The Trail Went Cold – Minisode 29 – Chaim Weiss

October 31, 1986. Long Beach, New York. Chaim Weiss, a 15-year old Orthodox Jewish rabbinical student, returns to his dormitory after attending Shabbat services at his yeshiva high school. The following morning, Chaim’s body is found on his dorm room floor. At some point during the night, an unknown individual entered his room and brutally murdered him while he slept. Police conduct an extensive investigation and interview students and faculty members from the yeshiva, but are unable to uncover a solid suspect or any discernible motive for Chaim’s murder. We examine a very perplexing cold case on this month’s first Halloween-themed minisode of “The Trail Went Cold”.

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The Trail Went Cold is produced and edited by Magill Foote.

All music is composed by Vince Nitro.

8 thoughts on “The Trail Went Cold – Minisode 29 – Chaim Weiss

  • To me, this sounds like an accident. I think he did something in the room like standing on the edge of the bed, slipped, fell backwards and hit his head on something very hard. It is possible to hit your head and the object not be marked in a noticeable way. I think he regained consciousness briefly and crawled a bit and then died. I see nothing to suggest a murder, which seems incredibly unlikely. I think everybody had tunnel vision because it seemed like murder.

    • Heh, that’s the first time I’ve ever seen the theory about an accident proposed. I’d like to think investigators would be able to tell the difference between a murder and a freak accident and I’m guessing there had to be some evidence which made them feel so strongly it was murder, but the accident theory would help explain why leads in this case are virtually non-existent.

      • Hi Robin, yeah that could be true, but would love to hear what evidence they had. I remember that Staircase documentary. Investigators decided murder, because it seemed the best fit, however it was probably by a large bird of prey. It’s astonishing the initial investigators couldn’t tell the difference between an animal attack and blunt force trauma!
        I think if the boy had fallen in a weird way and it looked like murder and they couldn’t see any signs of accident, e.g. blood on a bedpost or simply blood everywhere, then they may assume murder erroneously.

  • Excellent podcast, but I want to correct you about one of your statements. Regarding the boy reported to be on the boardwalk, you claimed (at 20:57) that “we know that the students were generally not allowed to leave the yeshiva before morning services” but this statement reflects a misunderstanding of the actual facts of the situation.

    The yeshiva’s dormitory buildings (there were multiple) were 3 blocks from the building which housed the classrooms, study halls, dining rooms, and administrative offices. The boys had to walk every morning from the dorm to the main building, so it is doesn’t even make sense to presume that the boys weren’t allowed to leave the building before morning prayers because they started their day not even in that building in the first place! Additionally, it was not totally uncommon for some boys to actually get up a little earlier and to take the walk from the dorm to the main building by way of the boardwalk. (The boardwalk was just a few short blocks from the dorm.) This was a slightly out of the way route, but it provided a relaxing diversion, and even the opportunity sometimes (if you arose early enough) to see the sunrise over the ocean. So the idea of a boy being on the boardwalk early in the morning, for whatever reason, is not at all out of the realm of possibility.

    I actually studied in this yeshiva (a few years after the murder), and I myself did the early morning boardwalk route at times, so I speak from first-hand experience.

    • Thank you for listening. Yeah, that detail about the students not being allowed to leave the yeshiva before morning services was mentioned in a news article about the case, but it would not surprise me if that detail was inaccurate and I’ll definitely believe your first-hand experience. I figured there might be a reason why the police seemed to put so much significance on the sighting of the boy on the boardwalk, but we don’t even know for certain if the boy was actually a yeshiva student.

      I’ve read about the student hanging himself in the shower on a few blogs and can see its significance, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen any news source ever mention that story. But given how these new allegations about a cover-up have surfaced, it would not surprise me if more details about that suicide come to light in the near-future.

      • Indeed, I can’t find the suicide mentioned in any official news coverage, but it does come up in discussion forum threads and other informal talk of the Weiss murder (such as at http://protectjewishkids.com/?p=2371). Oddly, I no matter how much I searched, I was unable to dig up the name of that student (I’m going to ask some of my old contacts if they know). It definitely really did happen though, wasn’t just an urban legend, all us students knew about it at the time (and as a result, we all tried to avoid using that particular shower stall when possible).

        > I figured there might be a reason why the police seemed to put so much significance on the sighting of the boy on the boardwalk, but we don’t even know for certain if the boy was actually a yeshiva student.

        Keep in mind that ultra-orthodox yeshiva students dress very distinctively from the average teenager, so if someone saw someone that looked like a yeshiva student there (and knew that that’s how yeshiva students dressed) they would not mistake him for someone else. Like I said, it wasn’t totally unheard of for us students to occasionally take that route, but it was rare enough that considering the unusual circumstances of that day, a report of seeing a yeshiva boy sitting pensively on the boardwalk on that particular day at that particular hour would indeed warrant further scrutiny.

  • Additionally, the suspicion of sexual abuse is not as far-fetched as one might think because a few years before the murder, there was a suicide at the same yeshiva a few years earlier (the student hung himself in the shower), and it was widely rumored that this was spurred by a case of abuse. It’s very strange to me that people don’t bring up this other incident when discussing this case. I don’t think they’re totally unrelated.

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