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Table of Contents:
- Lawyer Jailed, Chared in Assault: His is Accused of Photographing Bound, Naked Belmont Women (02/12/1983)
- High Bail Set For DAnvers Lawyer In Belmont Home-Invasion Case (02/14/1983)
- Lawyer Held ON Charges Of House Entry in Belmont (02/15/1983)
- Suspended Lawyer is Indicted in Assaults (02/19/1983)
- Assault Charges Denied By Gerstein (02/23/1983)
- Beverly Lawyer, Charged In Rape, Waives Hearing (04/22/1983)
- Ex-Beverly Lawyer Admits Assaults (09/23/1983)
- Gerstein Sentenced to Prison 3d Time (01/14/1984)
- A Gentleman Gone Bad (01/22/1984)
- Police Log Nashua Police Department (06/21/2000)
- New Hampshire Sex Offender Registry (04/12/2011)
By Gary McMillan Globe Staff
Boston Globe - February 12, 1983
Barry H. Gerstein was once a successful criminal defense lawyer in Boston and town counsel in Wenham, an avid tennis player, a suburban father who coached his sons in Little League. Yesterday Gerstein, who is 43, was arrested, charged with forcing a Belmont woman to undress, tying her up and then taking photographs of her.
Police believe, and say Gerstein admitted, that he also was the man who since December committed similar assaults against and jewelry thefts from women in Milton, Brookline, Newton, Billerica and Weston. The victim in Weston, who police say so intimidated the man with her own threats that he fled in panic with just a watch and a ring, was (Name Removed), the wife of Boston Celtics guard (Name Removed).
The most recent attack was in Belmont on Wednesday. Boston Police Deputy Supt. Edward J. Walsh refused to say yesterday if any of the women had been sexually assaulted, but one other police official said: "All he did was take the pictures."
Walsh said late yesterday afternoon Gerstein "will be charged with everything he admits to. And he is talking at the present time."
Police have had composite sketches of suspects in the various attacks for some time but, as Gerstein himself revealed yesterday when he tore off a fake moustache in front of police, the alleged attacker changed his appearance with each assault, police said.
However, several of the victims saw the license plates on the blue 1980 Mazda driven by their attacker and that, coupled with the composite sketches, police said, led to Gerstein's arrest in Brighton yesterday morning.
Gerstein and the two officers who arrested him, Detectives Edward Johns and Peter McDonough, knew each other from Gerstein's days as an attorney in Boston. There was some speculation at police headquarters yesterday that police have suspected Gerstein for at least a week but were thrown off by the variance in the sketches and the need to catch the suspect with the right evidence.
That obstacle apparently was overcome yesterday. Said Walsh: "We have all the evidence we need for a complete prosecution."
In Gerstein's car, police said, they found a briefcase bulging with photos of women bound and in varying stages of undress. They said they also found a 35 mm camera, a pair of handcuffs, a bag stuffed with soiled underclothing, a police sticker dated 1981 from a North Shore town and a .38-caliber pistol that Gerstein was licensed to carry. As an attorney, Gerstein had no trouble getting a gun license. However, he was able to keep that license even after he was suspended from the bar in September 1981.
There is sharp contrast between the picture of Gerstein painted by police as a "voyeur lawyer" and that drawn by his official court and bar records and by his friends.
However, in his application to the Massachusetts bar in 1965 Gerstein said he had been charged in the past with "various complaints by a female companion alleging assault and battery, abduction, aggravated assault, etc." All those complaints subsequently were dismissed.
Police say Gerstein got into the houses of his victims by posing as an insurance claims adjuster. "He knew their names, knew their husband's names," said one police source. "He'd show up at the door well-dressed, well-spoken and they'd let him in."
Gerstein, who stands about 5 foot 8 and weighs about 140 pounds, often disguised himself, Walsh said yesterday, "by parting his hair on the left or in the middle, by wearing a false moustache or changing his glasses."
Once in the house, however, the man would pull his gun and force the woman to show him where her jewelry was kept, police said. In at least some of the attacks, police said, the man would force the woman to undress, then tie her up and tape her mouth and take photos of her.
In at least two cases, Walsh said, the victims were able to spot the license plate of the car used by the attacker. "They turned out to have been stolen," Walsh said, "but we had a pretty good idea they were being used on the same Mazda."
Yesterday morning, Walsh handed out the numbers - including plate 580-CBT - to his detectives. One of those getting the number was Eddie Johns, a 26- year veteran who runs the auto theft squad during the day. Johns is known by some as the "Man of a Thousand Numbers" for his almost photographic memory. About two hours later, while Johns and McDonough were routinely cruising down Washington street in Brighton, Johns spotted 580-CBT.
"We pulled him over and he recognized us and we recognized him," Johns said yesterday. "We told him, Barry, you know you've got stolen plates on your car,' and he said Well, somebody's also putting different plates on.' That's when we arrested him."
Moments after he arrived at police headquarters, Gerstein shocked the officers by pulling off his moustache and agreeing to talk, police said. "He's spilling his little guts out. I'm amazed, and this guy's a lawyer, too," said one detective yesterday.
Indeed, Gerstein was, according to an officer yesterday, "a damn good lawyer. He handled narcotics cases and murders." One of his clients was Bradford Prendergast, the man convicted in 1980 of killing his former friend Patricia Gilmore.
Gerstein was born in Boston and grew up in Brookline. He graduated from Bates College in Maine in 1960, where he played varsity football. He joined the Army and became a military policeman. He worked as a postman and for the US Depaprtment of Agriculture as well as his father's auction firm. In 1965 he graduated from Boston College Law School and joined a law firm in Boston.
Gerstein and his wife, (Name Removed), bought a house in Wenham. They had three sons, who are now 9, 13, and 15. Gerstein became the town counsel in Wenham and was fairly active in his children's school affairs. He became the coach of the Angels, a team in the Hamilton-Wenham Little League. "He was very good with the kids," one friend said.
Another person in Hamilton told of his involvement as a lawyer in negotiations of police contracts in both Hamilton and Wenham, of his drive to be a perfectionist.
This coming week, however, he was going to be on the other side of Hamilton police affairs. He was scheduled for court action on a drivers license law violation.
About five years ago things began to go awry. His marriage started to fall apart. About the same time Gerstein left Boston to practice in Salem - "divorce cases, mainly," said the friend.
