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The Preppy Killer

To mark the 30th anniversary of a case that made national headlines, "48 Hours" broadcasts the only interview with "Preppy Killer" Robert Chambers

On  Aug. 26, 1986, Robert Chambers became known as the “Preppy Killer.”

He was convicted of killing his friend, Jennifer Levin, in New York City’s Central Park.

Released from prison after 15 years, Chambers gave his only interview to “48 Hours.”  

He had a chance for redemption, but that didn’t happen—as “48 Hours” correspondents Troy Roberts and Richard Schlesinger report, Chambers would be making headlines again.

In 2003, Robert Chambers walked out of prison, after 15 years, a free man, still pursued by his own infamy. He was 36, but people still remembered him from the summer of 1986 when he was 19.

In New York, a city where killers get titles, Robert Chambers quickly became known as “The Preppy Murderer.” He looked the part. His face was everywhere. And the story of how he strangled a beautiful 18-year-old named Jennifer Levin in Central Park was the talk of the town.

Pete Hamill was a columnist for The New York Daily News.

“This was a gruesome murder of a beautiful young woman,” he said.

“There’s a rule of thumb in the tabloid business that murder at good address in better than your run-of-the-mill murder,” Hamill continued.

It happened on Manhattan’s tony Upper East Side, a neighborhood known more for money than murder. Chambers and Levin had dated before and met the night of August 25 at Dorrian’s Red Hand, a bar that catered to the sons and daughters of the rich.

“Robert and Jennifer left Dorrian’s, by all accounts, the bar on 2nd Avenue, around four or 4:30 in the morning. At 6:20, a cyclist in the park found her body, her lifeless body under a tree,” said Linda Fairstein.

Fairstein prosecuted Robert Chambers, who became a suspect within hours of the murder. She’s now a “48 Hours” consultant. 

“The police went to Robert Chambers because they knew he was a friend of Jennifer’s. They went there so that he could help identify how she got separated from her friends,” she said.

“Oh, so when they first met Robert Chambers he was not a suspect?” Richard Schlesinger asked.

“Not in the least,” Fairstein replied.

“He came out of the bedroom and the minute the two detectives -- homicide detectives -- saw him, they saw deep, fresh, bloody scratches on both sides of his face. And in their minds without saying anything they -- their immediate thought was this guy has to explain those scratches,” she continued.

Chambers’ first explanation -- that his cat scratched him –quickly collapsed. After police brought him in for questioning, he admitted killing Jennifer. He said it was an accident.

Chambers to police: I didn’t mean to hurt her. I liked her very much…

The story he told police seemed to blame Jennifer. It was shocking and graphic:  

Officer: She’s raping you in the park? Robert, come on! 

Chambers: She’s having her way with me, without my consent, with my hands behind my back, hurting me.

Simply put, Chambers’ story was, in what came to be called “rough sex,” Jennifer hurt him and he struck her to make her stop.

Chambers demonstrating to police: I reached up and grabbed like this, and I grabbed like that and came down on my hand.  She came over this way and landed right there, right next to the tree.

“Do you believe any of what you heard on that tape?” Schlesinger asked Fairstein.

“Well … I can tell you that everything he said in that statement about how she died -- is absolutely untrue,” she replied.

When police undressed Chambers, they discovered more scratches on his chest. Fairstein says these injuries weren’t from “rough sex,” but from a violent struggle in the park.

“[And] they argued about something. What it is we’ll never know,” she said.

Chambers was charged with second-degree murder. As the trial approached, Fairstein began learning a lot about the so-called “Preppy Murderer.” She believes the only thing preppy about him was his looks. His button-down costume covered up a life of crime and addiction.

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Robert Chambers is taken into custody for the murder of Jennifer Levin

48 Hours

“He looked like a male model, people treated him like a -- like he was a graduate of -- an Ivy League college and had this prep school background,” Fairstein explained.  “And yet, in fact, his days were really spent with the underbelly of New York drug life.”

“Doing what?” Schlesinger asked.

“Stealing to get the money to buy drugs,” said Fairstein.

A videotape gave the public a peek at the real Robert Chambers, Fairstein believes. It was made at a party Chambers attended while he was on bail, surrounded by girls wearing lingerie. Chambers, holding a doll, appears to mock Jennifer Levin’s death: “Oops.  I think I killed it,” he said in the video.

