RollingStone.com

In the early morning hours of August 26th, 1986, Jennifer Levin left Dorrian’s Red Hand, then a favorite watering hole of the underage Upper East Side elite, with Robert Chambers. The well-liked, beautiful Levin was bound for junior college in Boston the following week. But shortly after dawn, her brutally strangled body was found in Central Park. Chambers, 19, would later tell police he’d accidentally killed 18-year-old Levin in self-defense when she’d initiated “rough sex.” Tabloids labelled the slaying the “Preppy 
Murder,” and romanticized Chambers as a handsome, Kennedy-like figure destined for greatness, while Levin was posthumously slut-shamed. (“How Jennifer Courted Death”, read one Daily News headline.) Chambers’ defense doubled-down on Jennifer’s supposedly promiscuous reputation, subpoenaing the Levin family for their late daughter’s so-called “sex diary,” which never existed – all she had was an appointment notebook. Her killer pled guilty to manslaughter and served 15 years in prison.

At 2 p.m. on a recent Saturday, there is no crowd of over-privileged teenage drinkers at Dorrian’s Red Hand. That’s not to say it’s dead: About 15 people, mostly families with children, eat omelets and drink coffee off red-and-white checkered tablecloths. Televisions play college basketball games on mute as Jackson Browne’s “Running on Empty” is piped through the sound system. The brick walls plastered with vintage photos and advertisements don’t scream “murder” so much as “TGI Fridays.”

Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark, the hosts of the insanely popular comedy podcast My Favorite Murder, sit around a table taking in the scenery, which numbers far fewer Sperry Top-Siders and polo shirts with upturned collars than it must have 30 years ago. Though neither of them have been to Dorrian’s before, Kilgariff and Hardstark know the setting well – they covered the murder on an early episode of their show. As is standard practice on My Favorite Murder, the hosts treated Jennifer Levin with the respect they believe every victim is entitled to, excoriating the misogyny that characterized both the media coverage of her death and the legal proceedings that followed. As for Levin’s fictitious sex diary, Kilgariff said, “Hey, guess what? Even if that was true, you don’t get to murder her.”

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