The only evidence was a hatchetlike strike to the boy's head and a single strand of hair -- not the victim's -- on the bedsheet.
As recalled by Bob Edwards, the former Nassau County detective sergeant on the case, the 1986 murder of Chaim Weiss, 15, was the most haunting unfinished business of his career.
"We beat up every possibility that we could think of," said Edwards, 71, who retired in 2001. "We didn't back out of the case. We ran out of leads."
Nassau police now want to reopen the long-cold case, even raising the Crime Stoppers reward, currently listed on the group's website as $25,000. It's in hopes of gaining new leads 26 years after the pajama-clad student from Staten Island was killed in his dorm room at a Long Beach yeshiva.
Chaim was sprawled on the bed of his single room at Mesivta of Long Island, an Orthodox Jewish yeshiva, when an adult dormitory supervisor found him about 8 a.m. on Nov. 1, 1986. Witnesses said they last saw him alive about 12:45 a.m.
The county medical examiner's office said he died instantly in his sleep after a blow by a sharp metal "hatchet-type" weapon that penetrated his brain.
Police said here were no signs of forced entry into the building, nor of a robbery or a sexual assault. Police thought it might have been a Halloween-related crime and did not believe the attack was anti-Semitic.
In reopening the case, police have not yet said whether there are new developments.
Chaim's father, Anton, and his sister Rachel, who was 7 then, plan to attend a news conference officials have scheduled for Tuesday. They have declined to comment before then.
After the killing, about 25 detectives worked full-time for months, Edwards said. The police mobile command sat outside the yeshiva for more than a week, open to anyone who wanted to talk. The FBI developed a profile of the killer and Chaim, and the crime was featured on the "Unsolved Mysteries" television program.
Even years afterward, police spread out on Halloween in Long Beach to ask people if they remembered anything.
"This was the case I most wanted to solve," Edwards said. "This kid was an innocent kid, in his bed, in his yeshiva school. I've said to people, 'I wish some day I would know what went down.' "