Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Gunman Sentenced to Chair

His teacher read the roll that first day of school in 1957. Her somewhat sloppy pronunciation of "Chuck Ellis Schumer" caused the children in his first grade class to giggle, and forever tag him "Chuckles," a name he despised. Teachers and classmates recall that the sobriquet hardly described Charles Schumer. Not that he was dour, but he was prone to laugh at the misfortune of others. Third grade teacher Betty Horowitz recalls:

"Charles had a mean streak. He took joy in other's mistakes and tribulations ... seemed to draw strength from it. He was a bully, really. I thought of him as being a Harry Flashman, you know, the bully  from "Tom Brown's School Days." (click below to continue)

Schumer loved being the center of attention, and it was here that his bossy attitude was most evident.  During a school talent show,  he ran onto the stage after nearly every performance, proclaiming he could "do it better."  Mrs. Horowitz remembers that after a girl played the piano, an  instrument he had never had a lesson on, Chuckles pushed her aside and pounded out his cacophonous rendition of  " Heart and Soul."  "It was just awful, but Charles beamed afterwards,  as though he had proved his prowess. He was oblivious."

Chuckles Schumer Year Book PictureSchumer ran for class president every year while attending  James Madison High School, losing every election. He wasn't so much unpopular as he was considered an oddball by his classmates.  An oddball who loved the limelight.  Classmate Harry Rosen remembers an incident when yearbook pictures were being taken.

"We were all lined up in the gym, in alphabetical name order waiting our turn with the photographer.  All of a sudden Chuckles couldn't stand it, and ran to the front of the line.  Of course he scrambled the photographer's record keeping and, this is funny really, when the year book came out there was his picture listed as "Rhoda Kornblatz."  He was furious and petitioned for a reprinting of all the books. I think he even tried to get the ACLU to sue."

Chuck Schumer was shy around girls, but it was all he talked about with the few male friends he had. His father had a collection of pornographic playing cards, and Chuck would bring them to school, and try to get girls to look at them. After one told her parents, Chuckles was suspended for three days. Classmates interviewed for this story all remembered that Charles would often excuse himself during class so he could go to the bathroom and masturbate. He never had a date that anybody could remember, or attend any school dance.

After graduating from high school, Schumer held a number of jobs in Brooklyn, including selling waterless cookware, and running a sidewalk shell game.  He told people that he was a Harvard graduate, and held a law degree, but that the practice bored him.  In 1994 he took a job as a salesman at Shoe City, where this past March 14th his life intersected with Buleah Mae Riggs'. The 47 year-old Registered Nurse, and African American mother of five, was the customer from hell, all would later agree.

"Chuckles must have brought out twenty pair of shoes and each time she asked for something a little more delicate, or with more style, or a different color," recalled Shoe City manager Cliff Johnson.

Shumer snapped.  He came out of the back room with a pair of garish green and orange patent leather pumps and threw them at her. "Here, these are popular with all our (N-word) whores, I'm sure you'll love them."  Buleah Mae hurled them back at him, calling Schumer a "stupid Jew c--- sucker."  Chuckles produced a "Saturday Night Special" .38 caliber handgun and shot Buleah Mae in the forehead, killing her instantly.  Last week a jury found Schumer guilty of homicide.

Today Judge Sarah O'Reilly, who could have sentenced him to life in prison, instead ordered that he be put to death in the state's electric chair. She set an execution date of May 24, 2007.  Schumer's court appointed lawyer Barry Scheck said he has no plans to appeal the sentence.  "Hey, he did it.  He admitted he did it.  What can I do?'