More than 25 years after the pajama-clad body of a 15-year-old Staten Island rabbinical student was found in his dorm room at a Jewish high school in Long Beach, Nassau County police said they are reopening the long-cold case -- even raising the Crime Stoppers reward in hopes of gaining new leads.
Chaim Weiss was found by an adult dormitory supervisor sprawled across the bed of his single room at Mesivta of Long Island, an Orthodox Jewish yeshiva on East Beech Street, just before 8 a.m. Nov. 1, 1986.
"It's definitely murder," a police department spokesman told Newsday not long after Weiss was found, adding: "There's no apparent motive."
Police initially told the media Weiss had been bludgeoned to death, struck several times in the head with a blunt object. They said no weapon was found. Just a day after the killing, however, police recast the slaying, announcing Weiss died of multiple stab wounds to the head, neck and face -- saying he had suffered lacerations of the brain in the attack.
They also said there were no signs of forced entry into the building and that there were no signs of a robbery or of a sexual assault.
An account provided by the Nassau County medical examiner's office later declared Weiss died instantly in his sleep after a blow by a sharp, metal object that penetrated his brain. The medical examiner's office described it as a "frenzy-type killing."
Indications were a "hatchet-type" weapon was used, the medical examiner said.
Witnesses said they had last seen Weiss alive at about 12:45 a.m. Saturday, a little more than seven hours before he was found dead. Police said they did not believe the attack was anti-Semitic, a conclusion later backed by the head of the Long Beach chapter of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith.
But a spokesman for the Jewish Defense League told Newsday in 1986, "If this isn't anti-Semitic, I don't know what is."
The organization announced a $100,000 reward "for the arrest and conviction of this animal" who killed Weiss.
Then the case went cold.
Police now promise the case will be reopened, but they did not say if there are new leads or developments. Members of the Weiss family are expected to attend the news conference next week, a news conference that is expected to include details of an increase in the reward being offered by Crime Stoppers.
Months after his son was killed, Anton Weiss, then 40, told Newsday that many family members had perished during the Holocaust, but that his son had been "too innocent to understand what violence was all about." He said his son, who had a brother, Menachem, then 11, and a sister, Rachel, then 7, lived "a sheltered life," adding: "He didn't have a true grasp of how violent the world is. I don't think he could imagine unprovoked violence."