On May 10, 2001, two men broke into a midtown Manhatten apartment located above the famous Carnegie Deli with full intention of robbing its owner, Jennifer Stahl, a former actress who'd become a high-priced marijuana dealer.
One of the thieves ended up shooting Jennifer Stahl in the forehead, killing her instantly, after having words with her. The gunmen decided that in order to cover the crime they would have to kill the other occupants of the apartment as well (Jennifer had been having a party at the time). All four dinner guests of Ms. Stahl were shot, but two later recovered and helped and helped police piece together the crime.
After the heist and murders, the two men took off with $1000 cash and 12 quarter-ounce bags of marijuana leaving behind 6 pounds of marijuana and $1800. Security cameras caught their movements as they left. When the tapes were shown to the media, an acquaintance recognized Andre Smith of Irvington, New Jersey, and notified the New York detectives that were running the case. After he was arrested, Smith confessed to the crimes and identified his partner as Sean Salley. Salley evaded police at first but was eventually captured outside a Miami homeless shelter after being profiled on Fox's America's Most Wanted.
Both Smith and Salley had extensive prior records. Salley had been arrested in Brooklyn, Buffalo, Massachusetts, and Georgia for assault, robbery, weapons possession and fare evasion. Smith was on parole for a 1993 robbery. Ironically Smith should have been incarcerated at the time of the murders because he'd been arrested 3 months prior in New Jersey for possession of 311 grams of marijuana near a public school. He also had a record of 9 arrests on charges ranging from weapons possession to drug offenses.
The Carnegie Deli murders, as they came to be known, underscore a number of issues that help define the crime problem in America. Should violent felons have had access to handguns? Would the violent crime rate be reduced if drugs were legalized? The case also illustrates the powerful attraction crime has on the media. The publicity helped the gunmen get caught, but the media attention fanned the flames of fear of crime. Despite the fact that violent crime rates are down this media attention convinced the public that crime is rampant.
Those who committed the murders were career criminals with rap sheets a mile long and who should have been incarcerated. Yet they were on the streets and free men. The governor of New York used the Carnegie murder case as a forum to express his views on tougher penalties for repeat offenders of violent crimes. Concern about crime and effective measures to control criminal behavior has caused those who administer justice in the United States to learn more about the criminal and make criminology an academic discipline.