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Look, I like your story and I like your writing, but I'm not a psychopath.
Bateson

Paul Bateson is an American convicted murderer, and the only suspect in a New York series of killings of homosexual men known as the "Bag Murders" (also known as the "CUPPI Murders" or the "Fag in a Bag Murders"). He is also known for his appearance as an extra in the 1973 horror film The Exorcist, by William Friedkin, and for partly inspiring another film of the latter: Cruising.

Background

Paul Bateson as an extra in The Exorcist

Bateson as an extra in The Exorcist

Bateson was born in Lansdale, Pennsylvania, the son of a metallurgist. In the early 60s, he served in the Army and, while stationed in Germany, became an alcoholist due to boredom. After having being discharged, he returned to Lansdale and stopped drinking for a while, later moving to New York in 1964. There, he resumed drinking heavily, and engaged a relationship with an apparently bisexual man, whom Bateson said was involved in music. In 1973, four years after Bateson's mother died of a stroke, and his younger brother committed suicide, the relationship ended. Bateson relocated to Borough Park, Brooklyn, commuting to Manhattan to work as a radiological technician at the New York University Medical Center (NYUMC), where he was well-liked and respected by colleagues.

In late 1972, Bateson appeared as an extra, also speaking dialogue, in William Friedkin's The Exorcist. He performed on camera (along with others) a cerebral angiography, in what became one of the most famous and disturbing scenes of the film: the one in which Regan, played by Linda Blair, is medically examined to determine whether or not her strange behavior (caused by demonic possession) can be scientifically explained. Bateson's drinking eventually increased around the time the film aired, prompting the NYUMC to fire him in 1975. He began living of odd jobs, such as light repairing and cleaning in apartments near his home in Greenwich Village, and taking tickets at a pornographic theatre. He also went to AA meetings, managing to again remain sober for some time. By 1977, Bateson began drinking again and even more heavily, to the point that he, on his own account, drank a quart of Vodka a day, which deprived him of his energies and consequently rendered him passive, limiting his social life. He spent the nights he was able to go out inside leather bars, something he started doing back in 1970.

Murder of Addison Verrill and Arrest

Paul Bateson's arrest

Bateson's arrest

In the early hours of September 14, 1977, Addison Verrill, a homosexual reporter who covered the film industry for Variety, met Paul Bateson inside a Christopher Street bar named Badlands. Verrill offered Bateson a beer, after which they drank and consumed poppers and cocaine together. After spending some time inside another bar, they took a taxi to Verrill's apartment in Horatio Street, where they kept drinking and consuming drugs, finally having sex at 7:30 a.m. On his own account, Bateson realized that was as far as Verrill had wanted their relationship to go, and has he hated rejection and needed money, he "decided to do something he'd never done before". Still intoxicated, he bludgeoned Verrill with a skinnet, then stabbed him high in the chest. After the murder, Bateson took some of Verrill's money, his credit card, passport, and some clothes. He bought liquor with the money, and was drunk for the entire next day.

All this information were later disclosed by the same Bateson to Arthur Bell, a gay activist and journalist he anonymously called to correct Bell's assumption, in one of his articles, that Verrill's killer was a psychopath who targeted gays. Bateson added he wanted to "atone" for his crime. The entire conversation ran on the Village Voice 's front page. When Bell contacted the authorities about the call, investigators immediately considered it a solid lead because of several details the caller knew, which were not made public. Later, a man referred to by Bell only as "Mitch" called him while he was in his apartment with the police, waiting for another call from the killer. "Mitch" told him he knew the man who confessed Verrill's murder, his name was Paul Bateson. The latter was consequently arrested, and eventually gave a handwritten confession that was consistent to what he previously told Bell on the phone. He was charged with second-degree murder, to which he pleaded not guilty. While incarcerated at Rikers Island awaiting trial, he was visited by Bell, to whom he said jail was helping him remain sober, though he regretted missing the new season of the Joffrey Ballet, at the time based in New York.

