NEW YORK - Members of a cult here killed ballerina Monika Beerle in August 1989, then dismembered her and fed her flesh to the homeless as part of a satanic ritual, law-enforcement sources said yesterday after arresting a cult member in Pennsylvania in connection with the murder.
After a 29-month search by New York detectives, Randy Eastherday was arrested Friday on charges that he and several others helped Daniel Rakowitz, "The Butcher of Tompkins Square Park," stab Beerle and dissect her corpse.
Police sources said that several other cult members were being sought for questioning.
"We're not sure why they killed her," said a law-enforcement source familiar with the investigation. "But once she was dead, they decided to offer her body up as a sacrifice."
Detectives have reopened the investigation of several other unsolved murders in East Greenwich Village to determine if the loosely organized band of about a dozen devil worshipers may be responsible, the sources said.
Rakowitz, 31, who roamed the East Village selling marijuana, carrying a live rooster and quoting Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf," admitted killing Beerle in a videotaped police statement made shortly after her death.
He later denied involvement in the murder. After a trial marked by bizarre outbursts from the defendant, he was found not guilty by reason of insanity.
But a team of New York police investigators kept checking into reports that several others were involved in the Beerle killing.
At the heart of the probe was an East Village cult, the Church of the Realized Fantasy, which police said operated out of a storefront where members allegedly experimented with psychedelic drugs and other narcotics. Cult members also studied the teachings of Aleister Crowley, an occult philosopher who promoted devil worship and human sacrifice.
Police sources said that one witness to Beerle's slaying reported that Rakowitz, Eastherday and another man took turns stabbing her. The trio then butchered her, boiled her flesh as a satanic offering and served it to the homeless, the source said.
Rakowitz, whose tattered appearance and messianic ramblings brought comparisons to Charles Manson, reveled in the spotlight during the trial. He argued with his attorney and threatened to spray the prosecutor with urine.
The jury deliberated nine days before finding him not guilty by reason of insanity.