Three decades after Jennifer Levin was murdered in New York's Central Park by a man the media dubbed "The Preppy Killer,'' her mother is determined to keep her memory alive.
"Jennifer was robbed from me,'' Ellen Levin told Kerry Sanders on TODAY Wednesday. "She's never not in my thoughts."
Levin spoke with Sanders as part of this week's "TODAY's Update: True Crime" series nearly 30 years to the day after Jennifer, 18, was killed when she went to Central Park with Robert Chambers, 19, whom she considered a friend.
A lurid trial that went on for two years revealed Chambers to be a petty thief and drug user, contrary to his clean-cut image. Meanwhile his attorneys claimed Jennifer wanted rough sex and things accidentally turned violent, with the jury ultimately ending up deadlocked on the ninth day of deliberations.
"I can imagine that there was somebody on the jury that thought he was a clean-cut young man who would never do anything like this,'' Levin said. "I think that juries don't work all the time."
Prosecutors ended up striking a deal with Chambers' attorneys in which he pled guilty to manslaughter and served a 15-year sentence.
"The fact that the jury didn't decide it, after the detectives and I had given them everything we could, that was a huge disappointment for me,'' Linda Fairstein, the retired head of the Manhattan District Attorney's sex crimes unit, told Sanders.
Levin never received an apology from Chambers and does not want one. Chambers declined TODAY's request for an interview.
"I wouldn't believe anything he would say,'' Levin said. "As far as I'm concerned, he doesn't exist to me."
Almost five years after serving his 15-year sentence, Chambers landed back in prison with a 19-year sentence for felony drug charges.
"I thought it was outrageous that he got more time for selling drugs then he did for killing Jennifer,'' Levin said.
Following Jennifer's death, Levin fought for victims' rights, with the results being a rape shield law now on the books in New York and the right that victims can speak in court and at parole hearings.
"I hope that the history of what happened to her has in some way effected change,'' Levin said. "I hope that I was able to be a part of it, and I think there's a lot more awareness than there was before Jen was killed."
While Levin still thinks of her daughter daily, she also has found comfort in her family. Reflecting with Sanders, she spoke about her daughter, Danielle, and her three grandchildren.
"I have wonderful grandchildren, and they give me so much joy,'' Levin said. "So it compensates on that end, but there's always going to be a missing piece, and that's Jennifer."
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