Jennifer’s mother, Ellen Levin, appearing on “Larry King,” thinks Chambers showed his true colors on that tape.

Larry King: How did you feel when you saw that?

Ellen Levin: I was horrified when I saw it, but in a way I was also glad that he showed himself for what he really was.

During the trial, Chambers’ lawyer mounted a defense some described as lurid and salacious that tried to damage Jennifer’s character.

“I felt like I was burying my daughter every time I opened the paper and read the horrible headlines you know, attacking her reputation,” Ellen Levin told King. “And the newspapers, many of them played into that.”

After almost three months of testimony and nine days of deliberating, the jury appeared unable to reach a verdict. So Fairstein made a deal. Chambers pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter. It was a step down from murder, but as part of the agreement, Chambers had to admit in open court that he intended to hurt Jennifer when he killed her.

Despite all the evidence she had against Chambers, Linda Fairstein never could prove one crucial point: why Chambers would want to murder Jennifer.

“You couldn’t stand up in front of the jury and say, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, Robert Chambers killed Jennifer Levin because they argued about x, y, or z,” Schlesinger noted.

“Absolutely not,” said Fairstein.

“Did that hurt you?” Schlesinger asked.

“It hurt tremendously. I can tell you as a matter of law that the prosecution does not have to prove motive. I can tell you as a matter of fact that there’s nothing the jury would like to hear more than why that happened,” she said.

There is only one person alive who knows what happened that night. He never spoke at his trial and hasn’t spoken since … until now.

ROBERT CHAMBERS TALKS

After his release from prison, “48 Hours” brought Robert Chambers to a hotel outside of Washington D.C. He’d reunite with his parents and, for the first time, talk publicly about his crime.

“Right now, if I had a choice between talking to you right now and being back in the box, in solitary, I’d choose solitary in a second. It’s a lot easier than this. I don’t wanna be here,” he told Troy Roberts.

But Chambers felt by doing one major interview the media attention might ease up. And he also had a personal agenda. Robert Chambers wanted to talk about Jennifer Levin.

 “Did you think about Jennifer Levin?” Roberts asked Chambers.

“Every day,” he replied.

As the afternoon passed, the interview would go on for four tense hours.

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Robert Chambers in his exclusive 2003 interview with “48 Hours” correspondent Troy Roberst

48 Hours

“And every day I know that I’m in prison because somebody died, and I’m responsible for that. It’s not an easy feeling. You don’t get comfortable with it. And it’s part of my life for the rest of my life,” said Chambers.

Over and over again, Chambers apologized for the way he’d lived his life and the way he had stolen Jennifer Levin’s.

“I can never make up for the death of Jennifer Levin. I can never make up for the pain I caused her family. I’ve been a bad person. Am I a monster? No,” Chambers told Roberts. “Because if I was a monster, I wouldn’t care, but I do.”

But to millions of Americans who saw the videotape of a teenage party, a belief had been built: Robert Chambers had no concern for the Levin family’s endless pain.

“The videotape of you at that party was perhaps the single most defining moment in this whole story. There were people out there who were willing to give you the benefit of the doubt until they saw you on that videotape,” Robert remarked. “What were you thinking?”

“Huh, if I was thinking, I never would have been there. I was stupid. I was arrogant. Everybody was just acting silly, and I acted sill,” Chambers replied. “Reenacting a crime?  Certainly not.”

“It was not?  Sure did look like that to me,” said Roberts.

Said Chambers, “I can see how it could be interpreted like that.”

“You weren’t trying to give someone the impression that this was Jennifer Levin. The doll?”

“No,” said Chambers.

“How could you be so dumb?” Roberts asked.

“That seems to be a theme that runs through many things I do,” said Chambers. 

Rehearsed lines from a con artist or genuine repentance, Chambers seemed to want the world that had condemned him to reconsider its judgment.

“I think people at home may suspect that what you’re doing right now is playing a role, a role that you perfected as a teenager,” Roberts remarked.

“Uh-huh.”

“What do you say to them?”

“Would I like to be forgiven? I wouldn’t even think of asking for that. Would I like the opportunity to apologize, with actions behind it, backing it up? Yes. Am I acting? I don’t know how to act. I’m too scared to act right now.  You say I’m well-mannered and everything.  I’m here holding my hands. I’m scared, but I’m here,” said Chambers.