When, in 1981 Gerstein and his wife divorced. She kept the house in Wenham, he moved to Danvers.
About that same time, a court later judged, Gerstein misrepresented a case to a client that led to a mortgage default. Gerstein was suspended from the bar for two years. But soon after that, court records show, he took on another client in an insurance case and was accused of pocketing the settlement. Last September the Massachusetts Bar Assn. recommended that Gerstein be disbarred and sent to jail for that action. The state Supreme Judicial Court is still weighing that suggestion.
Gerstein had not worked full time in months, the friend said. "I think he was just doing title searches," he said.
It was within a few months after the bar recommended action against Gerstein that the series of attacks began. Police have not yet recovered any of the stolen jewelry but, said one Milton detective yesterday, "we got everything we really wanted when we got him.
by George L. Croft and Robert B. Carr Globe Staff
Boston Globe - February 14, 1983
Barry H. Gerstein, 43, a Danvers attorney, was ordered held in $250,000 bail today after pleading innocent to charges in connection with the invasion of a Belmont home last week.
Judge Harry Lack in East Cambridge District Court continued the case to Feb. 21 and ordered Gerstein to Middlesex County House of Correction in Billerica in lieu of bail.
Gerstein was charged with assault and robbery, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon in a dwelling, using a weapon to instill fear, indecent assault and battery and larceny of jewlery, money and a camera.
Prior to the arraignment, Lack ordered Gerstein to undergo a mental examination by a court psychiatrist, Dr. Kenneth Borenstein.
Gerstein, dressed in dark blue trousers and a yellow and blue football- style pullover sweatshirt walked into the court courtroom with defense attorneys William Brown and Lewis Gurwitz.
Middlesex County Assistant Dist. Atty. Marion Ryan proposed the high bail which was accepted by the court.
Middlesex County Dist. Atty. Scott Harshbarger, after the arraignment, lauded the joint effort of the Boston and suburban police departments that resulted in Gerstein's arrest.
"I anticipate more charges would be brought (against Gerstein) by my office as well as the district attorney of Norfolk County."
Police said the Belmont incident was the latest in a series of invasions of homes during the past two months.
The other cases were in Milton, Brookline, Newton, Billerica and Weston, they said.
Police allege that Gerstein gained entry to the Belmont house by posing as an insurance claims adjuster.
Once inside, police said, the defendant brandished a pistol and forced the woman occupant to produce her jewelry. He then allegedly forced her to undress, tied her to the chair and then photographed her.
Police said Gerstein chose beautiful women as his victims. They said he would photograph them while they were driving, jot down their license numbers and get their names and addresses in the public-record files at the Registry of Motor Vehicles.
Investigators said he would then look up other records to learn the names of their husbands before going to the homes.
In each attack, victims told police their assailant fled in a blue 1980 Mazda. The victims furnished police with the license number of the car and also helped in drawing a composite sketch. In each sketch the assailant wore a mustache.
Gerstein was arrested Friday in Brighton by Boston Police Detectives Edward Johns and Peter McDonough, who spotted the Mazda on Washington street and ordered the driver to the curb.
The officers, who said the composite sketches resembled the defendant, reported they that Gerstein suddenly pulled a fake mustache from his face as he was being questioned.
Police said that they recovered from Gerstein's car numerous photographs of women in various stages of undress, a 35mm camera, handcuffs, a bag of soiled underclothing, a .38-caliber pistol for which he had a license and a police sticker from a North Shore town.
Gerstein was once a successful Boston criminal attorney and a former town counsel in Wenham. He is the father of three young boys. He and his wife, (Name Removed), were divorced in 1981. He then moved to Danvers.
by Paul Hirshson Globe Staff
Boston Globe - February 15, 1983
A Beverly lawyer accused of tying up, robbing and photographing a partially clothed Belmont woman was ordered held yesterday in $250,000 bail for a court appearance next Tuesday.
Barry H. Gerstein, 43, a lawyer who has been suspended from practice, appeared in Middlesex District Court in Cambridge before Judge Harry M. Lack.
Gerstein was charged with assault with a dangerous weapon with intent to rob, armed robbery while disguised, stealing by confining and putting in fear and indecent assault and battery. A plea of innocent was entered for him. He was ordered held at the Middlesex House of Correction.
Gerstein also faces similar charges in Quincy District Court, according to First Assistant Dist. Atty. in Norfolk County Robert W. Banks. Milton Police obtained four complaints against Gerstein yesterday in connection with a January incident.
The complaints accuse him of armed assault in a dwelling, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, armed robbery and assault with a handgun. Banks said the charges were in connection with a case on Jan. 28 in which a woman was handcuffed, threatened and robbed, but not photographed.
No arraignment date has been set on those charges, he said.
Gerstein faced charges in Cambridge in connection with a single incident last Thursday in which a Belmont woman was tied up, robbed and photographed partially disrobed in her home. Gerstein was arrested Friday in Boston.
The Belmont case was similar, police say, to several others in suburban towns in which a well-dressed man would knock on the door of a home, succeed in talking his way inside, then rob, strip and photograph the lone female occupant.
Scott L. Harshbarger, Middlesex County district attorney, said in a press conference after the arraignment that he expects more charges will be lodged against Gerstein, both in Middlesex and Norfolk Counties.
Harshbarger also said that "there were at least seven incidents," including the one in Belmont in which Gerstein is a suspect.
Harshbarger cited possible "danger to the community" in seeking the heavy bail.
When Boston Police arrested Gerstein Friday, they reportedly seized from his car handcuffs, a camera, a gun and dozens of photographs of partially clad women.
Gerstein made no statement yesterday during the brief court proceeding. A man of medium height and build and brown hair, he wore a black and yellow sweater in court and appeared to need a shave. He covered his face with his hand to shield it from still and television cameras.
At one point in the arraignment, he leaned on the shoulder of his attorney, Lewis Gurwitz, who stood outside the prisoner's dock between him and the cameras.
Harshbarger complimented the police in Belmont, Billerica, Boston, Brookline, Milton, Newton and Weston for assistance and cooperation in the arrest of Gerstein.
Newton Police Chief William Quinn, who also spoke, said that his department had received two registration plate numbers from victims ,and on Friday, Detective Daniel M. Donovan gave those numbers to Boston Police after hearing of the Belmont case and the arrest followed.
