WEEKLY NEWS (Manhattan)
Said He Was Going To Kill Oct. 19-25, 1978
Not So Lonesome Death of Nancy Spungen Oct. 26-Nov. 1, 1978
Said He Was Going To Kill
Hershkovits and Lesley Vinson
19-25, 1978 (Neon
Leon on Sid Vicious)
rock musician Sid Vicious was arrested last week and charged with murder in the
stabbing death of his girlfriend, and maybe wife, Nancy Spungen, at the Chelsea
Hotel on West 23rd Street.
police arrived about 11am Thursday after being summoned by a phone call from Vicious.
The former member of the Sex Pistols rock group had registered at the hotel with
Nancy in late August as Mr and Mrs John Ritchie his real name.
body lay face-up in the bathroom, her head underneath the sink. She had been stabbed
in the stomach and her black lace bra and panties were drenched in blood. The
room was in disarray and police found several empty syringes.
Friday the 13th bail was set at $50,000 despite the objections of Assistant District
Attorney Kenneth Schachter, who claimed that the defendant might flee because
of the strong likelihood of conviction.
the hearing Malcolm McLaren, former Sex Pistols manager, arrived from London to
confer with the lawyers he had engaged to defend Sid. Describing the musician
as outrageous, a very passionate man, he nevertheless maintained Vicious
was definitely not guilty.
Turkey at Rikers
McLaren and friends worked over the weekend to raise bail, Sid was going cold
turkey at Rikers Island. A severe reaction to abrupt withdrawal from methadone
and heroin sent him to the prison hospital, where he was given some methadone,
according to a source.
Sunday, Sids 38 year-old mother, Mrs Anne Beverley, arrived from London.
When an English reporter asked for an interview he was told it would cost his
same day platinum haired Nancy, 20, was buried in her home town of Philadelphia
at a private service conducted by a rabbi. There were only one or two people
in her life she could really relate to - Sid was one of them her mother
Sid Vicious was released on bail.
last person known to have seen Sid and Nancy together is Neon Leon, a fast talking
musician who fronted a mostly black punk band that often played at Maxs
Kansas City. He and his blond girlfriend, Kathy ORourke, lived down the
hall from the couple. Both had known Nancy before she met Sid, knew of the couples
addiction to heroin, and of the sado-masochistic tone of their love-affair.
press time Leon was out-of-town, telling different friends different stories of
where he was going London, Philadelphia or Atlantic City.
follows is based on an interview conducted with Neon Leon and Kathy ORourke
at their Chelsea Hotel room the afternoon of the murder.
came in here and said, Look what Ive got. Now people cant beat
me up any more. He was brandishing a knife with a five and a half
inch blade, said Leon. Nancy bought it for him so he could defend himself
from the beatings he was getting.
famous for being obnoxious. People would come up to him, Youre one
of the Sex Pistols Boom! I stopped going out with them.
small room has a settled look. It is crowded, but neat records along the
wall, electric guitars in and out of cases, a king-size bed that takes up most
of the room. More than a dozen hang on a wall with a painting of a hand holding
a gun aimed at the viewer. A TV set in the corner hums softly throughout our conversation.
he was going to kill somebody said Neon, speaking rapidly and without hesitation.
But he always says hes going to kill somebody. New York is making
me violent. People are picking on me. All I want to do is to be in a band. Im
gonna get me a weapon. Sid told him, he said.
out on heroin, methadone and barbiturates, Sid was in a sorry state, according
to Leon I have no more self-confidence. Im ugly. I cant
play bass. he told Leon, who couldnt believe what he was hearing.
The guy sat here and played almost like Jack Bruce (a well known bass player).
Maybe this was easy suicide. He suggests.
Id rather die in jail then go to the methadone clinic (where he would get
into fights). Sid told him, said Leon, affecting a credible British accent.
Its a warm
fall day, and though the room in the 11 storey red-brick building has a balcony,
the windows remain tightly shut and the air heavy as Leon continues his story.
Though Sid was tall and rail-thin the image of the 98-pound weakling
that did not prevent him from getting into fights. A knife, he thought, might
Do you think theyll mess with me if I have this knife
he asked Leon, who shuddered. I cant back down from anyone,
because Im not afraid of anything. Sid told him, he said.
Leon tells it, the events of the nights of the murder went something like this.
were kind of weird last night'
night they were feeling kind of sick. They were kinda weird last night.
In the early morning hours Sid and Nancy came to Leons room carrying Sids
beloved leather jacket and the Sex Pistols clippings Nancy had collected. Sid
told Leon: I want you to keep this for me.
was acting though he felt they were in danger, according to Leon. He wanted to
know about Rikers Island and the New York police. Sid sat on the bed, playing
with the knife, holding it up to his face. After a while they left, but Nancy
returned a few minutes later. Sid had left the knife on the bed and she wanted
to get it.
