Found Murdered and Dismembered, the Bodies of 4 Gay Men Put Police on the Trail of a Serial Killer

Elon Green’s new book Last Call follows a serial killer stalking gay men through piano bars in early 1990s New York City

As the bodies pile up in author Elon Green’s gripping true-crime book Last Call, there is growing alarm not just in their numbers but in the similar state in which they are found: dismembered, in layers of plastic trash bags knotted at least twice, their body parts often severed with precision.

But there is another commonality among the bodies found between 1991 and 1993 in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania: All four victims were all older gay men during a time of homophobia supercharged by the AIDS epidemic. New York City’s gay piano bars seemed to offer a safe harbor — until a serial killer began frequenting them

The first, Peter Anderson, 54, was a largely closeted banker, separated but still married, who was visiting Manhattan from Philadelphia on May 3, 1991. Two days later, a maintenance worker on the Pennsylvania Turnpike found his remains in a 55-gallon rest area trash barrel. He’d been stabbed, and his penis had been severed and stuffed in his mouth.

Within a year his case had gone cold.

Then, in July 1992, New Jersey State Police turned up another victim: Thomas Mulcahy, 57, whose body parts were dumped in two separate rest areas. The closeted father of four from Massachusetts had disappeared while on a business trip to the city. He’d also been stabbed and dismembered, his bones cleanly separated from their joints, with his limbs washed clean before they were discarded.

The murders suggested a link, and a possible serial killer: Both men had last been seen at a gay piano bar on East 58th St. called The Townhouse. “Quiet and respectable, with red wallpaper, leather chairs and oil paintings, The Townhouse was invariably described as well-appointed,” Green writes. It was also “a place where older gentlemen pursued younger men, and vice versa.”

A third victim 10 months later challenged the profile. Although he was known to linger in and around Midtown gay bars, Anthony Marrero, 44, was a sex worker, with previous arrests in and around the Port Authority Bus Terminal for pandering and solicitation. But the fatal stab wounds and horrifying manner of his disposal on the edge of a New Jersey forest — in trash bags and sliced into seven parts — echoed Mulcahy’s killing. As did the bagged remains of a fourth victim, Michael Sakara, 55, a beloved patron last seen at the Greenwich Village piano bar Five Oaks, whose remains turned up in July 1993 in the trash near a waterfront overlook an hour north of Manhattan.

A third victim 10 months later challenged the profile. Although he was known to linger in and around Midtown gay bars, Anthony Marrero, 44, was a sex worker, with previous arrests in and around the Port Authority Bus Terminal for pandering and solicitation. But the fatal stab wounds and horrifying manner of his disposal on the edge of a New Jersey forest — in trash bags and sliced into seven parts — echoed Mulcahy’s killing. As did the bagged remains of a fourth victim, Michael Sakara, 55, a beloved patron last seen at the Greenwich Village piano bar Five Oaks, whose remains turned up in July 1993 in the trash near a waterfront overlook an hour north of Manhattan.