A BLUR OF BAD BEHAVIOR

 Robert Chambers was a working-class kid in a white-glove neighborhood.

“You know, the museums, all the cultural stuff, the social situations, the fancy tuxedo balls, the debutante balls.  It was something that was a part of the culture of the area,” he told Roberts.

His father, Robert Sr., was a credit manager. His mother, Phyllis, an Irish immigrant, was a private duty nurse. It was her determination, not any family fortune, that gained Robert Chambers access to an exclusive world of privilege, possibility and private schools.

“You had to work tremendous hours to pay the bills?” Roberts asked Phyllis Chambers.

“Yes, but I never minded doing it because my parents -- education was a very big and important area in their lives,” she explained.

“And you wanted to do the same thing for your son.”

“Yes,” Phyllis Chambers replied.

“She wanted the best.  She always worked hard. Gave me not only what I wanted, but what I needed, which might have been a good education, although you know I screwed that up myself,” said Robert Chambers.

Robert Chambers bounced from one prestigious prep school to another in a blur of bad behavior and poor grades. He eventually graduated and went to college -- but just for a semester before he was asked to leave there, too.

“I’m running around, partying all the time. I didn’t take life seriously. I didn’t take school seriously,” he said.

Asked what her hopes were for her son, Phyllis Chambers told Roberts, “That he would pursue a good education, be the best person he could be and help others.”

“You disappointed her terribly, Robert,” Troy Roberts commented to Chambers.

“Yes, I did,” he said.

“How do you even begin to make it up to her? How do you do that? “

“I think probably by letting her know that I take responsibility for everything I did.”

But as a teenager, responsibility was the last thing on Robert Chambers’ mind.

“You get high for three days and sleep for two days and get up and do it again and somehow squeeze school in there. If you could manage it,” said Chambers, who partied with people often twice his age.

“Women were very attracted to you, even at a very young age,” Roberts pointed out. “What did that do to your ego?”

“Built it up so big you couldn’t walk through a door,” Chambers admitted.

But along with the swelled ego came a far more serious problem: cocaine.

“How often did you snort coke?” Roberts asked.

“Three times a week, four times a week, somewhere around there,” Chambers replied.

“So would you describe yourself as a drug addict?”

“Oh,yeah. I have an addictive personality,” said Chambers. He told Roberts he spent “probably $200, $300 a week” on his habit.

“How did you find $300 a week?”

“Sometimes money from my family, sometimes money from work. Sometimes from doing things that were wrong -- taking things, selling things,” Chambers explained.

The homes of the upscale neighborhood were Chambers’ targets. Police estimate he and a partner stole as much as $70,000 in jewelry and valuables.

“So you started burglarizing homes>” Roberts asked Chambers.

“Yeah, I did,” he replied.

It was this Robert Chambers, a petty thief and drug addict, who on August 25, 1986,   walked through the doors of Dorrian’s Red Hand, a comfortable hangout on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

It was summer’s end. Unlike Chambers, most of the young people at the bar were heading for college. Young people full of hope and full of the future. Young people like Jennifer Dawn Levin.

Jennifer Levin

Jennifer Levin

By all accounts Jennifer Levin was bright and ambitious, having succeeded in the same types of schools where Robert Chambers had failed so miserably. 

“When did you first meet Jennifer Levin?” Roberts asked.

 “I believe the first time that I ever was introduced to her was at a party,” said Chambers.

“Describe Jennifer Levin,” said Roberts.

“Tall, dark hair, pretty face. Funny laugh. Smart. Compassionate,” Chambers replied. 

Some of her friends say Levin found Chambers intriguing, wanting more of a relationship than he was really interested in.

“So, how many times did you go out with Jennifer before that night in August?” Roberts asked.

“Three times, I think,” said Chambers.

“Three times.  And you were intimate with her?”

“Yeah.”

“She was your friend?”

“Hmm, she was a friend to me. I was not a friend to her.  I wasn’t a friend to anybody at the time, not even myself,” said Chambers.

Jennifer Levin and Robert Chambers had arrived separately at Dorrian’s that night, where they met by chance.

“I believe I looked over and I saw her sitting at a table with her friends,” said Chambers.

“Did she approach you, or did you approach her?” Roberts asked.