Gerstein underwent a court-ordered psychiatric examination but Harshbarger would not comnment on the results of that exam.
Harshbarger said the pictures of the women would be used as evidence if necessary but "we are aware of the difficult personal problems the individual undergoes in a case like this."
Gerstein is being held in the Middlesex County Jail in Cambridge.
Suspended Lawyer is Indicted in Assaults
Boston Globe - February 19, 1983
A suspended Beverly lawyer has been indicted by a Middlesex County grand jury on 13 charges in connection with assaults on four suburban women whose homes were invaded and three of whom were tied up, partially disrobed and then photographed by the intruder.
Barry H. Gerstein, 43, is expected to be arraigned Tuesday in Middlesex Superior Court before Judge Andrew R. Linscott.
The indictments charge Gerstein with the invasion of a Belmont home on Feb. 10; two Newton homes on Jan. 7 and 10; and a Weston home on Dec. 28.
Gerstein is being held in the Middlesex County Jail in lieu of $250,000 bail. At his arraignment in Cambridge District Court last Monday Assistant Dist. Atty. Marian Ryan urged Judge Harry M. Lack to impose that bail because, she said, there would be danger to the community if Gerstein were free on bail.
Middlesex Dist. Atty. Scott Harshbarger said Monday that Gerstein is a suspect in a total of seven such incidents in Middlesex and Norfolk counties.
Besides being charged in the four Middlesex County incidents, Gerstein has been accused by Milton police.
According to Robert W. Banks, first assistant district attorney for Norfolk County, Gerstein is accused of armed assault in a dwelling, assault with a dangerous weapon, armed robbery, and assault with a handgun in the Jan. 28 incident in Milton.
The 13 indictments now pending against him in Middlesex County charge him with armed robbery, armed robbery while masked, assault with a knife, assault with a gun, indecent assault and battery, and armed assault in a dwelling.
New Englad News Briefs:
Assault charges Denied By Gerstein
Boston Globe - February 23, 1983
A suspended Beverly lawyer pleaded innocent yesterday in Middlesex Superior Court to armed robbery, assault in a dwelling, indecent assault and battery and other charges arising from four home invasions in which women occupants said they were robbed and, in three cases, photographed while partially disrobed. Barry H. Gerstein, 43, is being held in Middlesex County Jail in lieu of $250,000 bail with no cash alternative. His case was continued to March 15 for a conference.
By DIANE LEWIS
Boston Globe - April 22, 1983
A suspended Beverly lawyer accused of raping a woman last December was bound over yesterday to a Suffolk County grand jury after waiving his right to a municipal court hearing.
Barry H. Gerstein, a former criminal lawyer and town counsel of Wenham, is accused of raping a woman and robbing her of jewelry after entering her South End apartment on the afternoon of Dec. 21, 1982. He was charged with armed robbery, rape and armed assault with intent to commit a felony in a dwelling.
Boston Municipal Court Judge Theodore A. Glynn yesterday referred the case to the grand jury after the defendant waived his right to a probable cause hearing.
Peter Grabler, an assistant district attorney, said that the South End woman was in her apartment when her doorbell rang. She went downstairs, saw a man with a package who appeared to be a delivery man, and opened the door.
"She opened the door a little and he stepped in, shifted the package, pulled out a gun and showed it to her and then put the gun back in his pocket," he said.
Gerstein, 44, of Apple road, also faces charges in Norfolk and Middlesex Superior Courts for allegedly forcing several women to undress, tying them up and photographing them. The Norfolk County cases also include a charge of aggravated rape, according to the clerk's office. Those cases have been continued to May 9 for pretrial motions.
According to authorities, Gerstein entered the homes of women in Brookline, Newton, Milton and Billerica by posing as an insurance claims adjuster. He is also suspected of stealing a watch and a ring from a Weston woman whose threats caused him to flee.
Gerstein, a 1965 Boston College Law School graduate, was arrested last February in Brighton after a Belmont women reported that she had been assaulted in her home. According to police, the woman's recollection of what had happened was similar to other cases they were investigating.
Police spotted Gerstein on Washington street in a blue Mazda similar to the car some of the women had identified as belonging to the man who had photographed them. A .38-caliber gun, a 35mm camera and an attache case containing pictures of partly clothed women was found in the car.
Defense lawyer William Brown yesterday declined comment on the case.
Ex-Beverly Lawyer Admits Assaults
Boston Globe -September 23, 1983
A suspended Beverly lawyer yesterday pleaded guilty to charges brought against him in connection with the invasion of four homes in which the women occupants were tied up, indecently assaulted, and robbed. Barry Gerstein, 44, once a successful criminal lawyer and formerly the town counsel of Wenham, had faced 13 indictments in Middlesex Superior Court connected with the invasion of two homes in Newton, and one each in Weston and Belmont. Assistant Dist. Atty. Marian Ryan told Judge Walter Steele that Gerstein had gained entry to the women's homes, while they were home alone, using such ruses as delivering packages or a husband's papers, or asking help in locating a nearby address. Once inside, Ryan said, Gerstein attempted to tie up the women and succeeded in three of the four attempts. The exception was a woman who resisted being manacled, but was robbed at gunpoint. The other three women, Ryan said, were held up at gun or knife point, handcuffed and tied to chairs. After he robbed them of money and jewelry, Ryan said, Gerstein would disarrange their clothes and take pictures of them. The most cash taken in one robbery, Ryan said, was $80. Most of the jewelry has been recovered. The photographs also were recovered.
by Diane E. Lewis
Boston Globe - January 14, 1984
A former criminal lawyer and town counsel of Wenham (CORRECTION: Barry Gerstein never served as town counsel of Wenham. Correction dated 4/12/84) yesterday was sentenced in Suffolk Superior Court to 10-18 years in Walpole state prison on charges stemming from the rape two years ago of a woman in Boston's South End.
Judge Andrew Gill Meyer sentenced Barry H. Gerstein, 44, of Beverly, after the defendant told the court that he could not remember the circumstances surrounding the rape, but would not dispute the evidence against him because it was overwhelming.
The judge stated that the sentence would be served concurrently with a term of 7-15 years, and a term of 10-18 years Gerstein already is serving in Walpole for committing several armed robberies in suburban homes after convincing housewives to open their doors. In most of those cases, he handcuffed or tied up the women and forced them to pose semi-nude for photographs.
