Photographer Joel Schoenfeld was shot dead outside his apartment and studio by John Valverde, a man who accused him of raping his girlfriend – The Perfect Murder examines the case.
January 5, 1991, in West Village, New York City , and Schoenfeld was shot dead outside the door of his third-floor apartment. The 45-year-old was hit with a single close range shot to the head and was pronounced dead at hospital.
Detectives caught an early break as witnesses saw a man fleeing from the scene, described as in his late 20’s, 5 foot 8 and wearing a white T-shirt and baseball cap. Schoenfeld’s assistant explained to police that the man had been speaking to the photographer shortly before the shooting.
Schoenfeld operated his modelling agency and photo studio from the apartment and appeared to be arguing with the man just prior to being shot. The assistant did not witness the actual shooting but said that the man was not a regular client as Schoenfeld failed to recognise him initially.
It took until September for police to make an arrest, when they charged 21-year-old John Valverde with second-degree murder. He was identified by a witness to the shooting and detectives believed that the motive was revenge.
Valverde’s 19-year-old girlfriend had answered one of Schoenfeld’s ads looking for models and he’d offered a secretarial job. Then during a photoshoot she claimed he’d raped her, though she did not report the attack at the time. Valverde later decided to confront Schoenfeld and shot him dead during their confrontation.
Detectives said at the time that they had received several other reports related to sexual assault and harassment in respect of Schoenfeld, who was also on probation for two sex offenses.
Valverde was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to 16 years in prison. During his time inside he completed two college degrees and spent time educating other inmates.
Following his release, Valverde went on to become CEO of YouthBuild USA Inc, that helps young people on low income and with poor education get jobs and find a place in their community.
Valverde has said in the past that: “it’s never possible to make amends for taking a life.”
Instead he says that he decided to change his own life and try to help others do the same.
The Perfect Murder: A Shot in the Dark airs at 11:00 AM on Investigation Discovery.