On Feb. 10, 2016, a whirlwind four-week Brooklyn trial came to an end for Salvatore Perrone.
Dubbed "Son of Sal" by neighbors and prosecutors after he murdered three Brooklyn shopkeepers throughout 2012, Perrone, 67, was told by presiding Judge Allan Marrus upon sentencing that he was "lucky ... we don't have the death penalty in New York."
"There's no question you committed these crimes. There's only one person in this courtroom that thinks he didn't do this, and that's the defendant," Marrus said, according to The Staten Island Advance newspaper. "He's in denial."
"Mark of a Killer," airing Saturdays at 7/6c on Oxygen, explores how the impoverished clothing dealer made the leap from hopeful fashion mogul to murderer.
Becoming "Son of Sal"
Perrone's ex-wife, Maria Salerno, purchased a Staten Island property in 1985 that had long been a neighborhood eyesore. The couple began their renovation and add-on plans, but when they split, the property quickly fell into a state of disrepair, reported The Staten Island Advance.
Once Perrone started dating a woman in Brooklyn, he halted all work on the home and lived in Staten Island part-time. One neighbor, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Staten Island Advance that Perrone began sleeping in the basement, calling him "a nasty piece of work."
The neighbor said she and several others fought with him about the state of his home, which racked up a total of 14 complaints with the city Department of Buildings. Neighbors began calling Perrone "Son of Sal" — presumably after the notorious 1970s serial killer "Son of Sam" David Berkowitz — for his odd behavior and combative personality, according to The Staten Island Advance.
Perrone was no stranger to the law. Aside from the complaints filed by his neighbors, Perrone was previously arrested on charges of drunken driving on Staten Island and in New Jersey, and of theft and harassment in Pennsylvania, according to The New York Times.
"He seemed like a very personable guy," his lawyer from his 2001 Pennsylvania case Francis J. Masciocchi told The New York Times. "He was kind of like a middleman for a clothing supplier."
Indeed, Perrone may have made a modest living as an independent apparel salesmen, but he had big dreams of making a name for himself in the industry. In 2007, he registered a trademark for a line of clothes under his name, and at one point, he operated a successful store, reported Vice.
But in the summer of 2012, Perrone began committing his most heinous acts yet — murder.
On July 6, Mohamed Gebeli, 65, was found dead with a single gunshot wound to the neck in his Bay Ridge clothing store. Less than one month later on Aug. 2, Isaac Kadare, 59, was found shot and stabbed inside his store in Bensonhurst.
Rahmatollah Vahidipour, 78, died of gunshot wounds to his head, face, and chest in his Prospect-Lefferts Gardens clothing shop on Nov. 16.
Each murder was committed near closing time, and .22-caliber shell casings were recovered at the crime scenes. Their bodies were concealed with clothing and other items from the stores.
In addition to these similarities, a man dubbed "John Doe Duffel Bag" by police was spotted on security footage near two of the murders, reported The Staten Island Advance.
"John Doe Duffel Bag" Discovered
After releasing a photograph of the footage to the public, New York Police Department officials were led to Perrone and questioned him on Nov. 20, 2012, The Daily News reported. The following day, a .22-caliber rifle and three knives — one of which appeared to have blood on it — were discovered in a duffel bag found in his girlfriend's Brooklyn apartment.
While his fingerprints were found on the weapon and ballistic testing determined the shell casings retrieved from each crime scene were fired from the same gun, Perrone maintained he was framed by a business associate, according to Reuters.
Shortly thereafter, he was arrested on three counts of murder and three counts of criminal possession of a weapon. In a state of mania, he allegedly told police that the killing spree "has to do with a plan to promote world peace," according to The Staten Island Advance.
Perrone was deemed fit to stand trial, and when court proceeding began in 2016, he took the stand in his own defense, claiming he never shot the three shopkeepers.
"I've waited for this moment for three years ... I want everyone to know the truth," Perrone told the jury, reported The Daily News. "I was set up."
Throughout the trial, Perrone made frequent outbursts and even fired his legal representation, according to The Brooklyn Reporter. He was ultimately found guilty of three counts of second-degree murder.
Perrone was not in the courtroom when his verdict was read because he had been thrown out earlier for another display of disorderly conduct, reported The Brooklyn Reporter.
He was sentenced to 75 years to life on March 4, 2016. He is currently serving his sentence at the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York.
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