What made Salvatore Perrone murder three men?

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Shopkeepers in Brooklyn, New York, were frightened. In the space of five months, three men had been murdered. All were shopkeepers, shot dead in their own stores. And the killer was still on the loose…

The first victim, Mohamed Gebeli, 65, had been shot in the neck in his fashion store in July 2012. The following month, another shopkeeper was killed. Isaac Kadare, 59, was shot in the head in his bargain item store. His throat had also been slit.

Isaac Kadare

Isaac Kadare

Then in November Rahmatollah Vahidipour, 78, was shot in the head, face and chest as he stood behind the counter in his boutique shop.

The shopkeepers’ tragic deaths were remarkably similar. All were killed while alone in their stores and all were Middle Eastern. It seemed police had a serial killer on their hands…

Authorities combed through surveillance footage taken from outside the murder scenes. They noticed a common character – a man with dark hair and a thick moustache, carrying a black duffel bag. They nicknamed him ‘John Doe Duffel Bag’ and released the video to the media.

Days on, Salvatore Perrone was arrested. When detectives went to the apartment he was staying at, they found a duffel bag containing a .22-caliber rifle that matched the shells found where the shopkeepers were killed. It also contained several knives and clothing.

Rahmatollah Vahidipour

Rahmatollah Vahidipour

DNA found on one knife wrapped in a bloody towel, reportedly linked to the murder of Isaac Kadare. The blood of the third victim was also splattered on the bag. It seemed police had their man.

But who exactly was Salvatore Perrone, and why had he killed three shopkeepers?

A door-to-door clothing and fabric salesman, Perrone moved to Staten Island, New York, with his wife and daughter in 1985. He bought a home but demolished it and began rebuilding it.

Dubbed ‘Son of Sal,’ by his neighbours, Perrone would sometimes sit on a chair in the middle of the street just staring up at his house. He’d be there for hours drinking beers and wearing a beret.

Mohammed Gebeli

Mohammed Gebeli

He was also known for putting on a fake, heavy Italian accent and telling his neighbours he was a retired cop. He’d even go as far as to question them about petty crimes. It’s thought he suffered from a personality and delusional disorder.

Over the years, Perrone had run-ins with the law, including arrests on charges of drunken driving and of theft and harassment.

After divorcing his wife, Perrone met his 60-year-old girlfriend in 2007. For several years the couple lived together in her Brooklyn apartment. His girlfriend believed he was a successful entrepreneur and claimed he treated her to fancy meals and trips to Las Vegas with wads of cash. But everything changed in 2012…

‘It didn’t appear he was successful anymore,’ she said. ‘He had no cash. He never bought wine and only ate macaroni.’

Public records showed he’d fallen behind on mortgage repayments for his house. His finances were beginning to crumble.

On the night the final shopkeeper was killed, Perrone’s girlfriend claimed she went to a nightclub with her friends. Later that night Perrone joined them. Partying, just hours after committing his third murder…

After his arrest, Perrone allegedly admitted to two of the slayings. He reportedly told police he worked for the CIA and had been sent by Arab men to kill Jews.

Salvatore Perrone

Salvatore Perrone

Despite this, Perrone was found fit to stand trial by psychologists and in January 2016 he appeared in court. He opted to represent himself. He denied killing the three shopkeepers and refuted police reports that he implicated himself during questioning.

During his two-hour testimony at Brooklyn Supreme Court, Perrone claimed he’d been set up by a business associate and left holding the bag of incriminating evidence.

He even filed a lengthy list of alibi witnesses, but most were impossible-to-find people with bizarre names including, ‘John Doe Calvin Klein Co’.

Eventually, in February 2016, Perrone was found guilty of murdering the three shopkeepers. He was later sentenced to life in prison serving a minimum of 75 years.

Perrone has never revealed the motive behind the slayings. Did he bear a grudge against the shopkeepers? Would he have killed more had he not been caught? So many questions, but only Perrone knows the answers.

According to his lawyers, he plans to appeal his conviction.