge against Matthew for having informed on him for cultivating a marijuana patch in the Glenville neighborhood known as The Valley, where both the victim and suspect lived.

According to Bahn, the dirt the killer forced down Matthew's throat may be symbolic of the motive.

"One way of looking at it is the victim was regarded as a person whose mouth was filled with dirt, who said bad and nasty things," the psychologist said. "But there's another way, and it has a semantic relationship: 'You opened your mouth, and now I'm going to make you eat dirt.' "

John Douglas, then a special agent with the FBI Behavioral Science Unit, concluded in a psychological profile he developed for Greenwich police in October 1984 that Matthew knew his attacker, and that the killer "demonstrated extensive personal anger and rage."

The suspect who police believe may have had a revenge motive, Greenwich Time has learned, is being examined by investigators for possibly having taken two or more "hits" of mescaline the afternoon of the murder, which police pinpoint between 6 and 6:30 p.m.

Mescaline, the chemical derivative of peyote, is a powerful hallucinogen that induces a sense of unreality, according to Patrick McAuliffe, executive director of the Connecticut Renaissance Inc. drug treatment program. The effects of mescaline are unpredictable, and vary with individual users, he said, but high doses of the drug can cause violent behavior.

"The wound pattern" on Matthew's body "suggests not only a revenge motive, but also someone who was out of control," Bahn said. "If taking multiple doses of mescaline, (the killer) may have been living in a fantasy world, and people on drugs have feelings of personal grandiosity and lose inhibitions against certain types of behavior."

If Matthew had been murdered out of revenge by someone high on a hallucinogen, then remarkable parallels could be drawn between that crime and another that occurred in New York two months earlier.

In June 1984, in the Long Island community of Northport, 17-year-old Ricky Kasso was reputed to be holding a grudge against friend Gary Lauwers, also 17, whom he had accused of stealing drugs. The prosecutor in the case, William Keahon, said Kasso and co-defendant James Troiano, 18, lured Lauwers into a wooded area of Northport in order to confront him about the theft.

"They had a camp fire going, and they got the victim up there by telling him they were going to share drugs with him," said Keahon, a former Suffolk County district attorney. Keahon said the confrontation quickly got out of hand because Kasso and Troiano were "tripping" on mescaline.

Keahon said the incident began with Kasso and Troiano yelling at Lauwers, but then Kasso began beating the victim and then used a pocket knife to repeatedly stab Lauwers, gouging out the victim's eyes in the process. Lauwers' body, which was concealed in a shallow grave covered with leaves, was not found until two weeks later.

"They did want to do something to Mr. Lauwers, but not with the intention of killing him," said Keahon, now in private practice in Islandia, N.Y.

The former prosecutor said the multiple doses of mescaline Kasso had taken influenced his aggressive and bizarre behavior. "From the experts I spoke with, even a small amount takes you out of reality," he said. "It releases any inhibitions you might have as a human being."

Kasso died two days after his arrest, when he hung himself in his jail cell. Troiano, charged as an accomplice, was acquitted at trial.

Troiano's attorney, Eric Naiburg, agreed the initial intent of the confrontation had not been to murder Lauwers, and when things got out of control it was unclear whether Kasso realized what he was doing when stabbing the victim.

"I remember my client asking me, 'Mr. Naiburg, when the trees are melting and the stars are racing across the sky, it's hard to know what's real and what's not,' " Naiburg said. "So you just don't know what their perceptions are. Were they killing a human being? You can't rely on what their perceptions were at the time."

John Hamilton, a licensed drug abuse counselor, said an encounter between a person high on mescaline and someone he perceives has wronged him has the potential for ending in violence.

"There is no doubt that whatever existing issues a person has can be greatly exacerbated by the mescaline," said Hamilton, senior vice president for the Stamford-based LMG Programs Inc. substance abuse treatment program. "The person might even become actively psychotic and lose control if the mescaline has exacerbated a pre-existing condition."

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