Video: The ‘Great Gatsby’ murder

By Rob Stafford Correspondent
NBC News
updated 10/24/2005 11:08:36 AM ET 2005-10-24T15:08:36

It was a gruesome discovery in a place you’d never expect and quickly became known as the “Gatsby murder.”

The crime scene just a quarter mile from the mansion believed to have inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book, “The Great Gatsby.” The home was also the backdrop for the film “The Greek Tycoon.”

But this wasn’t a Hollywood movie, it was a real life mystery.

It all began early last Saturday morning. A passerby found the body of a petite young woman, just 4 feet 11 inches and 103 lbs., with a pale complexion, and auburn hair.

What was her connection to Sands Point New York, part of Long Island’s gold coast? For the past century, the area has been home to American aristocrats and titans of industry.

Would this victim be linked to some of the biggest names in the social register?  Was this the perfect tabloid murder?

Rob Stafford, Dateline Correspondent: How was she killed?

Lt. Dennis Farrell, commander of the Nassau County homicide squad: It appears that she was killed by blunt force trauma.

Stafford: She was beaten to death?

Farrell: Absolutely, absolutely.

Stafford: Do you think she was killed right here?

Farrell: No, we don’t.  In fact, we’re almost certain she was not. She was definitely killed somewhere else.

But who was she? There was no ID with the body.

Did the victim live nearby, was she somehow connected to this vast bastion of old money wealth?

Stafford: Was anybody reported missing in that area?

Farrell: No, we had checked the records for the entire metropolitan area.  And nobody fitting that description was reported missing.

Her clothing provided some clues. She was wearing running clothes—not designer finery.

Farrell: It was not the kind of clothing you might expect the residents of Sands Point to be wearing.

Her T-shirt had a motto that might just point toward a motive: it read “Love is patching things up.”  Perhaps a sign of a troubled relationship?

Stafford: The level of violence, what does that say about the killer?

Farrell: There was obviously some rage at play here. 

And there was more— a ring, not the multi-carat diamonds you might find in these neighborhoods, but a simpler ring with a unique design.

Stafford: You see the ring on the victim’s finger. What strikes you about it?

Farrell: I immediately recognize it as an Irish Claddagh ring—which is, you know, traditionally given from one person to another person that have affection for one another. I wear one myself.

With the clothing, Irish ring, auburn hair, and fair complexion, one possible theory: She was an Irish au pair working for one of the wealthy families here.  But that theory wasn’t panning out, either.

Stafford: So you were stumped at this point?

Farrell: We are stumped.

So police made a public plea for help.  They released details about the victim, including perhaps their strongest clue: a faded home-made tatoo found on her right hip.

And within hours: a break in the case.

Farrell: The very first phone call we get identifying our victim comes from a friend who is adamant and will not be put off.  She says, “I know that tattoo. I remember when she got it.” 

The Gatsby murder victim was 24 year old Lisa Parisi, a single mom with two young children.

On Friday, police arrested her boyfriend in an unrelated DWI case.  Her relatives say they had a troubled relationship, and he reportedly had done construction work in the town where the body was found. Today, they charged him in connection with her murder.

And as it turned out the Gatsby murder victim lived far from the mansions and millionaires of Sands Point, in a working class neighborhood where she was remembered as a little girl with a big heart.

The last chapter of Lisa Parisi’s life ended tragically among the Glittering splendor of Gatsby’s jazz age. But for her family, there is yet another chapter:  the search for justice.

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