The sentence Gerstein received yesterday involved the 4:45 p.m. rape of a woman in the South End in which the defendant pretended that he was delivering a package, according to Assistant Dist. Atty. Charles Campo.
"He (Gerstein) told her that since the package was damaged someone would have to sign for it," Campo said. "When she opened the door, he stepped in quickly and pulled out a gun. Then he took her upstairs to a bedroom, handcuffed her behind her back and stole $95 from her purse, a watch and some jewelry."
Minutes later, Gerstein raped the woman and then forced her to perform oral sex on him, said Campo, who had recommended a sentence of 15-20 years in Walpole.
Defense lawyer William Homans submitted a letter to the court in which Dr. Jay Kuten, a psychiatrist, reported that Gerstein was suffering from a deep depression and "was desperate for money" when he committed the crimes.
"In late fall 1982, desperate for money and believing himself to be totally without friends or help of any kind, he (Gerstein) decided to pursue a criminal path," Kuten wrote. "He examined the files of his criminal clients to see what they did to make money.
"He (Gerstein) recalled a client who would break into houses and rob them . . . This man would force the women to take their clothes off and would take Polaroid snapshots of them, which he would use to intimidate them, stating that unless they kept silent he would show all the photos to their friends."
The evaluation suggested that Gerstein's actions were caused by a series of financial, legal and marital problems that began after he separated from his wife and family in 1977.
An attorney whose annual income had been between $80,000 and $110,000, Gerstein took a cut to $50,000 a year when he moved his practice from Boston to Salem so that he could be closer to his children, the psychiatrist wrote. He divorced his wife a year later. Three years after the divorce, Gerstein became involved in a fraud in which he misrepresented the sale of a building to a bank and was suspended from practicing for two years by the Board of Bar Overseers, starting October 1981.
The next year, still unemployed, Gerstein began forcing his way into women's homes and in a six-week period he managed to enter six houses, according to the prosecution. During that time, Gerstein stole a total of $2000 worth of jewelry and forced several women to pose partly clothed for the photographs he took with his 35mm camera, according to evidence presented in the case.
by MARIA KARAGIANIS
Boston Globe - January 22, 1984
This is the story of Barry Gerstein, who slipped over the edge, from being a successful criminal lawyer to being a criminal. A Little League coach and devoted father, he has admitted breaking into the homes of six women, threatening them with a gun or a knife, robbing them, and, in some cases, gagging, handcuffing, photographing, and sexually molesting them as well.
He had a terrific smile. If you ask twenty people what they remember best about Barry, nineteen mention the smile.
Gerstein is in custody now. His crimes, according to a forensic psychiatrist hired to testify on his behalf, were the denouement of a lifelong penchant for self-destructive behavior. The same psychiatrist characterized him as having a depressive neurosis of a long-standing nature and called Gerstein's confession to police a "symbolic suicide."
The 44-year-old defendant appeared several times in court dressed in a blue T-shirt, blue jeans, and running shoes. His skin had a jailhouse pallor. His dark hair was cut short, combed back like a schoolboy's. This was not the Barry Gerstein people remember - smooth, clever, elegantly dressed, an up-and- coming Boston trial lawyer and family man who wore expensive suits and drove a blue Lincoln Continental.
In court, his wrists were manacled, handcuffed as he had handcuffed some of his victims. In some cases, he had tied their feet as well and taped their mouths shut so they wouldn't scream when he brandished his gun and long-blade hunting knife, and when he took the obscene photographs.
The victims were middle-class, much like Gerstein himself. They were in their 30s and early 40s, married, mothers, and most were living in comfortable, suburban houses, which is where he attacked them, in their own kitchens and bedrooms, in affluent communities like Belmont, Weston, Newton, Milton, and in Gerstein's own hometown, Brookline.
What caused this contemporary American tragedy? How was it that a man who on the surface seemed so nice could commit such outrageous acts? Was it, as his lawyer, William Homans, implied, that Gerstein was having a particularly severe midlife crisis, a sudden snap from reality brought on by excessive pressures at work and at home? Was it, as the psychiatrist surmised, the desperate act of a desperate man who had never felt loved or accepted? Or was it simply that beneath that benign surface Gerstein was a sociopath - in conflict with society, selfish, callous, impulsive, lacking in loyalty and guilt, with a low tolerance for frustration and a tendency to blame others?
Perhaps it was the divorce. His former wife testified that after their third child was born, she felt restive. She eventually found peace through Siddha meditation. After meeting the Indian spiritual teacher Baba Muktananda in 1976, she changed her name from (Name Removed) to Sanataniand traveled to India with their youngest son, staying two months at an ashram.
Gerstein's friends still can't believe it. For he, they say, was the quintessential all-American boy - a straight shooter and "jock" - who grew up in a nice house amid comfortable surroundings with loving parents. He attended summer camp, received a good education, and had friends, and then later Gerstein, who was blessed with charm, good looks, and intelligence, married a lovely woman and had three sons whom he adored, and achieved his stated goal in life, which was to make a lot of money, and then suddenly something just snapped.
Gerstein decided to embark on his life of crime in the final months of 1982.
The following reconstruction of his crimes is taken from interviews with police and from transcripts of proceedings in Middlesex Superior Court on September 22, 1983, and in Norfolk Superior Court the following day.
Middlesex Assistant District Attorney Marion Ryan said the first attack that Gerstein has pleaded guilty to occurred on December 28. The victim, whom we will call Mrs. M., was at home in Weston at 1:45 p.m. when her doorbell rang. A well-dressed man in a suit and tie was at the door. He said he was looking for a particular address and asked if she could check it for him in the local telephone directory. She said she would. He also asked if her husband was at home; she said he wasn't.
After checking the address, the woman returned to the door, which she had closed. When she reopened the door, the man - Gerstein - pushed his way in and pulled out a revolver. Spinning the chamber, he told her the gun was loaded and demanded money. She resisted. He grabbed her arm and pulled her down the hallway to the bedroom. He told her that she was "pissing him off." She gave him ten dollars. She also gave him the jewelry she was wearing - a diamond ring, bracelet, and wristwatch. He threw her down on the bed. She struggled and got back up. He held the gun on her, showing her the bullets and spinning the chamber. He told her that she would really get hurt if she didn't give him more money and jewelry. He finally left, telling her not to move from the bedroom until she heard his car pull away.
