For the young crowd at Dorrian’s Red Hand, the early-morning scene on August 26 was like an unplanned reunion. Many of the regulars at the Upper East Side bar were just back from their holidays, and they table-hopped eagerly—drinking and laughing, embracing friends they hadn’t seen over the summer. “We were all in there buzzing around,” recalls one. “We all had fun that night.”
At the edge of the gaiety, one Dorrian’s regular, a tall, handsome nineteen-year-old named Robert Chambers, sat at the bar, drinking beer by himself. Chambers is a good drinker, his friends say, and he can be aloof. But that night, he seemed particularly moody, at times looking straight ahead and ignoring the festivities around him. At about 1 A.M., his girlfriend, a pretty sixteen-year-old junior from a top private school, came over. They’d had a date to meet earlier, but Chambers had shown up more than an hour late and hadn’t spoken to her yet. Now she confronted him and, angered by his noncommittal reply, told him she didn’t want to see him again. Chambers just laughed.
Another pretty student, eighteen-year-old Jennifer Levin, may have overheard the exchange. She was high-spirited and popular, and she’d been interested in Chambers for some time. They’d had a few flings, and she’d confided to friends how sexy she thought he was. Levin now told the other girl that she wanted her boyfriend, and over the course of the next three hours, friends saw Levin flirting and talking with Chambers at the bar. At around 4:30, they left together.
Less than two hours later, Jennifer Levin was found dead in Central Park. The police said that her clothes were disheveled and that she had been strangled. Later that day, they picked up Chambers, and after hours of questioning, he admitted causing Levin’s death, but he denied intending to hurt her. What had happened, he said, was an accident—rough sex play that got out of control. About 24 hours later, he was arraigned on the charge of murder.