|This article needs additional citations for verification. (September 2009)|
|Born||March 29, 1967|
|Died||July 7, 1984 (aged 17)|
|Cause of death||Suicide by hanging|
|Other names||The Acid King|
|Education||High school dropout|
Richard "Ricky" Kasso (March 29, 1967 - July 7, 1984), also known as The Acid King, murdered 17-year-old acquaintance Gary Lauwers in Northport, Long Island, New York on June 16, 1984. Two other teens, Jimmy Troiano and Albert Quinones, were present at the murder, which took place in the Aztakea Woods of Northport while all four were high on what they believed (and was reported) to be mescaline but was most likely either PCP or LSD. The murder became sensational news in the New York area and across the nation due to the torture of Lauwers and alleged Satanic ritualistic aspects of the murder. The murder took place during a period when there was much public concern over the effects of Satanic and occult content in heavy metal music and in role playing games. Kasso was wearing an AC/DC t-shirt at the time of his arrest and was a fan of groups such as Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and Ozzy Osbourne.
Kasso was the son of a local high school history teacher and football coach at affluent Cold Spring Harbor High School. Several years prior to the murder, his father, Gregory Pitch Kasso, had been named Nassau County Football Coach of the Year by Newsday. Kasso ran away from home as a young teen and lived on the streets of suburban Northport, Long Island, New York, usually sleeping in the local woods, or in the cars, garages, backyards and houses of friends. He often took drugs, mainly marijuana, hashish, LSD (hence the nickname "Acid King"), PCP, and purple-microdots which were thought to be mescaline. He tended to consume all of his drugs, but had on occasion dealt drugs in Northport as well. Kasso dabbled in the occult and Satanism and was friends with the members of a loosely-organized group who referred to themselves as the "Knights of the Black Circle". There are reports that he participated in Satanic ceremonies, mostly in Northport, and is said to have celebrated Walpurgisnacht at the infamous Amityville Horror house in 1984. Kasso also expressed to friends his great interest in Anton LaVey's book The Satanic Bible. On at least one occasion, Ricky's parents admitted him to the South Oaks Psychiatric Hospital (formerly known as the Amityville Asylum) in Amityville, New York for drug rehabilitation and psychiatric care.
In the year prior to the murder, Kasso and others had been arrested for grave robbing, taking a human skull, a skeleton hand and other objects from a local cemetery. About a month after his arrest for this crime, Ricky contracted pneumonia and was treated at Long Island Jewish Hospital. During his hospital stay, his parents tried to convince the doctors to commit him for involuntary psychiatric care. However, the conclusion of the psychiatrists was that Kasso exhibited antisocial behavior but was neither psychotic nor a violent danger, and Kasso was released upon recovering from his bout with pneumonia.
The conflict between Kasso and Lauwers had started several months earlier when Lauwers allegedly stole 10 bags of PCP from Kasso's jacket, after he had passed out at a party. Kasso confronted him soon after the incident, prompting Lauwers to immediately return five of the ten bags of PCP. Lauwers also promised to repay Kasso $50 for the five bags of PCP that had been used, but failed to do so. As a result, Kasso reportedly beat Lauwers on four separate occasions. On the night of the murder, Kasso visited the small gazebo in the new Cow Harbor park and borrowed a radio from friend Mark Fisher. He then invited Lauwers to get high, claiming that he was ready to forgive the $50 debt and wanted to be friends. The group walked to Aztakea woods, set up camp and ingested several doses, or hits, of what they believed to be mescaline, but was most likely either PCP or LSD. The teens attempted to start a small fire, but all of the available firewood was too wet and would not ignite. Lauwers used his socks, as well as the sleeves from his denim jacket, as kindling to start the fire.
The situation escalated into violence when Kasso suggested that they should also use some of Lauwer's hair as kindling for the fire. Kasso scuffled with Lauwers, bit him on the neck and stabbed him in the chest. Kasso continued his assault on Lauwers for an extended period of time, which was reported to have lasted three to four hours. Quinones claimed that Troiano helped Kasso and held Lauwers during the attack. During subsequent testimony he provided under immunity, however, Quinones did assume some responsibility for holding Lauwers down, as well as chasing Lauwers and dragging him back to Kasso when he had attempted to flee. Lauwers was stabbed somewhere between 17 and 36 times, incurred burns, and his eyeballs had been gouged out. It was also reported that stones had been shoved down his throat. During the attack, Kasso allegedly commanded Lauwers to "Say you love Satan", but Lauwers is said to have instead replied "I love my mother". After the attack, Kasso and Troiano covered Lauwers' body with leaves and small branches. As the group was departing Aztakea, Lauwers was reported to have sat up and repeated "I love my mother", causing Kasso to resume the attack until he was certain that Lauwers had died.
In the aftermath, Kasso reportedly bragged about the murder to local teens, claiming the murder was a "human sacrifice". Kasso told some that he had murdered Lauwers because Satan had commanded him to. Kasso claimed Satan manifested in the form of a black crow, and that the crow had cawed, something he interpreted as Satan's command to murder Lauwers. Kasso even brought several disbelieving teens to view Lauwers' decomposing body. However, it wasn't until two weeks went by, on July 1, that the murder was reported to the police via an anonymous tip. The tip reportedly came from a girl who claimed she had overheard a group of girls discussing the murder. On July 4, 1984, police used dogs to search Aztakea woods and recovered the decomposing and mutilated body of Gary Lauwers. On July 7, two days after his arrest, Kasso committed suicide by hanging himself in his jail cell.