Mrs. L. was luckier than the others. The next attack came ten days later in Newton, on January 7, 1983, at 11:30 a.m. A woman we will call Mrs. L. was about to leave home to meet her small child, who was walking home from school, when she heard the doorbell ring. A well-dressed man was at the door. It was Gerstein, who said he had a damaged package for her husband, and he asked if she would sign for it. When she opened the door, he pointed a gun in her face, pushed her into the house, threw her down on the floor, and then handcuffed her hands behind her back.
He took money and jewelry. He pushed and slapped her around the bedroom, threw her down on the bed, and smacked her along the side of the head while she was struggling to get free. He took gold chains from her neck, taped her mouth shut, then pulled the turtleneck sweater she was wearing up over her head and pulled down her jeans. He forced her to pose in several different positions for photographs. Then he left.
The pattern was repeated half an hour later in Newton, a short distance from Mrs. L.'s house. In this case, Gerstein also gained entrance to the house posing as a deliveryman. He told his victim to lie facedown on the floor, tied her hands behind her with a rope, ripped her wedding ring and engagement ring from her fingers, and held at her throat the point of a long-blade hunting knife. He then handcuffed her and tied two of her husband's socks together, stuffing them into her mouth. He pulled her slacks down and her sweater up and took several photographs, as she lay with her hands tied to the spindles of her own brass bed.
It is an appalling litany. On January 28 in Milton, using the same modus operandi, Gerstein gained access to the home of a 34-year-old woman with two children. She was six months pregnant. Her 5-year-old son, who did not actually witness the attack but suffered nightmares for months after the break-in, was playing upstairs with a friend.
Norfolk County Assistant District Attorney Charles Hely told the court that Gerstein threw the woman onto the kitchen floor, on her stomach, handcuffed her hands behind her back, and pulled the rings from her fingers. He threatened her with his loaded gun. When a friend of hers arrived to drop off the woman's youngest child, the victim yelled for help, and the friend drove off to get the police. Gerstein then left. Oddly enough, the Milton victim had heard a few weeks earlier of a similar attack on a friend of hers in Newton.
There was another attack on February 3. A 42-year-old woman, the wife of a physician, was at home in Brookline around noon when Gerstein rang her doorbell. This attack was particularly vicious and sadistic, involving sexual molestation and rape as well as robbery and the taking of obscene pictures. Holding a knife at the victim's throat, Gerstein told her, "If you give me any trouble I will run it into you." He also threatened to send the photographs he had taken to her neighbors if she gave his description to police. As soon as he left, she called the police. Though Gerstein did not deny the rape, he indicated in court that he had no memory of it.
A week later came the final attack. On February 10 in Belmont Mrs. R. was returning to her house after taking her young child to school. It was about 11 a.m. Gerstein rang the doorbell. When Mrs. R. opened the door, he asked if her husband was home. She said no. The man then said he had several papers to leave for her husband, started fumbling in his briefcase, and then produced a gun, which he held to the victim's neck and threatened to use unless she gave him jewelry and money. Gerstein forced the woman to lie down on the floor and then tied her hands behind her back. He took eighty dollars from her purse and then forced her with the gun at her back to walk upstairs. He made her lie on the bedroom floor while he rummaged around for more jewelry and money and then told her to lie on the bed. In an attempt to avoid getting onto the bed, Mrs. R. continued to kneel on the floor, just placing her head on the bed, but he forced her to get up. He then taped her mouth, put a hunting knife to her throat, and told her she was going to pose for some pictures. When she refused to do that, he said he would "put the knife up her." He pulled her sweater up and her pants down, tied her feet, and took several photographs before leaving.
Four days before Christmas 1982, Gerstein allegedly broke into the South End home of a seventh woman who later identified Gerstein as the man she said robbed and raped her. As of late December 1983, that case was still pending in Suffolk Superior Court.
None of the victims consented to be interviewed for this article. A year after having suffered such traumata - humiliation, violation, fear for their lives - they are in various stages of recovery, "some doing worse than others," according to sources in the prosecutor's office. Depression, anger, nightmares, marital problems, and feelings of vulnerability, loss of control, and terror - even in their own houses - have been constant companions.
The story of how Gerstein was caught is intriguing. As the first weeks of 1983 passed, reports of the suburban sex molester began filtering back to Boston. A meeting was held at Boston Police headquarters on Berkeley Street with detectives from several of the communities where Gerstein had struck, and a composite sketch was drawn. The suspect was described as a white male, about 40 years old, 5 feet 9 inches, with black hair, maybe a touch of gray, and weighing approximately 165 pounds. Sometimes he appeared clean-shaven. At other times he wore a mustache. He varied the way he parted his hair: sometimes on the left, then on the right, sometimes in the middle, or just combed back. The man wore different pairs of glasses - wire rims or tortoise shell - and sometimes he wore none. He carried a camera, revolver, handcuffs, and knife.
"I told these different cops, It's important to catch this guy. He's cute, he's using different disguises,' " recalls a high-ranking Boston Police official. "I figured the key to it was the stolen plates," the official said.
Several victims managed to copy down a license-plate number as their assailant drove away. Police had two numbers to work with: Massachusetts registrations 580 CDT and 576 HLB. Both plates were stolen in Boston - one from behind the Registry of Motor Vehicles and the other from a street near the Public Garden. On February 9, the day before Gerstein attacked the victim in Belmont, the composite sketch was distributed to police throughout Greater Boston.
On February 11, 1983, the morning after the Belmont attack, the police official was walking through the lobby of headquarters when he spotted Detectives Eddie Johns and Peter McDonough. They were about to leave for Brighton to serve some subpoenas. Johns, who runs the auto theft squad, is known on the street as the "man of a thousand numbers" because of his near- photographic memory.
The police official asked the two veteran cops if they had heard anything about the crimes in the suburbs, and they said no. So he gave them the composite drawing of a suspect with glasses and a mustache and told them to watch out for a car with either of the two stolen license plates. Then he went back upstairs to his desk, where he always keeps a police radio on.
