The Piano Teacher: The True Story of a Psychotic Killer

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9780451154682: The Piano Teacher: The True Story of a Psychotic Killer

In 1966, Charles Yukl, a mild-mannered piano and voice teacher, strangled and sodomized a student. In 1974, paroled--despite his own pleas for psychiatric help--Yukl killed again. The Piano Teacher is his gripping story, told in intimately terrifying detail. HC: NAL.

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About the Author:

Robert K. Tanenbaum is the author of thirty-two books—twenty-nine novels and three nonfiction books: Badge of the Assassin, the true account of his investigation and trials of self-proclaimed members of the Black Liberation Army who assassinated two NYPD police officers; The Piano Teacher: The True Story of a Psychotic Killer; and Echoes of My Soul, the true story of a shocking double murder that resulted in the DA exonerating an innocent man while searching for the real killer. The case was cited by Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren in the famous Miranda decision. He is one of the most successful prosecuting attorneys, having never lost a felony trial and convicting hundreds of violent criminals. He was a special prosecution consultant on the Hillside strangler case in Los Angeles and defended Amy Grossberg in her sensationalized baby death case. He was Assistant District Attorney in New York County in the office of legendary District Attorney Frank Hogan, where he ran the Homicide Bureau, served as Chief of the Criminal Courts, and was in charge of the DA’s legal staff training program. He served as Deputy Chief counsel for the Congressional Committee investigation into the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He also served two terms as mayor of Beverly Hills and taught Advanced Criminal Procedure for four years at Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California, Berkeley, and has conducted continuing legal education (CLE) seminars for practicing lawyers in California, New York, and Pennsylvania. Born in Brooklyn, New York, Tanenbaum attended the University of California at Berkeley on a basketball scholarship, where he earned a B.A. He received his law degree (J.D.) from Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley. Visit RobertKTanenbaumBooks.com.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One

It was an unseasonably warm fall Monday night in New York City. Suzanne Reynolds, an attractive twenty-five-year-old secretary, decided to walk to her regular 5:30 P.M. appointment. There was no need to change. She wouldn't need a sweater or a jacket this evening. Her thin red coat would suffice. At 5:10, she left her cluttered office on Twenty-sixth Street and headed uptown. Suzanne was a newcomer to the East Side. She had left Florida eighteen months earlier because she craved the action New York City promised. The opportunities were bigger and they seemed better. Also, Suzanne was fascinated with show business. She was a pretty, bubbly, and some would say, a sexy redhead. Reynolds had been told more than once back in Florida -- and was now convinced -- that she had the looks, the personality, and the stamina to make it. She was going to be an actress.

Soon after she arrived in Manhattan, Suzanne began taking acting and voice lessons. They seemed mandatory, unwritten requirements, and she eagerly signed on. Reynolds possessed at least the first prerequisite for moving north: she had ambition.

Ambition like Suzanne's was not easily rewarded at D. L. Blair, the sales promotion company where she worked to pay for her acting lessons. Reliability was. And Suzanne was a very reliable $125-a-week secretary. She helped supervise the other girls and distinguished herself within the company by never talking about her personal life, never having friends visit her at work, and by always keeping her ambitions to herself. Next to acting and singing, Suzanne wanted more than anything to travel. All of her friends had vacationed in Europe and she wanted to be next. Her salary barely paid the rent and the phone bill, but Suzanne was determined. She thought the classwork would end soon. Then, she hoped, with the money she would earn from some theater and night club work, she could afford to cross the Atlantic.

Twice each week Suzanne took acting classes. And once each week, she took voice lessons. Monday night was voice night.

Three months earlier, she had found the right voice teacher, a thirty-one-year-old piano player named Charles Yukl. A good pianist, classically trained and extremely well mannered, he played professionally in the Catskills on weekends. During the week he worked a host of happy hours at West Side piano bars. He was a slender, quiet man who lived in a small, unpretentious apartment on East Twenty-eighth Street with his wife and pet dog.

He also managed the apartment building.

Charles Yukl wasn't an arrogant or pretentious cocktail lounge pianist, he just liked to play the piano. At least that's what he said. He was also inexpensive. He charged Suzanne Reynolds and his other students five dollars an hour for their lessons.

