When the body of 18-year-old Jennifer Levin was found in August 1986, her death instantly became tabloid fodder. She was young, attractive, and ran with a rich Manhattan crowd — not the kind of person who usually turned up dead in Central Park.
Yet when it was discovered that she died at the hands of Robert Chambers, an equally affluent young man, the narrative quickly changed, with the media questioning whether someone as cute as Chambers could really be responsible for such a horrendous crime.
He claimed that she was trying to initiate “rough sex,” and that he accidentally killed her in the process. Levin was reduced to a caricature, and shamed in the press for her perceived sexual adventurousness. Before slut shaming was a widely discussed concept, Levin was slut shamed by America — and blamed for her own murder.
More than 30 years later, her story is being reexamined in the new documentary The Preppy Murder: Death in Central Park, which premieres November 13th at 9 p.m. on AMC. Using interviews with everyone from family members to newspaper reporters and members of the prosecution, the new documentary seeks to retell this story from Levin’s perspective, hoping to expose what really drove Chambers to kill her that day.
In this outtake, Levin’s two best friends, Jessica Doyle and Peter Davis, describe the young woman Levin was becoming before her death. “Jennifer kinda thought our lives were super cool,” says Davis. “We lived uptown, and were already ingrained and enmeshed in this world.”
She was “playful, and uninhibited,” says Doyle. “She was open. She was all in, as we now say.”
In the clip, her two best friends describe how they’d three-way call each other and talk for hours about everything from 1985’s Hurricane Gloria to their inside jokes — like shouting out “Snausages” as a code word for everything. (“It’s completely random,” says Doyle. “None of us had dogs.”)
“She wasn’t a jaded person,” Doyle remembers. “She really, fully enjoyed the beauty of New York, the friendships that she made.”