Fifteen minutes later, his radio crackled out the news that Johns and McDonough had arrested a suspect in Brighton. They were cruising down Washington Street when they spotted a 1980 blue Mazda, with stolen plate number 580 CDT, going in the opposite direction. When they stopped the car and Gerstein got out, both cops realized they knew him. He was a criminal lawyer they had seen frequently around the courts.
The police official said that when Gerstein was arrested at 11:15 a.m., he was on his way to Brookline to attack the next victim on his list. Her name was marked on a computer printout that had the names and addresses of dozens of other women - past and future victims - that police found in Gerstein's car. They also found a street guide to Greater Boston with directions to various houses written in the margin.
"We were looking out the window of headquarters when they brought the suspect in, and I remember one of the guys in our group saying, Hey, I know that guy. He's a lawyer.' And I say, So what? Bring him in,' " recalls the police official.
The suspect was, according to the official, "acting hyped up, like a tiger in a tank, and he didn't want to sit down." When he did sit down, McDonough walked over to Gerstein and peeled off his fake mustache. Gerstein made a confession.
Later, searching the Mazda, police found what the official calls Gerstein's "bag of tricks - a briefcase with a Canon 35mm camera, tape, rope, handcuffs, a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver, for which he had a license, and several roles of unexposed film. Later, in his Beverly apartment, they found several pieces of jewelry stolen from the victims. They also found stacks of photos of women bound and gagged, in various stages of undress.
Gerstein admitted to police that he chose his victims carefully, usually while out driving. When he spotted a well-dressed woman with good jewelry, driving an expensive car, he would write down her license-plate number. Then he would go to the Registry of Motor Vehicles to find out whom the car belonged to, the name of the woman's husband, and where they lived. As a lawyer, he was able to obtain such information easily.
"I guess the only good thing you could say about this guy is that he was good to his kids," says the police official.
Brookline in the 1950s is where Barry Gerstein grew up, on East Milton Road, in a two-story wood-frame house with a nice backyard. It was his responsibility to cut and water the grass.
He was the second child and only son of Gerald and Gertrude Gerstein. The father, who had grown up during the Depression as one of six children of Russian Jewish immigrants, is described as an individual in whom the work ethic was paramount. Now retired and living in Florida, the elder Gerstein used to own an auction house in Boston, where he made an excellent living. Although he had attended Suffolk Law School nights and passed the bar, he never practiced law. Some observers say they thought Gertrude Gerstein would have preferred her husband to practice law.
"Jerry was the sweetest, nicest man. He was known as the most honest auctioneer in town," says a Boston lawyer who knew both Barry and his father. "Jerry was very fine, very honorable. And Barry was his fair-haired boy. Jerry was very proud of Barry, that his son was a successful lawyer. And he used to walk over from the auction house to Barry's law office on State Street to meet him for lunch. Outwardly, they had an excellent relationship."
Gertrude Gerstein was a social worker - "a charming hostess and excellent golfer," in the opinion of one of her friends with whom Barry had a less than cordial relationship. "Barry's dad was a sweet man, but the mother was more strident," says one former classmate of the younger Gerstein. "Whereas the father was laid-back, the mother was tense. I have a question in my mind whether she might have been a nag." Barry's relations with his older sister, Joan, were also said by friends to be antagonistic.
The Gersteins lived just off Route 9, three blocks from Brookline Reservoir. To the west is Fisher Hill, an affluent section of splendid homes that is called "Pill Hill" by locals because of the many doctors who live there. To the east is a section called Whiskey Point - or simply the Point - a working-class section where Irish families traditionally settled. The fathers were policemen and firefighters and municipal workers, and the sons - many of whom Barry hung around with - were athletes.
"There was definitely a class distinction at Brookline High School which was not openly stated, but which was implicit. The Jewish mothers didn't want their kids going out with the Irish kids. The Irish kids were beer drinkers and jockstraps. The Jewish kids were doctors and lawyers," says one of Gerstein's friends from the Point. Now a professional in Boston, the friend says he is shocked by what his old friend did, and he doesn't want his name used. "Brookline was filled with upper-income educated kids, but that was not who Barry identified with. He wanted to identify with the macho guys. It was the Irish kids he wanted to run with . . . the football players. I think part of it was physical."
Barry Gerstein was too small to play football, not in and of itself catastrophic, just a fact. He was in exceptionally good shape, though, because he always worked out, and, in fact, one observer, looking back on it now, thinks Gerstein was obsessed with sports to a fanatical degree. He thinks that Gerstein identified with all that was macho. Gerstein played excellent tennis, intramural basketball, and softball and was a club boxer.
He and his friends - the varsity athletes - used to hang around on the corner of Route 9 and Cypress Street outside Morgan's Pharmacy. They would shoot the breeze until 9:30 each night, then go home. Everyone wore crew cuts, white bucks, chino pants, and varsity sweaters, and Gerstein, according to one friend, "thought he was Jack Armstrong," the quintessential all-American boy. "There was that desire in Barry to be homogenized, just like the rest of America," the friend says.
Gerstein's father bought him a used Oldsmobile. On Friday nights, he and his pals would drive to Coolidge Corner after the high school basketball game for a cheeseburger and a black-and-white frappe at Howard Johnson's, or a hot pastrami on rye at Jack and Marion's. Gerstein wasn't aggressive with girls, one friend remembers, but he was cute and would always be laughing, and girls liked him even though he had no steady date.
If he harbored any peculiar sexual longings, he kept them to himself.
Dr. Jay Kuten of Boston was the psychiatrist who testified on Gerstein's behalf. At the sentencing, Kuten based his remarks on two interviews with the defendant in Middlesex jail that lasted a total of six and a half hours. Kuten painted a portrait - after Gerstein had already changed his plea from innocent to guilty - of a man pressured by his parents to perform, of someone who had never enjoyed a feeling of love and support.
Gerstein told the psychiatrist that although he managed to make friends and was marginally successful as a high school athlete, he felt adrift. When he was captain of the baseball team at camp, he told the psychiatrist, his father didn't attend a game. Gerstein saw himself as having a distant, cool relationship with his family, one in which he was expected constantly to prove himself and to perform. He said he never received unconditional love.
This testimony is at odds with the recollections of several people, including one of Gerstein's relatives, who recalls him being "always liked, very boyish, charming, gregarious, pleasant, with plenty of friends and good relations with the family." Bill Mees, Gerstein's freshman roommate at Bates
College in Lewiston, Maine, also says Gerstein "had a very good relationship with his parents." Mees remembers the Gersteins as "a nice, upper-middle-class family."
