2009-02-20 / Top Stories

30 Years Later, BC Murders Still Resonate

By Howard Schwach

The Wave reported the story in its January 20, 1979 edition with two headlines splashed across the bottom of page one.

"Three Arrested For Fire That Nearly Killed Two," said one headline. "Gas Squirted Into Booth Explodes, Trapping Women," blared the other.

As The Wave reported it, three teenagers entered the Broad Channel A Train Station on West Road on January 16 with a fire extinguisher loaded with gasoline. While one acted as a lookout, the other two squirted the liquid into the token booth through the money slot, where it was ignited by an electric heater used to keep the booth warm.

The booth exploded in flame, trapping the two women working inside it.

Local residents, hearing the explosion, rushed in to try and extricate the women, as did the Broad Channel Volunteer Fire Department, but they were mortally wounded and eventually died in the hospital of their injuries.

The dead clerks were identified as Regina Reicherter and Venezea Pendergast.

Even though the youths wore ski masks, they were quickly identified by police as Linda Krauss, 18, William Prout, 18, and Peter Grassia, 16.

Police said that the three neighborhood teens were seeking revenge for a summons that Prout had received the night before after he jumped a turnstile to avoid the fifty cent fare and was noticed by another token booth, who told transit police officers.

Each of the three teens was charged with second degree murder in connection with the two deaths.

A week before the trial was to begin, however, Krauss, who was the lookout, agreed to plead guilty to attempted manslaughter in return for a three year sentence.

She served her time and now lives with her children at an undisclosed Queens location.

Prout and Grassia pled guilty to murder.

Prout, who reportedly squirted the gasoline into the booth, was given a sentence of 15 years to life and remains in prison, after having been refused parole on eight occasions. The Parole Board reportedly cited his disciplinary problems in prison and the brutal nature of the crime.

Prout reportedly told the Parole Board in 2007, "I as a young kid then, and didn't realize what I was doing. I am a grown man now, and that kid no longer exists."

Grassia served his ten year sentence and was released. He now lives quietly in an undisclosed Brooklyn location.

The murders led to a number of changes in token booth design.

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