One of the Craziest Stories I’ve Ever Heard

Marilyn Mackey · Shaw Mackey · 1972 · Lower East Side · East Village · New York City
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My godmother is the ex-girlfriend mentioned at the very end of the article in this newspaper clipping. When I was little I’d heard about this incident from my mom, but I was always kinda skeptical until I found this clipping at my aunt’s house shortly after my mom passed away.

At the time, my godmother shared an apartment in New York’s East Village with her boyfriend (the “karate expert” mentioned in the article, who I will refer to from here on as Karate Boy) and my mother and older sister. One night my godmother and Karate Boy were home alone and at some point dude spazzed out and tried to strangle my godmother. He must have made quite a ruckus because the lady who lived in the apartment next door, Marilyn Mackey, called the cops who showed up and arrested Karate Boy and I guess saved my godmother’s life.

When my mom got home the next day she saw that my godmother had bruises on her throat and around her neck. After getting the details, she fled the apartment with my sister and made my godmother leave, too. Karate Boy was released that same day or later in the evening. I guess he went home, found the place empty and spazzed even harder than he had the night before. He sneaked into the apartment next door (by way of the fire escape, I believe), where he killed Marilyn and her 9 year old son, Shaw.

The story doesn’t end there.  After the police caught up with Karate Boy for the murders and took him into custody, he supposedly utilized his karate expertise to put beats on at least several officers and then managed to escape!  Only thing I’m not sure about is if that happened on the street or at the precinct.  I’m guessing the police handled him with a little more caution after that because he made no more great escapes.

The details in the article pretty much jibe with everything my mom told me about the incident when I was younger, from the martial arts to the group, Exuma, which I literally only just now noticed is also mentioned in the article.  My mom seemed to think that Marilyn belonged to some sort of religious cult.  As I am looking into the group now, it looks like Exuma was the band/stage name for musician Macfarlane Gregory Anthony Mackey (the father of Shaw), and the lyrical content of his music focused heavily on Obeah, which Wikipedia describes as “a term used in the West Indies to refer to folk magic, sorcery, and religious practices derived from West African, and specifically Igbo origin“.  Wow!  And to think for all those years I thought moms was exaggerating! 😯

My mother also mentioned that earlier in the day before the murders, Karate Boy had heard chanting coming from next door, so he sneaked over on the fire escape and peeked in the window.  He came back and reported that he’d seen a bunch of people standing around in black robes with candles lit, and that they were apparently performing some kind of ritual. Over the years I’d also heard that Karate Boy was ultimately lobotomized. I can’t confirm that but this article over at Wired seems to indicate that lobotomies were performed legally in the States until the 1980s, so I guess it really could have happened.

As you may have guessed, my godmother is still traumatized by the entire incident.  She doesn’t like to talk about it but one thing I noted recently is that she refuses to watch plausible creeper horror / thriller flicks like The Strangers or Funny Games.

Here is a recent photo of 217 Avenue A (courtesy of Google Maps Street View):

217 Avenue A, New York, NY 10009
217 Avenue A, New York, NY 10009 (Courtesy of Google Street View – Click Here to Enlarge)

11 thoughts on “One of the Craziest Stories I’ve Ever Heard”

  1. Last night my mom mentioned that a British woman she worked with at Holt Rinehart in the 1970s had been killed in her apartment in the East Village and found by her children. The original news story about her was in the NYT archive but there was no follow-up — I know it’s been over forty years ago, but I’m so glad they caught this guy, who sounds like a real nutjob. Thanks for posting, I never would have found out what happened if you hadn’t written this.

  2. I am the son of Marilyn Mackey and brother of Shaw that was an eye witness to the double homicide. I am seeking more information please.

    1. Hi Gavin. I know no more about the murder of your mom and your brother than you do, but I knew the three of you well on the Lower East Side. I lived around the corner on E 12th Street with my husband, my daughter Vandy, and my son Gavin. He was born in 1967 and I can remember asking your mom’s permission before I named him. We used to spend a lot of time together in Tompkins Square Park and at each other’s apartments. Marilyn used to haul your laundry to my house because I had a washer/dryer combo. We moved to Brooklyn in 1969. At the time that we moved, both you and Shaw were going to Hunter and your mother was so proud of you. Today I was on Ave. A and as I always do when I’m in that neighborhood, I thought about you. So tonight I googled Marilyn and got this blog. It was good to see your name, although the memories are overwhelming.

      1. OMG! This is incredible. Many thanks to theSunset Kid for this blog. Please e-mail me Joan. I’m in NY.

        1. Gavin. Email me. I have some snapshots I’d like to give you as soon as I put them on disk for me (and for you)–but you can have the originals. My ex-husband Norm emailed me that he remembers that we called the the shelter where you were taken to see if we could help and were told that you had been released to your father. That was a relief because I was worried that they were going to try to hang the horror on him. I’m in Manhattan a lot. I belong to an organization called the Granny Peace Brigade and spend a lot of time on the streets and sometimes in jail for non-violent protesting. I think in her seventies your mom would have been right there with me. In her 20s she was devoted to you and Shaw–you always smiling; Shaw somewhat more serious. Perhaps we can meet one of these days. joan

        2. Gavin, I remember you and your brother as you and he (and your mom) were really cool people. We played together and your mom used to pick you both up from the Boys Club. Then this tragedy struck and we never saw you again. In what was a tough neighborhood at the time, this was really shocking. I always wondered what happened to you and just assumed you went to live with family members outside of the Lower East Side or even New York. A while back I even wrote to the Daily News suggesting they cover this sad story in their weekly “Justice Story” feature. I am glad you are around and hopefully doing well.

          1. hi Tom Gavin here. So great to hear from you! I started to believe that me and my family had been forgotten. 41 years was a long time ago yet to hear from you, Linda, Joan and Norm after all these years, and know that you remembered us is inspiring. Thank you so much for remembering us. Please, if you want to call me, my number is xxx xxx xxxx or you can email me at
            looking forward to hearing from you your friend gavin

    2. Hi, Gavin. I’m Norm Shatkin, who was Joan Pleune’s husband back in the day (not now), and who remembers you and your mother and brother quite fondly. I can even remember Joan asking Marilyn for permission to name our son Gavin. She was one of the loveliest people I’ve ever known, and like Joan I was devastated by her murder and that of Shaw. Senseless, it seemed then, and senseless, it seems now.

      I used to have pictures of you and Shaw playing with my two kids on the slides in Tompkins Square Park. A house fire, about three years ago, destroyed them. Joan may still have some, I think. The neighborhood is so very different now.

      If you would be so kind, I would love to know how your life has worked out. I still remember your face very well, with it’s wicked smile. I always thought you’d turn out to be a ladies man, with that smile.

  3. Hi Gavin, Your mom worked with my Dad at the publishing company.. My mom was telling me this story tonight. I was shocked that I never heard about it before. My parents were both very fond of your mother. They are still shocked to this day by what happened. I just wanted you to know that your mom was not forgotten, and was remembered as a very special person. My dad said she talked about her sons all the time and was a great mom. I hope this provides you with a little peace. Susan

    1. Would love to speak with you and your parents as I am currently writing a book about the whole experience and would really love you guys perspective on those times.

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