Sunday, November 21, 2010
children of Staten Island throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Two filmmakers search to find the origins of the childhood story, and discover that it is very much real.
Staten Island, New York is an odd place. Barely settled until the 1960s after the building of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, the island is probably most famous for the Fresh Kills Landfill, which was once the largest landfill in the world and is rumored that it can be seen from space.
In addition to the dump, Staten Island also housed a large facility for the mentally disabled, the Willowbrook State School. The horrors of this facility were exposed in an investigative report by a young reporter (at the time) named Geraldo Rivera. It was shown that residents were horribly abused, starving, and left naked in their own filth. Several years later, the school was shut down, with residents dispersed to different places, or left to fend for themselves.
Confused and searching for familiarity, many former patients returned to the ruins of the Willowbrook State School, taking up residence in the system of tunnels that existed beneath it. One person who lived there was Andre Rand, a sex offender and previous employee of the Willowbrook State School. When children began disappearing across Staten Island, police initially had no clues. By the time several children had gone missing, pieces were put together and Andre Rand became a suspect, and later went to trial.
This case was so interesting in the fact that only one body was ever found. And that Andre Rand seemingly "got away" with a series of wrongdoings over the years, including loading a bus full of low income children and driving them to Newark Airport without any sort of permission. Over the years, Rand has been convicted of two kidnappings/murders, and the others remain a mystery.
This was a really interesting documentary on a totally bizarre case. I'm really glad I came across it because I find these kinds of situations completely captivating. Residents of Staten Island still search for the bodies of the other missing children, but until this day, nothing else has been found.