“No, at first it was just kind of like, you know, a wave … ‘hey how ya’ doin’?’” he replied.

But something awkward and unexpected came up.  Chambers was dating another girl at the time and she was at the bar, too.  When she saw him speaking with Jennifer Levin, she grew angry at Chambers and stormed out. The District Attorney would later suggest that argument so upset Chambers that it was a motive for murder.

“No, I wasn’t angry.  I guess the best way to say it is I was so shallow at the time that I lost a relationship. ‘Well, try something new. OK, you’ve yelled at me, sorry. I’ll move on,’” he said.

Chambers says he did not use cocaine that night; that he’d had a few beers, two tequilas, and that around by 4 a.m., closing time, he and Jennifer Levin would leave Dorrian’s together heading towards Central Park.

“And we started walking and talking and we end up walking towards Fifth Avenue … and we were near the museum,” he said.

Chambers says when he told Levin he wasn’t interested in a serious relationship, she scratched his face, but they then continued on into the park.

“We started fooling around, you know, we never got undressed, undressed. And she reached down and she grabbed my testicles. And after a couple of seconds of talking and fooling around, she squeezed and between the squeeze and possibly the nails, it hurt.  And in pain, shock, even anger, I reacted. I sat up, I swung my arm, and I hit her,” said Chambers.

“How hard?” Roberts asked.

“I would have to say hard. I made her fall to the side. I made her fall off my body,” Chambers replied.

“Where did you hit her Robert?”

“In the throat area,” he replied.

“In the throat area?”

“Yeah.”

“And when she fell, did she fall silent?” Roberts asked.

“I don’t remember any sound,” said Chambers.

“Did she speak again when she fell to the ground?”

“No.”

“At what point did you know she was dead?” Roberts pressed.

“Well, when I stood up and tried to gather myself together and she wasn’t moving, and I was saying…’Let’s go, let’s get out of here. It’s time to go. Let’s go.’ She didn’t move. And her eyes were open. And I knew something was wrong. I didn’t get down. I didn’t listen for her heart beat. I didn’t get down and do CPR. I didn’t do any of the things a responsible adult person would have done,” he said.

“If this was an accident why didn’t you call somebody? Why wouldn’t you call 911? Call an ambulance, call the police, if it was an accident?” Roberts pressed. “If it wasn’t your fault.”

“It was my fault,” said Chambers.

“But if it was an accident, why wouldn’t you call an ambulance, the police?” Roberts asked.

“Because I was scared,” Chambers replied.

The shattered night still hung over New York’s Central Park. Jennifer Levin lay dead. And Robert Chambers inexplicably stayed there, staring at the young woman he told us, as he has always insisted, he killed by accident.

“I’ve never seen a dead person before.  Her eyes were open and she’s not moving. And, I was just scared. I didn’t do anything.  I just sat there,” he recalled.

As dawn broke, Chambers remained at the crime scene -- sitting quietly on a stone wall only a few feet away. A woman on a bicycle noticed the silhouette of Jennifer Levin’s body. Soon the police and an ambulance arrived.

“I watched as everybody arrived. It seemed the whole world arrived. The whole world came to see what I did,” he said.

 Police started clearing the crowd.

“And, eventually, they got to me and they said, ‘You, go move,” said Chambers.

 “The police told you to leave?” Roberts asked.

 “Yes.”

“And you walked home.”

“Yeah.”

“After you killed Jennifer Levin, you walked home, you got undressed and you went to bed.  And you slept?” Roberts asked.

“I think I slept. I don’t know if I slept,” said Chambers.

“You know how callous and unfeeling that sounds?”

“Do you know how callous and unfeeling it feels?”

“No.”

 “No, you don’t. But I do. For the rest of my life.”

THE CRIME SCENE EVIDENCE

When detectives arrived at the crime scene in Central Park on the morning of Aug. 26, 1986, they found Jennifer Levin’s partially-clothed body under a large elm tree. It looked like she had been in a fight for her life. Cuts and bruises marked her body, and around her neck were bright red hemorrhages indicating strangulation.

Police officer at crime scene:  The body was lying on the ground. Some of the clothing on her had been pushed to the upper portion of her body.

The medical examiner estimated the time of death at approximately 6 a.m., about two hours after Jennifer Levin left Dorrian’s with Robert Chambers.