Suzanne had worked on a new routine with him the week before. It was standard nightclub fare -- songs like "Alexander's Ragtime Band" and "Hello Dolly" interrupted by some transitional dialogue Yukl wrote to bridge the music. But the routine wasn't quite ready yet, and she was anxious to work a few more tunes into the repertoire before going out on her first auditions. Yukl said she was close to getting it all together. Tonight, he said, they would make a tape.

It was already dark outside when she arrived at his building. She was five minutes late, and quickly walked up the stairs to Yukl's third floor apartment. On the door to the apartment was taped a note on a white piece of paper with scrawled handwriting: "Hi. Just went out to walk the dog. The door is open. I'll be right back. Charlie."

Suzanne let herself in. As soon as she opened the door she saw the big dog sitting quietly in the small living room. There was not much to the room -- a small, brown couch, two small end tables, a few plants, a wood-laminated coffee table, and, of course, the piano.

It always struck Suzanne as strange that a man would keep a Great Dane in such a tiny apartment. She sat down on the couch to wait. For a moment, the room was quiet. Then, Suzanne heard a noise coming from the bathroom. It sounded like someone running the bathwater.

Charlie must be in there, she thought. He must have forgotten to take the note off the door. Perhaps she should announce her arrival.

"Okay, you lucky boy," Suzanne bellowed in her usual effervescent way, "I'm here."

The door to the bathroom opened quickly and out came a naked, dripping man. "Oh," Yukl apologized. Suzanne looked quickly away. "I didn't realize you were here," he offered. He stood there for a few more seconds, then abruptly retreated to the bathroom. Yukl grabbed a towel. "I'm sorry," he called out. "I'll be with you in a minute." Suzanne thought nothing of it. She shrugged and headed over to the small upright piano. New York, she had always been told, was full of colorful characters. Charles Yukl was just one of them.

Two minutes later, Yukl came out of the bathroom dressed in an unironed short sleeve button down shirt and slacks. He didn't go to the piano. He walked silently, nervously over to a small chair, sat and stared at the floor.

"Charlie, are you okay?" Suzanne asked. He didn't respond. "You want to forget about tonight? I could come back." Yukl shook his head. "N-n-no," he stuttered. "Y-y-y-you can stay."

His behavior this evening was strangely different. The drapes were closed. The room was dimly lit. She could see that he had been drinking. A half empty bottle of vodka sat on the table. And his wife wasn't home.

"I'm sorry about the bathroom," he murmured, barely audible. He was still sitting in the chair. Without waiting for Suzanne's response, he began to ramble, making little sense. He started to mumble things about sex. "Did you get excited at seeing me?" he asked. She didn't notice that his eyes had begun to widen.

Suzanne tried to change the subject. Men had come on to her before. She could handle this guy. "Let's get to work, Charlie," she said. "We can talk about that later." But he was still sitting across from her on the chair, mumbling. He seemed lost in a host of confused thoughts. Suzanne waited for him to snap out of it, but he didn't. "Charlie?" she asked. "Charlie, are you all right?" He looked up at her.

Suddenly, he blurted out, "Did you bring the songs?"

Good, she thought. We're back on track. Maybe this silly episode is over. "Sure," she said, reaching for her purse. "Thought you'd never ask. Got 'em right here."

As Suzanne opened her brown leather handbag, the clasp snapped and everything fell to the floor: compact, lipstick, apartment keys, handkerchief, address book and wallet.

Charlie jumped quickly out of his chair. Both he and Suzanne got down on the floor to retrieve the items. "Where's the sheet music?" he asked. They both looked. "Where is it?" he repeated himself quickly.

Suzanne realized it wasn't in the bag. She had forgotten it. "It's not in the purse. I'm sorry, Charlie, I guess I left it at home this morning." She managed a silly, embarrassed laugh. "But we could work on another tune."

He stood up suddenly, almost jerking himself from the floor. "You're a slob. You're a goddamn slob," he yelled. Yukl had always been quiet around Suzanne. But now he was loud. He began pacing nervously around the small living room, staring directly at her. He made a fist and began pressing it hard into the palm of his left hand, mortar and pestle style. This time she could not avoid looking at his eyes.

"C'mon," she said soothingly, trying to hide her growing nervousness as she moved over to sit on the couch. "I said I was sorry. So, I'll sing something else. Or maybe I should leave. What do you think?" Indeed, it was a rhetorical question for Suzanne. She could no longer give this guy the benefit of the doubt. She had to exit. Now.

Suzanne got up from the couch. Charlie now turned toward her as she rose wi

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