NEW YORK -- Members of a cult here killed ballerina Monika Beerle in August 1989, dismembered her and then fed her flesh to the homeless as part of a satanic ritual, according to law enforcement sources after the arrest of a cult member in Pennsylvania in connection with the murder.
After a 29-month search by New York detectives, Randy Eastherday was arrested Friday on charges that he and several others helped Daniel Rakowitz, "The Butcher of Tompkins Square Park," stab Ms. Beerle and dissect her corpse.
Police said several other cult members were being sought for questioning.
"We're not sure why they killed her," said a law enforcement source familiar with the investigation yesterday. "But once she was dead, they decided to offer her body up as a sacrifice."
Detectives have reopened the investigations of several other unsolved murders in East Greenwich Village to determine if the loosely organized band of about a dozen devil worshipers may be responsible, the sources said.
Mr. Rakowitz, 31, who roamed the East Village selling marijuana, carrying a live rooster and quoting Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf," admitted killing Ms. Beerle in a videotaped police statement made shortly after her death.
He later denied involvement in the murder. After a trial marked by bizarre outbursts from the defendant, he was found not guilty by reason of insanity.
But a team of New York police investigators kept checking into reports that several others were involved in the Beerle killing.
At the heart of the probe was a cult called the Church of the Realized Fantasy, which police said operated out of an East Village storefront where members allegedly experimented with psychedelic drugs and other narcotics. Cult members also studied the teachings of Aleister Crowley, an occult philosopher who promoted devil worship and human sacrifice.
Police sources said that one witness to Ms. Beerle's slaying reported that Mr. Rakowitz, Mr. Eastherday and another man took turns stabbing her. The trio then served her flesh to the homeless, the source said.
Mr. Rakowitz, whose tattered appearance and messianic ramblings brought comparisons to Charles Manson, reveled in the spotlight during the sensational trial. He argued incessantly with his attorney, preached that marijuana could save civilization and threatened to spray the prosecutor with urine.
"I hope we can share a joint together someday," Mr. Rakowitz said after the verdict. "I won't fault you all for this. I promise you I will sell a lot of marijuana and I will bring those people to justice who did this to Monika."
Officials at Kirby Psychiatric Hospital on Ward's Island, where Mr. Rakowitz is being held indefinitely, would not allow him to comment yesterday.