The Unsolved 1986 Halloween Murder Of Chaim Weiss

In the 1980s a young rabbinical student was killed in a disturbing murder carried out on Halloween night in Long Beach, Nassau County. Chaim Weiss was just 15 years old when he was stabbed to death in his dorm on Halloween night in 1986. The killing had no clear motive, and police struggled to make headway during their investigation of the conservative yeshiva school where the murder occurred. The circumstances surrounding the strange case remain a mystery almost 30 years later, despite an attempt to revive the case in 2013.

According to The New York Times, Weiss was a student at the strict orthodox yeshiva academy when he was killed, a school that focuses on prayer and the thorough study of the Talmud. A few days after the murder, witnesses told the Times that leading up to the killing the small community had experienced some anti-semitic abuse, and a nearby rabbi's temple had been burned down. Police however suspected somebody within the school may have been the culprit. According to orthodox Jewish belief, a window or door should be left open after death to let out a lingering spirit, and whoever killed Weiss had done just that — leaving a window ajar before fleeing the scene. Police had very little else to go on in the ensuing investigation.

Murder at the school

Chaim Weiss' body was found on November 1st, 1986 when a dorm assistant went to wake him for the Shabbat service that day. According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, he appeared to have been stabbed with a heavy knife or hatchet-like implement. The attack was reportedly so violent that Weiss' skull was crushed during the attack and there was no sign of a struggle indicating he may have been killed in his sleep.

Police were left with few clues as to how or why the killer perpetrated the Halloween attack. Weiss' room was on the third floor and opened onto a fire escape, but there was no sign of forced entry and nothing was taken from the room, indicating the murder was not motivated by theft. Some things about murder also suggested that the perp had some knowledge of Jewish traditions. The body had been moved, and a window was left open for the deceased spirit. On Shabbat, a yahrzeit candle was left burning in the victim's room.

The shocking murder was hard on the students, especially given that the perpetrator was never caught. Therapy and discussion sessions were organized to help students come to terms with the crime and the case caused such anger and fear armed patrols were organized around the school. Police later broke up any vigilante activities at the school and offered police escorts instead. Despite their best efforts, nobody was ever arrested.

Issues with the investigation

When the murder was first discovered, police had a difficult time investigating the crime due to the religious strictures in place at the school. It was reported that because the body was found on Shabbat, rabbis refused to cooperate that day, and no evidence was ever given by any of the staff or students at the school during the entire investigation (via Algemeiner).

According to The Wall Street Journal, years later in 2013 police officially reopened the case, offering a $25,000 reward — a substantial increase from the initial $5,000. However, law enforcement officers remained pessimistic about the investigation. According to Orthodox Jewish law, a very high burden of proof is required before a person can be accused of such a serious offense. Police expressed concerns that this may have hindered their efforts. Chief of Detectives, John R. Capece stated "We are sensitive to and respect that belief ... However, a homicide has occurred and we need any information that can help us solve this case and bring justice and peace to the Weiss family."

Although when the case was revived Police would not confirm whether they had any new evidence regarding Chaim Weiss's death, in 2015 the Haaretz news website reported that police believe a student or faculty member committed the crime. Police had allegedly interviewed over 100 students by 2015 without making any meaningful progress.