On March 21, 2000, a man walking through Alley Pond Park in Bayside, Queens, found a big blue plastic tub. He opened it, finding an acid-burned skull, a foot bone with flesh on it and other crushed body parts. He took with its grisly contents to stunned Emergency Service Unit officers who happened to be parked nearby.
The skull was scrawled with a Social Security number and a racist and anti-gay slur -- on his skull in fact was written with a marker "gay nigger number one". Police initially suspected the grim find might be the result of an occult killing because the Social Security number included "666."
The remains were of a black young man. Investigators later traced the number to Steen Fenrich, 19, a popular School graduate who entered the Army in July 1997 and served nine months before being discharged. He had left his parents' Dix Hills home and was missing since September, 1999. The bones had not been positively identified at once, because the acid damaged the enamel of the victim's teeth, preventing a dental match. Still, cops soon had little doubt they are Steen Fenrich's remains, because the Social Security number was that of the teen-ager .
When detectives told John Fenrich, Steen's stepfather, late on Tuesday night that they had found Steen's body, he pointed the finger at his stepson's gay lover, saying the two "had a fight". But both the boyfriend and one of Steen Fenrich's best friends told police they should look at the father.
At 5 a.m. of Wednsday, John Fenrich, called a producer at a Long Island cable television station telling him that his stepson had been found "all chopped up" (even though NYPD investigators had never told the body had been mutilated, police sources said) and threatening to kill his wife, Wanda and their other son, John David, 15. Steen's mother, Wanda, is black. The stepfather was white. The station then called police.
Cops had suspected Fenrich was his stepson's killer, and not just a grief-stricken parent, because he knew undisclosed details about the grisly discovery.
Scores of police and FBI agents swooped down on the tree-lined street. Dix Hills, a community of middle and upper-middle class homes, is about 50 miles east of Manhattan.
After the trail of clues began to point to Fenrich - the 36-year-old clambered atop his Dix Hills home with a rifle and a handgun, firing a few rounds and keeping cops at bay for eight hours before killing himself.
Fenrich's wife and 15-year-old son left the home a short time later. Neighbors were told to stay in their basements while police negotiators tried to talk Fenrich down. His brother, a New York City police sergeant, also was at the scene.
Dozens of police officers converged on Fenrich's house around 7 a.m. Wednesday after he fired several shots into the air and climbed onto the roof, carrying a rifle and a handgun. As his wife and son escaped, Fenrich fired in the air. He kept the neighborhood hostage for hours.
"I'm a failure as a father," Fenrich yelled at cops before firing a bullet into his head. "Shoot me, shoot me. What are you waiting for?" Eight hours into the siege, Fenrich put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger. He was pronounced dead at a hospital. He was 36.
Fenrich also had been accused of being a scam artist. Along with his wife, he was awaiting trial on insurance fraud charges stemming from 17 allegedly staged car accidents.
Both of his brothers are with the NYPD, one a detective and one a sergeant. The sergeant went to the shooting scene, uselessly, to try to negotiate his brother's surrender.
Police believe John Fenrich killed Steen Fenrich in a homophobic rage, possibly several weeks before. Fenrich, after storing the body parts, dumped them in the park to point cops to his stepson's gay lover. The stepson and his lover had lived nearby.