“I never intended for anything to happen. I never intended to go out that night, let alone hurt somebody or kill somebody,” Chambers told Roberts.

When police showed up at Chambers’ home later that morning, they were stunned at his appearance. He had deep scratches on his face and arms and injuries to both hands. Chambers first told police that the family cat had scratched him, but under questioning at the precinct later that day, he changed his story.

Chambers to police: I was sitting there explaining this to her, saying  that I want to see other people and that you were going away and I don’t want to be bothered and she freaked out and she just got up, knelt in front of me and she just scratched my face. And I have these marks.  I didn’t notice them until this morning.”

“The injuries you sustained indicated a struggle. You had deep scratch marks on your face. What happened?” Roberts asked.

“She became upset about one thing. And the one thing was that I did not take her seriously. And with that she scratched me. There was not a struggle for her life,” said Chambers.

“You’re telling me she scratched your face. And then you decided to still have sexual relations with her,” said Roberts.

“It wasn’t… “

“It sounds ludicrous. You know that?” said Roberts.

“It wasn’t done because ‘I hate you,’” said Chambers.

“You weren’t mad after she scratched you?” Roberts asked.

“I wasn’t happy. But I mean, was I in a rage? No, I wasn’t in a rage,” Chambers replied.

During the interrogation, Chambers would go on to tell detectives that Levin tied his arms behind his back with her panties.

Chambers: She molested me in the park.

Officer: How did she molest you?

Chambers: What, girls can’t do that to a guy?

The media would call it rough sex and it would become central to Chamber’s defense. 

“You’re a big guy. You could have defended yourself without hurting her seriously,” Roberts commented.

“I could have pushed. I could have yelled. I could have pulled her hair to the side,” said Chambers.

“Why didn’t you do any of those things?”

“Because I wasn’t thinking about what I should do in the situation,” Chambers replied.

“If you sought medical attention, they could have saved her. It’s very possible,” said Roberts.

“And this is something that will be in my mind forever. Would it have made a difference? I don’t know. Would it have helped me? Sure. The police precinct is 50 yards away,” said Chambers.

“But why didn’t you go there?”

“Why didn’t I do so many things?” Chamber said, “I was scared I froze.”

“When you hear all of these experts say, ‘it just couldn’t have happened the way you’re describing it…’”

“Certain experts. The District Attorney’s experts,” said Chambers.

“It is very clear from the medical examiner’s evidence and from the pathologist that you choked Jennifer Levin,” Roberts pointed out. “It was not just a split second. You had your hands around her neck and you squeezed. “

“No, I did not,” Chambers said. “The cuts and bruises, she didn’t sustain from any talk or any discussion. The bruises that she sustained came when I struck her.”

“You’ve done your time. You’ve done your time and this is the moment to set the record straight,” Roberts to Chambers.  

“Yes,” he replied.

“And this is your story.”

“Yes.”

 “This is the story you’ll die with.”

“Yes. My story hasn’t changed. There is nothing to change. It’s not a story that’s pleasant. It’s not a story people like. It’s not a story that fits into people’s perceptions. You know why? Cause it’s not a story. It’s the truth,” Chambers replied.

killerlook-fairstein.jpg

Linda Fairstein, who prosecuted Robert Chambers, aka “The Preppy Killer,” was chief of the Sex Crimes Unit of the Manhattan D.A.’s Office for more than two decades, and is a best-selling author. Read an excerpt of her latest crime novel, “Killer Look.”

But according to the evidence in this case, says Linda Fairstein, who prosecuted Chambers, nothing could be further from the truth. Fairstein didn’t believe Chambers in 1986 when she first heard his version of how Jennifer died, and she doesn’t believe him now.  

“How would you characterize Chambers’ claim that there was no struggle that night?” Richard Schlesinger asked Fairstein.

“I’d characterize it as ludicrous and completely incredible,” she replied.

Fairstein studied the pattern of wounds determined by the medical examiner to be strangulation marks on Jennifer’s neck.

“There were lines, long lines going in different directions,” Fairstein explained. “…every pathologist who looked at them told me, clear indications of repeated applications of force. …So many marks on the neck that it’s completely inconsistent with one blow.”

Jennifer Levin had wounds and bruises all over her body -- far too many, according to Fairstein, to believe Chambers’ story that she died from a single blow to the neck.