4:30am, Leon said he received a telephone call from Nancy, asking him to come
to their room if he had any pot. Knock real hard she told them. They
were high on tuinals and it would be difficult to awaken them otherwise.
was the last time he spoke to her, he said. Leon remembers hearing scuffling in
the corridor and a loud banging on his door between 6 and 7am. Thinking it might
be the police or someone else he didnt want to talk to at that hour, he
and Nancy were heavily into heroin and other drugs. After the break-up of the
Sex Pistols earlier this year, Sid stayed on the fringes of the punk scene. He
did two gigs at Maxs, earning a couple of thousand dollars. On one occasion
he collapsed and passed out upstairs between sets, and musical director Peter
Crowley tried frantically to revive him. After unanimous pans by rock reviewers,
Sid and Nancy became virtual recluses, holing up at the Chelsea and coming out
only to go to Maxs and to his methadone maintenance clinic on Lafayette
feel bad because he was a good person. said Leon. Misunderstood to high
heaven. He was here and he was alone. Nancy was the only person who kept him going.
He said she was the only real woman on the planet.
of the Chelsea Hotel by Philjens)
The Not So
Lonesome Death of Nancy Spungen
1978 The Soho Weekly News (NYC-USA)
Friday, October 13, this reporter happened to be at the Chief Medical Examiner's
office, researching a story, when Nancy Laura Spungen's possessions were being
examined. Her parents had just left after identifying the body, and the talk between
Dr. Michael Baden, the chief examiner, and his associate, Dr. Geeta Natarajan,
centered on the paraphernalia and drugs confiscated from the room Nancy had shared
with Sid Vicious at the Chelsea Hotel.
following reconstruction of Nancy Spungen's last 11 hours is based on interviews
with people who had contact with the couple on October 11 and 12, and on information
from sources at the D.A.'s office and the Third Homicide Division. Included are
several statements made to me by people who testified at the secret Grand Jury
hearing last Thursday, October 19, about the nature of their testimony before
9:45 p.m. - Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen strolled down the
hall from their room at the Hotel Chelsea to visit Cathi O'Rourke and (Neon) Leon
Webster in Leon's room, No. 119. Cathi, who had known Nancy for several years,
described the visit in these terms:
sat on Leon's bed, leafing through a portfolio of old photos of himself. "I've
lost my looks'' he commented ruefully. "I really used to look good.'' While
Nancy paced the room, entreating the group to "come up with some drugs, good
drugs," Sid sat quietly, stroking his face with one of his new knives. He
said at one point that he had ''no future."
"had the knife to his face." recalls Cathi. "
around to him and said 'Fuck off.' and he put the knife down." Cathi also
remembers seeing Nancy bare her arm and make a muscle, admonishing Sid. "Feel
my muscle. I'm strong. I carried Sid up from the restaurant. I can carry him,
but he can't carry me."
-Nancy and Sid left Room 119 around midnight, recalls Leon. When Cathi went to
her go-go dancing job in New Jersey, Leon claims he went to Max's, but Vicious'
manager, Malcolm McLaren, "doubts that he went to Max's because nobody saw
him there." According to a "friend" who requests anonymity, Leon
was at the Nursery, another punk club.
to 12:30 a.m. -Leon states that the couple returned to their own room when
they left his, but McLaren says that "Sid told me that he left the hotel
a.m. -Rockets Redglare says he received a frantic phone call at his Queens
apartment from Nancy ''begging" him to come to their room at the Chelsea
and "please, bring Dilaudids," (a variety of synthetic morphine, known
on the streets as D-4s). She also requested "some new hypodermics."
- According to Neon Leon and Leon's manager, Skip Wayne, Sid and Nancy were in
the lobby around 3 a.m. Leon and Skip have made several conflicting statements.
-Lisà Garcia who lives next door to Sid and Nancy's room, in 103, had
just come home at 3 a.m. Minutes later she heard "two or three very loud
knocks at my door" and a male voice yelling. "Let me in, let me in,
I'm not playing." Lisa said the voice frightened her. She did not open the
door. Soon after she went to sleep and did not wake until late Thursday morning.
-Rocket arrived at the Chelsea. He claimed that he had been unable to come up
with anything Nancy had asked him to bring. Nancy was "wearing a long T-shirt
over black underpants
.and Sid was lying on the bed in black pants and a
shaggy sweater." They talked some about Rocket becoming Sid's bodyguard to
protect him from street fights, but mostly about scoring Dilaudids for Nancy.
(Both Sid and Rocket are on a methadone program.)
to 4:45 a.m. -The phone rang many times while Rocket was in their room. Nancy
only picked it up once ''and had a brief conversation." Neither Nancy nor
Sid made any outgoing calls.
were crazy about D-4s,'' recalls Rocket. ''She told me she would pay $40 for each
D-4. She would shoot six. Sid would do four. She had a higher tolerance than Sid.
