In the annals of serial killers, Salvatore Perrone pales beside Berkowitz, Dahmer and Ramirez.
Yet during his short-lived murder spree in 2012, “The Son of Sal” sure inspired plenty of Brooklyn shopkeepers from Bensonhurst to Bay Ridge to close early.
Salvatore never called himself “The Son of Sal.” That was a media invention, a clever hi-jacking of David “Son of Sam” Berkowitz serial-killer sobriquet, who a generation prior struck less than a mile from the scene of one of Perrone’s murders.
Calling the “Son of Sal” the son of the “Son of Sam” is a stretch. Aside from the locale and the fact they murdered innocent people in sequence, there are few similarities between the two cases. But at the corner of sensationalism and journalism, the recycled nickname worked and newspapers nationwide ran with “The Son of Sal.”
Salvatore Perrone of Sunnyside, Staten Island, struck first in the summer of 2012, shooting 65-year-old Mohamed Gebeli, 65, in the neck in the store-owner’s Valentino Fashion, located at 7718 Fifth Avenue in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Gebeli did not survive that July 6th shooting.
Police investigators began to suspect they had a serial killer on their hands following a similar shooting weeks later on August 2nd. This time the scene of the crime was in neighboring Bensonhurst at Amazing 99 Cent Deals, located at 1877 86th Street, in the middle of a bustling shopping corridor. Perrone shot Isaac Kadare, 59, in the head, then slit his throat. Kadare died at the scene from his wounds.
After a brief pause, Perrone struck for third and final time, using the same hunting rifle from the previous murders to shoot Rahmattollah Vahidipour, 78, at his store, She-She Boutique, at 834 Flatbush Avenue. Again, the victim died at the scene from his gunshot wounds.
By now media reports that the M.O. matched in all three attacks had shoppers and shopkeepers alike looking over their shoulders. In each crime, the owner was attacked right before closing time. Before fleeing the scene, the murderer covered up the bodies with clothes and other store merchandise.
Solid police work and community outreach helped crack the case. Police retrieved street-side surveillance video near the Flatbush crime scene that revealed a suspect lugging a large black duffle bag. By circulating that video and still photographs through the media, police fielded numerous leads. One tip led them to the Sunnyside home of Sal Perrone.
Perrone was arrested in November 20, 2012, right before the holiday season and the panic in Brooklyn subsided.
A court-ordered search of Perrone’s home turned up the rifle. Ballistics tests indicated it was the same weapon used in all three attacks. The police also recovered the knife used to cut Kadare’s throat, based on DNA evidence drawn from the blade.
If that wasn’t enough evidence, cell-phone records placed Perrone near two of the crime scenes at the time of the attacks.
Perrone feigned innocence, even as investigators shoveled on the evidence, cherry-topped with a compelling motive. Less than a year prior to the attacks, Perrone saw his once-successful clothing shop slide into a bankruptcy, leaving him broken, frustrated and resentful.
Angry enough, it seemed, to kill.
Court-ordered psychologists reported Perrone had a personality disorder, though fell short of diagnosing a mental defect, allowing the case to proceed. At trial, Perrone raged about his innocence in irrational outbursts, blaming unnamed Middle Eastern mystery murderers, even claiming he was working with representatives of the Palestinian section of the CIA.
What a scene. Judge Alan Marrus sanctioned Perrone during one of his frequent, frothing outbursts. Family members of the victims, exasperated by Perrone’s outrageous antics, added their shouts to the cacophony resounding through Brooklyn Supreme Court.
Perrone was convicted on all three counts of second-degree murder, as well as weapons charges. On March 4, 2016, the 67-year-old Perrone was sentenced to the maximum sentence allowed by law: 75 years to life in prison.
And sighs of relief could be heard that holiday season all along 86th Street.