"Everybody liked Barry. Even my mother thought he was a nifty boy and that I was lucky to have him as a roommate," says Mees, who now teaches French and English at Lawrence Academy in Groton. Gerstein and Mees graduated from Bates in 1960. Since then, Mees says, "Times have changed a great deal. Barry and I rarely sat around talking about girls. . . . I know he dated off and on, but nothing serious. Life in those days was a few beers and going out with the guys. Bates was a coed school, but there were no fraternities and no sororities, and the rules were that girls had to be in by eleven, midnight on weekends."
In college, Gerstein did well in math and economics, while his roommate excelled in languages and literature. Gerstein hung around with the jocks at Bates. Mees gravitated to a more literary and artistic circle on campus. "Barry was conservative. He was not the type of person you'd pour your heart out to. He wasn't sympathetic, fatherly, or paternal. Maybe it's that macho thing in him. I don't know. I think he liked apple pie, baseball, sports. . . . That's typical Barry.
"He had a nice smile. He was a damn good-looking guy. He was handsome, and I think people liked him. . . . He wasn't interested in literature, the arts - he just didn't like it - anything that would show he was weak in any way. . . .
"When Barry was successful, he let you know about it. There was a smugness to him. He'd be indifferent to other people's trouble. He could put people off. He had this air about him sometimes that might lead one to believe that he had a chip on his shoulder. Sometimes he could give the appearance of being really arrogant."
After college, Gerstein joined the Army. Then in the early 1960s, he attended Boston College Law School, where a classmate remembers him as "the typical rah, rah, Joe Average law student. He was always in the library, drove a black MGB convertible, had a multitude of girls. He studied hard, got good grades. He was very money-oriented in his thinking. His idea was to study hard, work hard, become a lawyer, and make a lot of money.
"He embodied all of those ideals. He was brought up in a real American Jewish culture: Work hard, respect your parents, don't get into any trouble. Be a good little boy. He was a jockstrap, always proud of his body, always in good physical condition."
There are several versions of what everyone now refers to as "the incident." All are slightly different, but what is agreed upon is that it occurred in 1963, while Gerstein was still a student at BC Law School. It involved himself and a young woman who was also, in some way, connected with BC. "The incident" is how Middlesex prosecutor Ryan referred to it in court.
According to other sources, it involved the tying up of the woman. At the time, charges were brought against Gerstein, but they were later dismissed. There never was any conviction.
In his application to the Massachusetts Bar in 1965, Gerstein wrote that he had been charged in the past with "various complaints by a female companion alleging assault and battery, abduction, aggravated assault etc."
A friend of Gerstein's from law school was asked recently if he was aware of "the incident." He says he was, but that at the time he had dismissed it as a youthful escapade. He said he was satisfied by Gerstein's explanation that "this girl was trying to get me to marry her." In retrospect, the friend says, he wonders if that was all there was to it.
On October 24, 1965, Gerstein married the daughter of a Jewish millionaire from Shaker Heights, Ohio.
He had lived at home until that time. After the wedding, he and his wife, (Name Removed), bought a small Cape Cod-style house in Wenham, a wealthy, WASPy, horsey town on the North Shore. The Gersteins lived on the outskirts, near the Beverly airport, on a street of not terribly expensive houses. Neighbors remember (Name Removed) as a very attentive mother and Barry as a devoted father. They also recall Gerstein as ubiquitous on the playing fields as a schoolboys' coach.
"He was a disciplinarian and a martinet," remembers attorney Bill Shields, who, along with Gerstein, was a Little League coach of the Hamilton-Wenham Major League Angels. "Barry demanded a lot from the kids. At times, he was a little oppressive."
Gerstein was a familiar figure on the North Shore: riding his bicycle; dressed in tight-fitting jeans, running shoes, and aviator glasses; hanging around Pingree Field in Wenham or Patton Park in Hamilton. "He was almost a fanatic about sports," says one neighbor. "And some of the overprotective younger mothers thought he was too forceful with the kids."
When Gerstein married his wife, she was "very pretty and Kewpie doll- like," according to a friend who saw them at Gerstein's tenth high school reunion. A small woman, about 5 feet 2 or 5 feet 3, she had what Leslie Brown, editor of the Danvers Herald, called "sparkly, pretty eyes." Around the time the Gersteins began having marital problems, in 1975, (Name Removed) Gerstein devoted herself to the teachings of Baba Muktananda, the late Indian spiritual teacher whose picture adorns several rooms of her house. She still teaches Siddha meditation in her home. "(Name Removed) is very quiet, nice, soft-spoken," says Brown.
After the Gersteins' last child was born, (Name Removed) began working as a secretary at the Bessie Buker Elementary School in Wenham. When she changed her name to Sanatani, people didn't know what to call her anymore. Brown describes (Name Removed) as passive. "She reminds me of a born-again Christian. . . . She believes and accepts everything. She's a quiet lady who smiles."
Last fall, (Name Removed) Gerstein testified in support of her former husband. She was dressed in a camel wool skirt and brown nubby jacket. She wore no makeup, she had low-heeled shoes, and her dark hair was cut short. She emphasized that her former husband was a wonderful father to the couple's three sons - David, 16, Daniel, 14, and Michael, 10. But, she said of herself and Gerstein as a couple, although "our goals seemed to be the same, we didn't communicate very well.
"Barry is a very sweet person. He always has been. I think he's committed actions that have been wrong, but I think he has the ability to go from that to be a positive influence in society. . . . I think his actions are the actions of someone who had lost touch with reality," (Name Removed) Gerstein testified. "I think Barry's most positive quality is that he loves his children very much." The mention of his children was the only time in several months of court appearances that Gerstein showed any emotion: He cried.
The first seven years of the marriage went relatively smoothly, according to (Name Removed) Gerstein's testimony, but "Barry felt that he had to make a lot of money, live a certain lifestyle. He felt that he had to become a great lawyer. And I felt that his drive was taking him away from the family. I wanted him to spend more time with us."
At that time, Gerstein was earning about $100,000 a year. He was spending a lot of money on cars and clothes, living beyond his means. Then, in the mid- 1970s, according to (Name Removed) Gerstein, Barry started lying to her about money. "He wouldn't tell me what was really happening," she said.