It was the only thing they could shoot. I'm an ex-addict. I would shoot Sid because
he's got collapsed veins, and anyway he's not too good at it."
Rocket claims there were no D-4s to shoot up that night during the two hours he
was in their room. ''I showed up there." he says, "to be comforting.''
Nancy was very
agitated about not being able to score while ''Sid kept going to the door every
time there was a noise. He would drag himself up. Tuinals are funny that way.
One minute you're completely out of it, the next minute you're a little ambulatory.''
Sid left the
room twice, briefly, and came back soon. Once ''he went to the door . . .he was
so out it
he fell back."
one point Nancy went to her bag.'' continues Rocket, ''and some $50s and $100s
spilled out on the floor. She told me that if I could get 40 Dilaudids for her
she would give me twice the price. She said to me, 'Rocket, you could make$800'
Now this money, it was new money [new bills]. She tells me that she has $1400
to spend on dope that night.''
before 5 a.m. Rocket left the couple in Room 100. He says that he stopped at the
front desk in the lobby to make a phone call and observed Steven C., whom he identified
as Nancy and Sid's regular "Quaalude and Tuinal dealer," turning the
corner and entering the elevator.
4 a.m. -Neon Leon, who returned to his room at 3:30 a.m. with
Kelly (a go-go dancer who lives in Room 301), says that Nancy called at 4 a.m.
saying "They were very high on Tuinals and Sid was crashing out." and
asking if Leon had ''some pot."
- Leon and Kelly say they "heard four or five really loud knocks at his door."
He ignored them. Around a half-hour later, he claims to have heard some noises
coming from the hallway, something dropped on the hard tile floor, something that
made a metallic, tinny sound. Maybe a knife.
-The resident of Room 228 called the hotel desk to complain about ''some guy banging
away at the door.'' Kenny, the night bellhop, went up to handle the complaint.
He found a very unruly, noisy Sid Vicious meandering around the hall. "He
went to hit me." remembers Kenny. "He asked me could I take him. He
went at me again, so I hit him and I just kept pounding him till he went down
to the floor.'' The two wrestled until Kenny was certain he had subdued Vicious.
When Kenny stood up, Vicious whined. ''Is this what you do to a drunk?"
had a bloodied mouth and there was blood all over his face and nose and t- shirt."
recalls Kenny. ''When I was leaving to go back downstairs, I saw that he was going
to the stairs
I don't know if he went to his room
when I got back to
the desk it was 5:15a.m.
a.m. -A resident of the hotel who refuses to be identified claims that Sid
staggered into her room dripping with blood at 5:30 a.m.
before 7:30 a.m. -Vera Mendelssohn lives next door to Sid and Nancy's room,
in Room 102. She recalls that some time before 7:30 Thursday morning she heard
a series of moans coming from a woman in the room next to her. She says she was
''very frightened.'' By the sound, which she described as ''coming from a person
who was alone.'' "It didn't sound as though someone was with her,'' recalls
Vera, "because she didn't call someone's name. She was just moaning."
When the sound
of the moans ceased, she fell back to sleep.
a.m. -Herman Ramos, the deskman, received an "outside the Hotel"
call from a male, claiming that ''There is trouble in Room100." Ramos sent
Charles the bellhop upstairs to find out what was going on.
a.m. -Before the bellhop returned, Sid Vicious called down to Ramos, saying
"Someone is sick-need help."
10 and 10:30a.m. - Ramos called for an ambulance, and later for the police.
-As Rob Braden, NYU student in Room 105, left for school, he saw Sid Vicious coming
up the stairs and walking down the hall towards his room.
a.m. -Ambulance and police from the10th precinct arrived. Nancy's body is
discovered in the bathroom of Room 100, the 3rd Homicide Zone was notified.
a.m. -Vera Mendelssohn, awakened by the noise of the police, left her room
shortly after 11:00 to see what was happening in the hallway. She was granted
permission to look into room 100, where she saw the body of Nancy Spungen on the
bathroom floor. In the hallway she saw Sid surrounded by policemen.
face looked battered," recalls Ms. Mendelssohn, a 48-year-old sculptor, "and
he said many times, over and over. 'Baby, baby, baby.' " She believes he
was weeping. When Sid recognized her he said. ''I killed her
I can't live
without her.'' Vera says she was so stunned that she cannot recall whether she
heard him say "She fell on the knife, '' or ''She must have fallen on the
knife." She remembers Sid talking about being "very high on Tuinal."
afternoon, October 12, police arrested John Ritchie, aka Sid Vicious. After making
statements to the police and the D.A., Vicious was charged with second-degree
homicide in the death of Nancy Laura Spungen.
in the second degree is the most serious murder charge in regard to the death
of a civilian, as first degree is reserved for the murder of a police or corrections
officer in the line of duty. There is no third degree homicide charge: next is
manslaughter 1 or 2. On the law books, there are two categories of 2nd degree
homicide: 1. murder with intent (or premeditation) and 2. conscious participation
in a person's suicide.
