In season 2 of Mindhunter, Dr. Wendy Carr and Agent Smith team up to visit Paul Bateson, a gay man, former medical radiographer and convicted murderer .
In 1979 Bateson was convicted of killing journalist Addison Verrill — he was sentenced to a minimum of 20 years in prison and was also suspected of a string of other gruesome gay murders.
At this time in the mid ’70’s, Greenwich Village was experiencing a string of murders of gay men. A number of bodies of unidentified victims had been discovered, dismembered and placed in bags that were tossed into the Hudson River. These murders were rarely reported on.
On September 14, 1977, Addison Verrill, a reporter who covered the film industry for Variety, was found dead in his Horatio Street apartment. He had been beaten and stabbed; there were some signs of a struggle. However, nothing of value had been taken. Police believed that if the killer’s motive had been robbery, he might have been looking for cash or jewelry since those could be taken quickly.
There was no evidence of forced entry. Verrill had likely let his killer in to the apartment; there were several empty beer cans and half-full liquor glasses at the scene. Gay activist and journalist Arthur Bell, a friend of Verrill’s, wrote an article about the case in The Village Voice setting it against the larger issue of how murders of gay men, several of which occurred yearly in the Village, were rarely taken seriously by police or reported on in the media since they were seen as the results of sexual encounters gone wrong. The police, Bell wrote, had learned that Verrill had been at the Mineshaft, a popular leather bar, until 6 a.m., talking to many other patrons.
According to Bell, Verrill’s friends said that while he was not into hardcore leather scene that was abundant at the Mineshaft, but he did like the “attitudes” of many of the customers. He was considered a regular, not only at the Mineshaft but also the Anvil, His presence was seen as making those bars popular. (In the Mindhunters episode only The Anvil was mentioned. The Anvil what more of a mixed club and after-hours establishment, not distinctly a hard core leather club.).
Eight days after the killing someone called Bell claiming to be the killer, apparently to correct his assumption in his article that the killer was a psychopath who targeted gays. “I like your story and I like your writing”, the caller told him, “but I’m not a psychopath”.
The caller (Bateson) recounted the events of the night. “I’m gay and I needed money and I’m an alcoholic”, he said. After three months of sobriety, he claimed, he had gone out to Badlands, a Christopher Street bar, in the early hours of September 14 where Verrill, whom he did not know, offered to buy him a beer. That beer became several, with the two doing poppers and cocaine in addition to the drinks.
At 3 a.m. (legit bars in NYC closed at 4 a.m.) they went to the infamous Mineshaft, where they continued to party. The caller told Bell he was impressed by how popular his companion was. “I didn’t realize he was such a superstar, and I wanted to go home with him”. After two hours, they took a taxi to Verrill’s 17th-floor studio where they drank, had sex, and did more drugs until 7:30 a.m.
The caller said that after he realized that was as far as Verrill had wanted the relationship to go. “I decided to do something I’d never done before. I needed money and I hated the rejection”. After hitting Verrill in the head with a heavy frying pan from his kitchen, the caller then said he stabbed the journalist with a knife in the chest. He took his cash from wallet ($57) Verrill’s Master Charge card, passport, and some clothes. He used the money to buy liquor and was consequently drunk for the entire next day. Bell confirmed with another source that the man had been seen at a popular bathhouse that night.
Bell contacted police about the call. The caller had known about the stolen credit card, a detail police had not made public, and described a white substance found on the floor of Verrill’s apartment as Crisco, Police had not had not been able to identify it and had also not made the information public. (Also mentioned in MH)
At 11 p.m. Bell received another call. It was not the original caller but a man who identified himself as “Mitch”. He told Bell the killer was Paul Bateson, whom he had gotten to know while the two were drying in detox out at St. Vincent’s Hospital a few months earlier he said Bateson was an unemployed X-ray technician and that he had called him earlier and confessed to the crime.
The NYPD went to Bateson’s at his East 12th Street apartment, where he was found extremely drunk and when he was asked if he knew why he was being arrested, he pointed to an open copy of the Voice with Bell’s article and indicated that that was probably why.
Bateson was charged with second-degree murder and detained while awaiting trial.
During the preliminary trial hearings, Bateson claimed that his confession had been given while he was drunk and before police had read him his rights. He also said he was not the person who made the call to Bell. But the judge on the case decided the police upheld Bateson’s constitutional rights throughout the arrest and allowed the confession—along with Bell’s article—to be used in court.
At the time of Bateson’s arrest, police had also been investigating a series of murders of gay men over the previous two years which they believed were committed by the same person due to similarities in the killings’ modus operandi. Six corpses of men had been found, dismembered, in bags floating in the Hudson River. (Known as the “Bag Murders” the “CUPPI Murders” or the “Fag in a Bag Murders”). None of them have ever been identified, but police traced the clothes on them to shops in Greenwich Village that catered to the gay community. So the prosecution attempted to connect Bateson to the unsolved murders of six men.
While being held at Riker’s Island director William Friedkin visited Bateson and with permission from his lawyer. Bateson appeared as a radiological technologist in a scene from the 1973 horror film The Exorcist. There were in no way friends but Friedkin’s interest was piqued. After the meeting Friedkin said that Bateson admitted killing Verrill, although the director then incorrectly stated that Bateson had dismembered the body and thrown the bagged body parts in the river. Bateson also said that the prosecutors were offering him deal whereby if he confessed to the bag murders and some other unsolved killings he would receive a shortened sentence.
Freidkin would later say that his visit to Bateson inspired him to make his next film, Cruising, which is based off the 1970 Gerald Walker novel about a police officer going undercover in New York City’s gay leather community to solve the slayings of gay men in the (The film sparked massive protests in New York City from the gay community that thought Friedkin’s portrayal of the gay community would be harmful and offensive. Arthur Bell himself wrote in the Village Voice that it was the “the most oppressive, ugly bigoted look at homosexuality ever presented on screen.”)
Justice Morris Goldman sentenced Bateson to 20 years to life in prison for the murder of Addison Verill, five years less than the minimum thge prosecutors had asked for. Finding that the connection to the other murders “too ephemeral” to merit any consideration in sentencing.
Although not convicted for the other six murders NYPD were convinced that Bateson was guilty and in what might be just coincidence the bag murders stopped.
Bateson served 24 years and 3 months of his sentence and on the day after his 63rd birthday, in August 2003, he was released from Arthur Kill Correctional Facility on Staten Island.
After his release what happened to Paul Bateson is unknown. A record in the Social Security Death Index shows that a Paul F. Bateson, with the same birthdate and a Social Security number issued in Pennsylvania, where Bateson was born died on September 15, 2012.
*POSTSCRIPT: In the early 1990’s, New York’s gay community was once again stalked by a serial killer who targeted inebriated men leaving the city’s gay bars late at night. Their bodies, or rather body parts, were found wrapped in garbage bags and dumped at highway rest stops, and along roads outside the city. Dubbed “The Last Call Killer,” the serial killer would not be found by the police for almost a decade.
The killer Richard W. Rogers was arrested and convicted to life in prison. He was 51 years old and would have been 23 years old at the time of the first “Bag Murder” that the NYPD wanted to connect Bateson to.
What would Agents Tench, Holden, Carr and Smith make of that?