Jimmy Troiano signed a confession that he later recanted. Quinones gave witness account that Troiano helped Kasso during the murder. However, due to his drugged state, the testimony of Quinones was brought into question and Troiano was acquitted of second-degree murder in a trial by jury in April 1985.
Books and films about the murder
- Say You Love Satan (1987, ISBN 0-440-17574-7) by David St. Clair
- Satan in the Suburbs (2000, TV) directed by Scott Hillier
- "The Devil Worshippers" (1985, TV) Episode of ABC news program 20/20 which features the Kasso murder.
- "Occult Killers" (2012, TV) directed by Jean Leclerc for the bio channel and features the Kasso Murder.
- Ricky 6 (2000), also known as Ricky Six and Say You Love Satan, directed by Peter Filardi
- My Sweet Satan (1994) directed by Jim Van Bebber
- Black Circle Boys (1997) directed by Matthew Carnahan
- "0-0 (Where Evil Dwells)" (1987, Dirtdish) by Wiseblood
- "Bad Party" (1988, Beelzebubba) by The Dead Milkmen
- "Cryin' Shame" (1989, Wake Me When It's Over) by Faster Pussycat
- "Psychedelic Sacrifice" (1993, Burn, Baby, Burn!) by The Electric Hellfire Club
- "0-0 (Where Evil Dwells)" (1998, Obsolete) cover by Fear Factory
- "Catacomb Kids" (2007, None Shall Pass) by Aesop Rock
- "From Listening to Lightning" (2009, The Lightning EP) by Wheatus
- "Severed Heads of State" (2012, The Grimy Awards) by Ill Bill
In Rolling Stone magazine
- November 22, 1984. "Kids in the Dark", by David Breskin/
In Newsday (Long Island, N.Y.) — only those articles since 10/1/1985 are listed
- April 16, 1987. The Murder They'd Rather Forget, by Joshua Quittner.
- April 16, 1987. The Theater of Suburban Rage The murder was two weeks old before the police were notified, though many teens knew of it. The play asks how such a thing could happen. Easily, it answers. by Joseph C. Koenenn.
- October 14, 1990. A Shared Secret: Murder in Northport, By Thomas Maier and Rex Smith.
- January 16, 1993. Upstate Suspect [James V. Troiano] Has LI Past, by Monte R. Young.
In the Toronto Sun
- July 17, 1988. The Acid King by Max Haines.
In the Philadelphia Daily News (Pennsylvania)
- July 11, 1984. "Satanic Slaying Rocks A Village", by Bill Reinecke
Chronology of the trial in the New York Times (available online)
- July 8, 1984. Youth Found Hanged in L.I. Cell After His Arrest in Ritual Killing, By Robert D. Mcfadden
- July 12, 1984. Teenager Indicted on L.I. in Ritual Slaying of Youth
- July 12, 1984. Our Towns. By Michael Norman
- December 27, 1984. 'Satanic Ritual' is Now Ruled Out in June Slaying of Youth in L.I. Woods. By Lindsey Gruson
- March 27, 1985. Jury Selection Begins in Stabbing Death of Teenager in Northport. By Lindsey Gruson
- April 5, 1985. L.I. Murder Trial Opens: Confession is Described By Lindsey Gruson
- April 5, 1985. L.I. Murder Trial Opens: Confession is Described. By Lindsey Gruson
- April 9, 1985. Jury In L. I. Case is Given Details of Ritual Death. By Lindsey Gruson
- April 11, 1985. Trial Makes Young Visitors Uneasy. By Lindsey Gruson
- April 17, 1985. L.I. Youth Called Lucid On Stabbing.
- April 18, 1985. Defense Lawyer in L.I. Trial Loves a Good Murder Case. By Lindsey Gruson
- April 19, 1985. Story of Murder May Be Illusion, Expert Testifies. By Lindsey Gruson
- April 23, 1985. Closing Arguments Made in Trial of Youth Accused in Drug-Induced Slaying on L.I. By Lindsey Gruson
- April 25, 1985. Jury in L.I. Slaying Meets for 7 Hours
- April 26, 1985. L.I. Jury Acquits Defendant in Killing of Youth in Woods
- There were two famous suicidal deaths in the 1980s that lead to trials in U.S. courts, one involving Judas Priest and a second involving Ozzy Osbourne.
- Several political groups advocated censorship and/or ratings for rock music, most notably Tipper Gore's Parents Music Resource Center and Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority.
- A history of music censorship is given in Deflem, Mathieu. 1993. "Rap, Rock, and Censorship: Popular Culture and the Technologies of Justice." Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Law and Society Association, Chicago, May 27-30, 1993. Another reference is Lynxwiler, John and Gay, David, 'Moral boundaries and deviant music: public attitudes toward heavy metal and rap', Deviant Behavior, 21:1, 63 - 85.