First Punk Rock Murder'
By 1p.m., the Forensic Crime Scene Unit arrived
at the Chelsea to do their job: to photograph the premises, body, and paraphernalia,
and to collect all contributory evidence. All homicides and deaths of a suspicious
nature are routinely investigated by one Forensic Unit, and autopsied by the Chief
Medical Examiner's office. For both units, the Nancy Spungen case was, Police
Sgt. Thomas Kilroy's words, "our first punk rock murder."
prize at the Chelsea, the suspected murder weapon, was a Jaguar K-11 folding knife
with a 5" blade, complete with the appropriate blood stains and fingerprints.
The 007 knife, frequently misreported in the press as the murder weapon was only
one of several knives in Sid Vicious' collection. According to Neon Leon, the
Jaguar knife ''was a gift he got that day from Nancy
to protect himself."
Detective Gerald Thomas confirms that "more than one knife was confiscated."
misses an item or two. James O'Connor, administrative asst. at the CME, recalls
a case a few years back when the ME went to the premises of a murder of an old
lady in the Bronx, ''We asked Forensic if they had finished with their search,"
recalls O'Connor, ''and they said yes - then one of our team opened a closet and
out fell another dead body."
in its zeal to find a murder weapon in Room 100, overlooked a few items lying
in the middle of the room, virtually drenched in blood: three hypodermic needles,
a bottle of Tuinal pills and "some brown flaky powder.'' These items were
noticed by associate medical examiner Dr. Geeta Natarajan. The diminutive, Indian-born
Dr.Natarajan, regarded by her colleagues as ''an ace," arrived at the hotel
around 3:30 Thursday afternoon. She collected Forensic's finds along with her
own and brought them with the body back to the CME's Mortuary at 520 First Av.
for autopsy and toxicology and serology [bloodstain] testing at 5:30.
from three large trunks, Sid and Nancy seemed to use plastic Harrod's shopping
bags to store most of their possessions. One bag emptied on the CME's table contained
assorted personal photos of the pair and memorabilia carefully enclosed in plastic
envelopes, enough black hosiery to "leg" a convent, and Vicious' celebrated
chain and lock. One of the enclosed photos showed the half-inch thick metal bike
chain adorning Sid, another showed the chain around Nancy's throat. There was
very little money in the room and "only pocket money" in Sid's possession.
Apprised of Sid
Vicious' reputation in England - ''he's bigger than Elvis said an English observer
to the proceedings - Dr. Baden and Dr. Natarajan made preparations for an extensive
autopsy and testing.
autopsy, which was not completed until 8:30 Friday evening, concluded that Nancy
Spungen died of external and internal hemorrhaging caused by a 1" wide incision
into the lower abdomen, deep enough to rupture the mesenteric blood vessels.
According to O'Connor, who has been at the CME for 20 years, "If the person
who stabbed her wasn't so prominent, and we wouldn't have to testify in court,
the autopsy would have been done in an hour, or a hell of a lot sooner."
Also found on the body were track marks, contusions and ecchymoses (the medical
term for bruises, black and blue marks). Of particular interest were two bruises
found on Nancy's face, one the size of a quarter on the right side of the chin.
The other, larger bruise on the side of her right eye corresponds with Skip Wayne's
report of a fight between the two which resulted in "Sid bashing Nancy over
the head with his guitar." According to Neon Leon and Cathi O'Rourke, Nancy
came to their room the night before her death wearing a red beret. She removed
the hat, showed the bruise and said. ''Look what Sid did to me."
for her findings, Dr. Natarajan explained that "a knife wound as opposed
to a bullet wound cannot be distinguished definitely as homicidal or suicidal
but, as there was no note [written and left by the deceased], the evidence does
not stand up as suicidal.''
autopsy of Nancy Spungen was no simple matter. Although there was only one stab
wound, the ME's job was compounded by Nancy's deteriorated condition - the result
of her much-publicized sado-masochistic relationship with Vicious and her drug
addiction. In O'Connor's words, "A person who dies with a lot of drugs on
board, dies very differently than a person not on drugs.'' Until toxicology and
the serology tests are completed, the exact time of the stabbing and of death
are not certain. At present, tests are continuing for heroin, morphine, Tuinal,
Dilaudid, methadone and Quaalude. Present speculation is that Nancy Spungen was
stabbed between 6 and 7 a.m. and died between 8 and l0 a.m.
and researched by Phil Singleton.
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