'Headless body in topless bar’: infamous ‘perp’ seeks parole

Jan 23, 2012

Charles Dingle asks for freedom 29 years after his crime spree inspired New York Post headline

HIS 1984 crime inspired one of the most famous headlines in tabloid newspaper history - ‘HEADLESS BODY IN TOPLESS BAR’. Now the perpetrator, Charles Dingle, is hoping a parole board will free him after almost three decades in the Wende correctional facility in upstate New York.

The New York Post, which ran ran the original 1983 headline, reports today that 53-year-old Dingle will this week face a three-man panel who will decide whether the killer - who has already had two parole bids turned down - should be released from jail.

Although the subject of considerable mirth due to the Post's headline, Dingle's rampage was horrific even by the standards of New York City in the 1980s. High on cocaine and alcohol, Dingle shot dead Herbert Cummings, owner of Herbie's Bar in Jamaica, Queens.

He took hostage four women who were in the bar, raping one of them, a topless dancer, and robbing the others. While going through their bags, he discovered that one of his captives was a mortician. Dingle instructed her to cut the bullet out of Cummings's body, hoping to cover his tracks.

Dingle also demanded that she cut the bar owner's head off with a steak knife, which he put in a box. Hence the Post’s sub-heading in 1983: ‘Gunman forces woman to decapitate tavern owner’. After releasing two of his hostages, Dingle then stole a cab and headed into Manhattan with his remaining prisoners and Cummings's decapitated head.

He was arrested on Broadway after falling asleep at the wheel of the cab. His hostages escaped and alerted police. He was convicted of murder, kidnapping, rape and robbery.

While incarcerated Dingle has been far from a model prisoner, assaulting staff and concealing deadly weapons such as a shank, a crude knife made from a razor blade and a toothbrush.

POSTSCRIPT: The writer of the original headline retired from the Post last summer. According the The Guardian, Vincent A Musetto did not think it was his finest headline - that accolade went to 'Granny executed in her pink pajamas'.

Sign up for our daily newsletter