If you watch many true crime documentaries or horror documentaries, you’ll have heard of Cropsey. Cropsey is possibly one of the scariest true crime documentaries out there, because it tackles the subject of when the Boogeyman becomes a real person.
Sadly, the story behind Cropsey was all too real. Set in Staten Island during the 1980s, Cropsey is about the disappearance of children and mentally impaired adults on Staten Island. It also delves into the reality of urban legends. Cropsey is actually the name of the Staten Island boogeyman that parents warned their kids about in the 1980s.
Sociologists and historians have known for decades that most urban legends spring up from something that really happens. You don’t tell boogeyman stories about aliens, because chances of your child running across an alien are slim, where as chances your child might run across a serial killer, pedophile, or human trafficker are much higher.
Which is what Cropsey started out as. The disappearances weren’t originally linked. They were suspected to be linked, but there was no hard evidence of it. Like most quiet areas that are suddenly plagued by death, kidnappings, disappearances, and rape, some monster had to be responsible and before that monster had real name to apply to it, he was named Cropsey.
The disappearances didn’t start with 8 year old Jennifer Schweiger, but they gained national attention because of poor Jennifer. Jennifer had Down Syndrome, which would later work to connect the cases. Andre Rand was arrested and put on trial for the murder, kidnapping, and rape of Jennifer Schweiger. He would be found guilty of kidnapping and rape, but not of murder. There was some evidence to suggest Rand was guilty, but not enough to prove it beyond reasonable doubt.
Some of the evidence against him was witness testimony that stated “Rand looked like the kind of person that would kidnap and kill a child.” Which isn’t conclusive evidence, not by a long shot. Based on that evidence, I am probably guilty of murder. After all, readers could attest to the fact that I understand the process of it and attest to the fact that I don’t like children very well, I have blogged about it in the past.
Here is where Cropsey failed as a documentary, there are an overwhelming number of criminal behavior scholars that do not think Andre Rand was behind the abductions and murders. Rand had been a janitor at the Willowbrook Asylum, a mental instituion shut down because of neglect and abuse of patients as well as a variety of other problems.
Cropsey does not explore this. Rand was an easy target. He was mentally challenged himself. Someone said they saw Rand with Jennifer Schweiger right before she went missing, and Rand, who was homeless and could only hold menial jobs, slept in the woods near where Jennifer’s body was found. However, any and all eye witness testimony in the Schweiger case should be taken with a grain of salt, this was a period of mass hysteria, and as I pointed out above, people just thought Rand looked like a serial killer of children… He was also the very first person the police focused on in the Schweiger disappearance and murder. There was no physical evidence connecting Rand to Schweiger, just eye witness testimony from a single individual, and Rand could not be tied to any of the other disappearances around that time.
Thirty years later, profilers did decide all the disappearances were connected and that most likely there had been a serial killer on Staten Island. That’s good news, but that also makes it far less likely that Rand was that serial killer. Rand did not have the organizational skills to abduct and kill roughly a dozen mentally impaired children, teens, and even a few young adults and not leave any evidence. More damning though, Andre Rand did not have a history of violence, at all. Not just lacking a history of violence against children, he had been arrested for things like vagrancy, but not for bar fights or threatening people, or beating up random strangers because they wouldn’t give him spare change (which has happened).
The case is considered closed, but amateur detective groups (these are a real thing and are so cool), have looked into the case and believe they found cases that should be linked to Cropsey that happened after Rand was institutionalized for the disappearance of Jennifer Schweiger. I don’t remember if any of this is mentioned in the documentary, but if it was, it was very briefly, because I watched it last year (2017) and don’t remember it being discussed, so it may have been mentioned in passing, but not explored deeply, if that makes any sense.