“He would literally have her, and I don’t mean to ridicule this, bouncing down a hill in the park to have received all of these injuries,” Fairstein said. “It’s just an absurd story.”

And Fairstein says those scratches on Chambers are more evidence of a violent confrontation than the heated argument he describes.

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Linda Fairstein said the scratches on Robert Chambers’ face shows Jennifer Levin “ was frantically fighting for her life.”

48 Hours

“This is the left side of his face,” Fairstein said of the photo of Chambers above. “Here’s one deep severe scratch mark.  And Jennifer had nails.  There’s another long mark here.  There’s smaller ones.  A long one.  A long one going in different direction, again a different direction, behind that another one.”

“What does that tell you she was doing?” Richard Schlesinger asked.

“That tells us that she was face to face with the person who was trying to kill her.  That tells us that she wanted him off her body.  That tells us she wanted him to stop, to let go of her, to let her breathe. And she was frantically fighting for her life,” Fairstein replied.

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Bite marks on Robert Chambers hands

48 Hours

And on Chambers hands, photographed the day Jennifer was killed, Fairstein says you can see bite marks.  She believes Jennifer Levin bit Chambers when he put his hands over her mouth to stop her screaming.

Chambers argues he did nothing to help Levin after he noticed she wasn’t moving because, in his words, “I was scared. I froze.”

“I don’t buy it,” Fairstein said. “He’s never reported to his friends he froze.”

Fairstein says witnesses talked to Chambers while he was sitting on the stone wall watching the police as they worked the crime scene around Jennifer’s dead body.

“And when they said, ‘Should we do something to help?’ … he said, ‘No, there’s nothing to do. The police are handling it,’” she said.

“And then he got up and walked away and went home and went to sleep. I don’t call that freezing,” Fairstein continued.

“What do you call it?” Schlesinger asked.

“I call that complete sociopathic behavior,” she replied.

And Fairstein believes Robert Chambers hasn’t changed very much despite all the time he spent behind bars.

“Is it possible that maybe he thinks now that maybe he does really have remorse? He’s older and he’s done 15 years of hard time,” Schlesinger asked Fairstein.

“He’s done 15 years of hard time, made harder because of his own drug abuse in state prison.  I’m not willing to buy his words. I’m looking forward to seeing what his actions are in the next 15,” she replied.

CAN CHAMBERS TURN THE PAGE?

Robert Chambers’ murder trial had all the electric buzz of a New York City media event.

“The newspaper columnists were dissecting your entire life,” Roberts noted to Chambers.

“Sure. Just as they will when they see this. They will look at every time I move my thumb. If I jiggle my leg, if I sit forward, if I lean back they’re gonna look for it,” he said.

The plea bargain required that Chambers admit in court that he intended to harm Jennifer Levin -- something he had and always continues to deny.  On March 25, 1988, Robert Chambers pleaded guilty to manslaughter one.

“And for the first time I had to take responsibility for this,” said Chambers.

“But you didn’t want to,” Roberts noted.

“Oh, if I could have, you know, jumped in an airplane and flown to the moon I would have done it,” said Chambers.

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Robert Chambers on trial for the murder of Jennifer Levin

48 Hours

He would be sentenced to five-to-15 years in prison.

“It’s rough. It’s dangerous. It’s scary,” said Chambers.

“How were you treated inside by the other inmates?” Roberts asked.

“Umm … I think in the beginning it was more hands off.  I think everybody just watched to see how I would act,” Chambers explained.

Asked if he was ever assaulted sexually or physically assaulted during his 15 years in prison, Chambers told Roberts, “No.”

Chambers says the older inmates taught him the ropes. But how he actually did his time cuts straight to the heart of his story, and perhaps his character -- and the question of whether or not Robert Chambers will ever stay out of trouble.

“Twenty-seven disciplinary violations for everything from weapons possession, drug possession, assault, disobeying direct orders.  When you hear this, you’re thinking this guy hasn’t learned anything,” Roberts said. “He hasn’t learned a single thing and you know had you been a model prisoner, people would have maybe believed you’d changed.”

“Hm-hmm,” Chambers affirmed.

“…maybe you had learned something,” Roberts continued.

“Right.”

“But what this demonstrates to folks is that you haven’t,” said Roberts.

