Caroline Rose Isenberg

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Caroline Rose Isenberg was an actress and Harvard graduate, class of 1984, whose murder in Manhattan in 1984 received national coverage.

Isenberg was born October 27, 1961 in Brookline, Massachusetts, attended the Brimmer and May School, and was an undergraduate at Harvard College, where she lived in Lowell House. During her senior year, she was chosen to act in First Affair, a made-for-TV movie set and filmed at Harvard. Although numerous other undergraduates were included as extras, she was the only student who had a speaking part.

After graduation, she moved to Manhattan, took an apartment at 929 West End Avenue on the Upper West Side with her best friend Sea Glassman, and began to take drama classes at Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theater. However, in the early hours of December 2, 1984, after returning from a Broadway show, she was attacked, dragged to the roof of her apartment building and stabbed. Her calls for help were quite specific and made reference to her name and apartment number, something that in classes on women's safety she had learned could increase the chance that others would intervene to help. This in fact succeeded in getting neighbors to summon the police. She was taken to the hospital where she managed to give the police a statement on her attacker, but died early that morning. Several days later, nearly one thousand people attended her funeral in Brookline, Massachusetts and her burial in Wakefield, Massachusetts. [1]

Emmanuel Torres, the son of the building custodian, was arrested on December 29 and in 1985 was convicted of her murder. The case attracted detailed national coverage for a number of reasons. It highlighted the dangers of 1980s New York City and also showed how violent crime robbed a talented young person of a bright future. There was some controversy that the murder of a white woman received so much more coverage than did the hundreds of killings of women of color each year. The racial politics of the case were further complicated when it was revealed that the killer's brother, Alfredo Torres, was a physician in residence. Much of the coverage took up the question of how two brothers could have such divergent life histories. [2]

A number of scholarships have been established to commemorate Isenberg, one at her secondary school, another at Harvard.

The rock band The Alarm released a song entitled Caroline Isenberg on a 1986 EP that tells the story of her death as does "Suite 929" by Brian Gari on his CD "Songs For Future Musicals."

"Night Prayer," a poem by Seattle-based author Stacey Levine, appeared in the May 1985 issue of the political/activist journal Northwest Passage. The poem reflects on Caroline Isenberg's death.

Scholarships[edit]

  • Caroline R. Isenberg Scholarship Fund is given at the Brimmer and May School to an Upper School student who shows promise in art . [3]
  • Caroline Isenberg Traveling Fellowship, Harvard University [4]

Filmography[edit]

  • First Affair (1984) [5]

External links[edit]

  • Berger, Joseph. "Doctor Recalls His Brother, A Suspect in Rooftop Slaying", New York Times, December 9, 1984
  • Chambers, Marcia. "Torres is Guilty in the Slaying of Actress", New York Times, June 29, 1985. [6]
  • McFadden, Robert D. "Drama Student is Stabbed to Death on West Side", New York Times, December 3, 1984.
  • Rather, Dan. "New York City / Actress' Murder", CBS Evening News, Monday, Dec 03, 1984 Vanderbilt Television News Archive