Gerstein was a familiar figure in Boston legal circles. From the late 1960s, when he was assistant corporation counsel for two years in Boston before going into private practice, to the mid-1970s, when he moved his practice to Salem, Gerstein was viewed as a competent criminal defense lawyer with a growing practice. He defended clients charged with a variety of offenses - including many charged with drug crimes - and had his fair share of major cases.
Among them was the notorious De Mau Mau trial of 1973. The prosecutor in that case, Stephen Delinsky, a former Suffolk County assistant district attorney who is now in private practice, remembers Gerstein as a defense lawyer who was decent, competent, and straight. "Some criminal lawyers fight you in the courtroom, but Gerstein was always a gentleman - very, very polite," Delinsky says.
Yet, despite outward appearances of success, there were signs that all was not well. A former partner of Gerstein's, who does not want his name used, says, "Barry just wore out his welcome in Boston. He used me. He used a lot of people."
Gerstein had what one former secretary calls "weird contacts" and shady clients. There were rumors that he traded legal work for sexual favors from female defendants, and that he "came on to" secretaries. Although friends and associates did not view him as a womanizer, one former law partner remembers a young blonde whom Gerstein introduced as the daughter of a friend. "One day I went into his office unannounced and he was kissing her," the lawyer says.
Another attorney, one of Gerstein's many former partners, claims bitterly that Gerstein cheated him - keeping two checkbooks, one for Gerstein and one for the law practice they supposedly shared. "He was putting money into his account that he wasn't telling me about."
Trial lawyer Martin K. Leppo, who has offices on the waterfront, thought Gerstein "had great potential to bring in clients" when he offered him a job several years ago. But within sixty days Leppo decided to terminate the association. "Something bothers you and turns you off, but you just can't put your finger on it."
Gerstein "didn't want to look at himself, to see who he really was, because it was too scary," his former wife told the court. When difficult circumstances came up, "he wouldn't confront it." She said "a lot happened, and over and over again - it put a tremendous strain on our marriage."
In 1974, they went to see a marriage counselor. In 1977, the Gersteins separated. He moved to Danvers and began seeing a blonde who sold Mary Kay cosmetics.
In 1981, the Gersteins' divorce became final. It was during this period that Barry Gerstein's life became increasingly chaotic. He had moved his law office to Salem in 1976, supposedly to be closer to his children. Although he was responsible for child-support payments of $600 a month, his income dropped with the move - to less than $50,000 a year - and business never picked up.
Walter Costello, an attorney in Salem from whom Gerstein rented space, recalls him as an "an excellent lawyer," but Costello also says he considered him a loner. "When he did talk, it was only about two things - law and his sons' hockey. He was very, very proud of them as athletes, had their pictures in his office.
"Eventually we ended it by asking him to leave," Costello says, "because he was causing a problem. A ton of his clients were calling him and he wasn't returning the phone calls, and we just felt that the secretaries shouldn't have to take the heat."
Ken Lindauer, another Salem attorney with whom Gerstein briefly shared offices, remembers him as "bright, likable, friendly," but he says Gerstein was "not business-oriented. He'd get behind in his bills."
In 1976, he misrepresented a case to a client, which led to a mortgage default. In 1981, in connection with that case, he was suspended from practicing law for two years. Gerstein was a man with "unrealistic expectations," according to the psychiatrist who testified in court. "Life wasn't fair, but Barry wanted it to be." The bar suspension hit him very hard. He was angry and disappointed.
Gerstein also forged a client's name on two insurance disability checks totaling $52,000, and then deposited the money into his own bank account. He was later indicted for check forgery and theft, and last month, in Essex Superior Court, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two-and-a-half to three years in Walpole on each of four indictments.
Clients were complaining. Gerstein stopped answering his telephone. In 1981, he lost his driver's license for failure to pay excise tax. When a judge, whom Gerstein said he had once done a favor for, gave Gerstein a ten- day suspended sentence for driving without a license, Gerstein told his psychiatrist he felt shocked and angry.
Without a means of earning his living, Gerstein's financial picture became catastrophic. In the summer of 1982, he sold most of his possessions - stereo, television set, coins, jewelry. Although he would still get up early to play tennis with his friends from the business and legal communities, he was depressed. He couldn't concentrate, and he would wake up at 4 a.m. and not be able to get back to sleep. He would dress in a suit as if he were going to work in the morning, but instead, he would lie around doing a crossword puzzle, with the blinds shut.
"I was feeling like the biggest piece of - that ever walked the earth," Gerstein told Kuten. He said he had a gun and felt at that time as if he wanted to blow his brains out. Instead, in the fall of 1982, Gerstein made a deliberate decision: He would become a criminal.
The story police pieced together of a cold-blooded attacker who tracked his victims carefully, even rating them, is different from the story Gerstein told the psychiatrist.
" I was so scared,' " Kuten testified that Gerstein said, " that I'd drive south from Beverly every day, using all my money for gas. I kept telling myself that I had to do it.'
"During each of these crimes he had the fantasy that he would be caught and that he would commit suicide if anything went wrong," the psychiatrist testified.
Gerstein had had long-term feelings of being alienated, of being a hollow person, according to the psychiatrist, who called Gerstein's confession to police the "unconscious directed goal of being relieved of the burden of having to perform." He concluded, "I don't believe he represents a further danger to others."
When the psychiatrist said that, one of the victims, who was sitting in the back of the courtroom along with several of the other victims and their husbands, smiled cynically.
As of late December, Gerstein was still at the Massachusetts Treatment Center at Bridgewater State Hospital, where he had been committed for sixty days of observation. He was sentenced in the Middlesex County cases to serve seven to fifteen years at MCI-Walpole and ordered to serve a concurrent ten- to eighteen-year sentence for the Norfolk County cases. He still awaits sentencing in Middlesex County on four counts of armed assault. Gerstein could be eligible for parole in five years.
Telegraph, (Nashua, NH) - June 21, 2000
3:17 p.m. An accident at Route 101A and Route 122 intersection. Drivers, Shelley Stevens, 28, 68 Arlington St., Nashua, and Barry Gerstein, 61, 20 Brussels Drive, Nashua. No injuries.
April 12, 2011
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