Human Interest

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Players Scrutinized in Tankleff Murder Mystery

January 24, 2008 11:25 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
New York’s attorney general reviews the 1988 murder case that saw Martin Tankleff serve 17 years in prison for murdering his parents. A former business partner of the slain husband is under scrunity.

30-Second Summary

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At the beginning of January, Suffolk County district attorney Thomas Spota said he wouldn’t retry Martin Tankleff in connection with the 1988 murder of his parents, Arlene and Seymour Tankleff. A state court of appeals had said in December that Tankleff should have a new trial because of evidence that emerged in the intervening years.

Tankleff, who was 17 at the time of his parents’ death, gave a confession that he almost immediately recanted and wouldn’t sign. That verbal confession was used to convict Martin of his parents’ murder. At 19, he was sentenced to 50 years to life in prison.

Witnesses later implicated Peter Kent and Joseph Creedon. Those witnesses also suggested that Jerard Steuerman, a business partner who owed Tankleff senior $500,000, was behind the murders.

Steuerman moved to California and changed his name soon after the Tankleffs were killed. To this day, Steuerman denies involvement, and the police have never identified him as a suspect. His relationship with Seymour was described as “cool,” and Arlene had told a relative she was afraid of her husband’s business partner.

Those involved in the Tankleff tragedy are also connected in other ways. Spota was a partner in a law firm that represented Steuerman’s son in the early 1980s, and Martin Tankleff’s brother-in-law went into business with the chief investigator of the case after the trial.

It may have a bearing on the case that studies have shown teenagers are more susceptible to the delusions that lead to false confessions. If Martin Tankleff was persuaded to confess to a crime he didn't commit, it was not the first time an innocent teenager had done so.

Headline Links: “The Names Stay Linked: ‘Bagel King’ and Tankleff”

Background: Tankleff Case Timeline; Court Documents

Opinion & Analysis: Tankleff family support; questions remain

Related Material: False confessions, double convictions

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