Chambers says many of the charges were minor -- even trumped up. But because of his poor disciplinary record, he would spend more than four years in solitary confinement.

“You read. You write letters. Do a lot of thinking,” he said.

Chambers did take college courses—even making the Dean’s list.  And he claims to have beat one habit in prison that he’d found impossible to shake on the streets.

“You are clean,” Roberts noted.

“Yes, I am,” Chambers replied.

“How long?”

“’93, ‘94. I smoked marijuana in jail. It was a stupid thing to do. Wrong choice,” said Chambers.

“Heroin?” Roberts asked.

“No,” said Chambers.

“Coke?”

“No.”

But an Inmate Misbehavior Report from Greenhaven Prison shows that on June 19, 1997, a corrections officer found heroin hidden in Chambers’ cell.

So when it was time for Chambers to face the parole board, they were unimpressed with his efforts at rehabilitation -- particularly when eight years after Jennifer Levin’s death, he appeared anything but remorseful.

“I want to read to you what you told them,” Roberts told Chambers. “’I guess I could give the party line, and say I have learned my lesson. But that’s not how I feel at the moment.’   Reading this, it sounds like you’re arrogant, you’re flip,” Roberts noted.

“And you know what? In many instances … you’re probably right. Probably arrogant.  Probably angry,” said Chambers.

Robert Chambers is trying, he says, to get on with his life.

He has a girlfriend -- someone he met after his arrest in 1986 -- and has supported him ever since. She didn’t want “48 Hours” to show her face or divulge her name, but she says that Chambers has now learned how to be a friend.

“She stood by you for 15 years,” Roberts remarked.

“Yes, she has,” said Chambers.

“Were you surprised?”

“Yeah.”

“Ever say why?”

“In a roundabout way, but sometimes you don’t want to push your luck,” said Chambers.

“There are some people who say that young women aren’t safe to be around you,” said Roberts.

“Uh-huh.”

“That you’re a threat, that you’re a dangerous charmer. Should women be afraid of you?” Roberts asked.

“No, there’s no reason to be,” Chambers replied.

He claims to have no money of his own.  He says he wants to earn a college degree and find steady work.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a restaurant, a car wash, whatever it may be -- just something to feel normal and something to be responsible. That’s the only way you can start, one step at a time,” Chambers told Roberts.

Asked what he is willing to do, Chambers said, “Anything.”

Chambers owes the Levin family $25 million, the result of an uncontested civil suit. And if he lands a job -- any job -- 10 percent of his pay goes to the Levins for the rest of his life.

“Do you plan on writing a book, or participating in a movie deal?” Roberts asked.

“I have no plans to write a book.  I do not want to write a book. And, I have no interest in any type of movie deal. I have not made any money off of this. My family, my friends have not made any money off of this. None of us ever intend to,” Chambers replied.

Is Robert Chambers sincere about turning his life around? Has he really changed? What little “48 Hours” saw of him, he appeared measured and sober -- his mother, Phyllis, setting the tone.

“This is not a time of celebration you told me,” Roberts noted to Phyllis Chambers.

“No, it’s not,” she said. “Umm … I do not feel to celebrate Robert’s homecoming and Jennifer is never coming home. It’s a sad time.”

“This is real life, this is real death. Somebody is dead.  There has to be some action after the words. My action of doing 15 years. No… That’s just the beginning, it’s not an end. The trial didn’t end.  The trial lives with me. Everyday I’m on trial,” said Chambers.

EPILOGUE

In 2004, the year after “48 Hours”’ interview, Robert Chambers was arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance and driving with a suspended license.

He pleaded guilty and spent 100 days in jail. Three years later, Chambers was arrested again. He and his girlfriend were charged with selling drugs out of their apartment.

Local news report: Robert Chambers was allegedly selling enough cocaine out of his 17th floor apartment on East 57th St. … to put the so called “Preppy Killer” away for life.

His girlfriend pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and was sentenced to five years probation. Robert Chambers pleaded guilty in exchange for a sentence of 19 years. His earliest release date from prison is in 2024.

“He got more time in prison for selling drugs than murdering my daughter, which is pretty amazing,” Ellen Levin told reporters in 2011.

The Levins have never accepted any apology from Robert Chambers. This year, Jennifer would have been 48 years old.