Crime was not a foreign concept in New York City in 1986 – murder and mayhem ravaged the city but usually didn’t touch the young and privileged Upper East Siders. The Preppy Murder was an epic scandal, one in which handsome, former prep -school student Robert Chambers was charged with taking the life of his friend Jennifer Levin. Chambers’ lawyer mounted a defense meant to damage Jennifer’s character -- one that made her more criminal than the accused himself. The press took the defense's bait, and Levin was depicted as promiscuous, reckless and responsible for her own demise. In the end, she was also a victim of sexism, elitism and an all-out tabloid media war that rocked our collective consciousness.
In producing The Preppy Murder: Death in Central Park, we wanted to see this case through a new lens - through the eyes of Jennifer Levin and those who knew her best. We saw the chance to give her a voice and share first-hand narratives before that opportunity was lost forever. One of our main subjects, veteran New York City detective-turned-reporter Mike Sheehan, personally arrested Robert Chambers. Sadly, Sheehan passed away shortly after filming his interviews for the docuseries, but we are so grateful we were able to tell his story, along with so many others including Jennifer’s mother, Ellen Levin and for the first time Jennifer’s sister, Danielle. We also had the privilege of speaking with close friends who knew Jennifer well but had chosen not to go on the record until our cameras rolled.
The Preppy Murder took place 33 years ago. But has the media's coverage of these kind of cases really changed? Does gender, race and socio-economic status continue to drive the narrative or do the facts matter when a verdict of innocent or guilty is at stake? What role does journalism play in the ultimate outcome of trials like these? If social media existed in 1986, would things have turned out differently for Jennifer Levin or Robert Chambers? These are just a few questions we invite you to consider while revisiting the life and death of Jennifer Levin.
The docuseries will air over three consecutive nights on Wednesday, November 13th - Friday, November 15th at 9:00 p.m. ET.