The "Bag Murders"

Al Pacino in Cruising

Al Pacino in Cruising

At the time, police was investigating a series of murders of homosexual men occurred between 1975 and 1976, dubbed the "Bag Murders", the "CUPPI Murders" (an acronym which stands for "Circumstances Unknown Pending Police Investigation", the official NYPD designation for the cases, due to the unknown cause of death), or the "Fag in a Bag Murders". The six victims were killed by unknown means, and disposed with the same Modus Operandi: post-mortem dismemberment, the remains placed in plastic bags that were later dropped in the Hudson River (body parts were recovered on the New Jersey shore and near the World Trade Center). Thus, the authorities were convinced that the same individual was behind all of the killings. None of the men were ever identified, though clothes found on them were traced to a Greenwich Village shop which served the leather subculture. Also, tattoos found on the victims linked them to the SM world. 

Since the bags were puportedly linked, by wording on them, to the NYUMC's neuropsychiatric unit (though a contemporary research showed no trace of such a linkage), and the killer was speculated to have some kind of medical expertise, investigators began to publicly suggest Bateson to be a suspect in the case. Just like Arthur Bell, William Friedkin, who remembered Bateson from The Exorcist, payed a visit to Bateson before his trial. Bateson, on Friedkin's own account, admitted to killing Verrill, and said he was thinking about confessing the "Bag Murders" in exchange for a reduced penalty (a contemporary research found no trace of such a deal). His conversation with Bateson inspired Friedkin to make a movie based on a 1970 novel of the same name by Gerald Walker, Cruising, featuring a policeman (played by Al Pacino) who goes undercover in the SM gay community in order to catch a serial killer targeting homosexual men. The movie aired in 1980. Art had already imitated life when, during the span of the killings, detective Randy Jurgensen, who also appeared in Crusing, went really undercover as a gay man in order to track down the slayer.

Trial and Later Life 

Despite attempts by his attorney to suppress Bateson's confession, claiming it was handed by him while drunk, that police didn't read him his rights, and that he simply inspired himself to Arthur Bell's article, the trial ended on March 5, 1979, with a conviction. At his sentencing, prosecutor William Hoyt called him a "psychopath", reiterating his belief that he was also guilty of the "Bag Murders", claiming that despite the absence of evidence connecting Bateson to them, he confessed the killings to a friend of his called Richard Ryan. On his part, Bateson always denied being guilty of the murders, at least publicly. He was sentenced to 20 years to life imprisonment.

Paul Bateson

Paul Bateson in 2003 circa

Bateson served 24 years and 3 months of his sentence, becoming eligible for parole in 1997. He was eventually released in 2003, successfully completing his parole in 2008. From then on, Paul Bateson disappeared from public record, and it is not known where he is currently living or if he is alive. It is deemed highly probable that he died on September 15, 2012, since a Social Security Death Index shows a Paul F. Bateson, born on August 24, 1940, with a Social Security Number issued in Pennsylvania, passed away that day.

Modus Operandi

Bateson met his confirmed victim Addison Verrill at a gay bar, and went with him to Verrill's flat to drink and have sex. He then killed Verrill by incapacitating him with a skillet and fatally stabbing him in the chest.

If he was responsible for the "bag murders", Bateson would presumably meet his victims at gay bars, charm them to a secluded place, and kill them by unknown means. Afterward, he would dismember them and place the body parts in black plastic bags that he'd dump in the Hudson River.

Known Victims

Addison Verrill

Addison Verrill

  • Unspecified dates from 1975 to 1976: New York City: Six unidentified victims (possibly; all murdered by unknown means, dismembered post-mortem, and dropped in the Hudson River)
  • September 14, 1977: Horatio Street, New York City: Addison Verrill, 36 (incapacitated with a skillet, then stabbed in the chest)

On Criminal Minds

  • Season Two
    • "The Last Word" - Bateson may have been referenced by Reid when the team talks about instances when two independent serial killers have been active in the same area at the same time, in which he mentions that a serial killer was active in New York City simultaneously to Son of Sam. Since Bateson's (possible) killings spanned 1975-1977 and those of Berkowitz spanned 1976-1977, Reid may have been referring to him. Another possibility is that Reid was referring to Richard Cottingham, whose killings spanned 1967-1980.
  • Season Twelve
    • "A Good Husband" - While not directly mentioned or referenced in this episode, Bateson may have been an inspiration for the episode's unsub, Mark Tolson - Both are serial killers (suspected in Bateson's case) who targeted homosexual men, found them in bars, charmed them to secluded locations, then killed them and dismembered their bodies.

Sources

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