On this day March 21: Steen Fenrich

Steen Fenrich march 21

A man walking through a New York park on March 21, 2000, came across a plastic tub containing the remains of 19-year-old Steen Fenrich, missing since September. Steen’s racist, homophobic, white stepfather later admitted to murdering the young black man.

The man who found the plastic tub alerted a nearby police Emergency Services unit. Inside: dismembered body parts including an acid-bleached skull. Racial and anti-gay slurs were scrawled on the skull — and a number. The number turned out to be the Social Security number of Steen Fenrich.

Formerly a popular student at a  local high school, Steen joined the army at 17. However, he left the army for undisclosed reasons before the end of his tour of duty. He then moved in with a boyfriend in the locale of the park where his remains were later found.

Steen Fenrich’s stepfather

When police advised Steen Fenrich’s family of the discovery, John Fenrich, Steen’s stepfather, immediately told them they should check out his stepson’s boyfriend. He claimed the pair had an argument around the time of Steen’s disappearance. However, after speaking to the boyfriend and others, the police regarded John Fenrich as their main suspect.

John Fenrich earned his living doing odd jobs. However, at the time of his stepson’s death, he was under investigation for attempting to defraud insurance companies of around half a million dollars. He staged a series of car accidents and then attempted to claim compensation. To increase the payouts, he self-mutilated — amputating one of his own fingers, lacerating an earlobe and slashing his groin.

At 5 am on the morning after police advised him of the discovery of Steen’s dismembered body, John Fenrich called a local television station. During the call, he mentioned that his stepson’s body was ‘all chopped up’, information not yet released by the police. He also threatened to kill his wife and Steen’s 14-year-old brother.

Police raced to the house but when they tried to arrest Fenrich, he climbed on the roof and began firing shots. His wife and younger son escaped the house as police cleared the neighbourhood. Newsday later published eyewitness accounts of the siege.

“He’s walking back and forth across the roof talking, screaming, yelling, sitting down, smoking… Neighbours reported seeing Fenrich drinking beer and even vomiting into the chimney. He begged officers to shoot him. Fenrich’s brother, a Queens homicide sergeant, was called to the scene but did not speak with him. During hours of discussions with police negotiators, Fenrich confessed to killing his stepson.”

At 1.25 pm, John Fenrich lost his footing and, as he slipped, grabbed a pistol and shot himself in the head before tumbling from the roof.

Steen Fenrich, 1981 – 2000. Rest in Peace.

Read More:

M. Butterfly, March 20 <— On this day —> March 22, Dr Walter C Alvarez

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