‘Naked ritual’ murder stunned cops
Although the campus sits on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Juilliard College seems like a small village within a bustling city.
With less than a thousand students at any one time and a reputation as the world's top performing arts school, admittance is highly competitive.
Small, intensive classes mean that students quickly forge close bonds with each other, which is why the 2004 disappearance of 21-year-old Sarah Fox rocked everyone at the school.
Fox had left her apartment one day to go jogging in the nearby Inwood Hill Park and never returned.
Students at Julliard mounted a major search effort with the police; manning phone lines, searching the park and nearby areas. Six days after Sarah Fox first disappeared, one of the searchers made a grisly discovery.
Her naked body was found in a secluded wooded area of the park, partially decomposed. She had been strangled, then posed in what police described as a "ritualistic" position. Her body was surrounded by tree branches and two dozen yellow tulip petals, spread evenly in a circle.
Chillingly, a botanist called to the crime scene examined one of the tulip petals, and declared that it had only been picked between 24-48 hours before the discovery of Fox's body, and came from elsewhere in the park.
Her advanced state of decomposition meant that Fox had likely been murdered within hours of leaving home and the killer had returned to the scene of the crime days later to place the petals.
Actress Gillian Jacobs was a student at Julliard at the time, and was friends with Sarah Fox when she disappeared.
"At Juilliard you're assigned a buddy, which is a kid in the class below you to mentor, and she was my buddy," Jacobs explained to Marc Maron during a 2013 interview.
"She was just one of those magical people that everybody loved and everybody had a story about: some time she was kind to them, or said something, or gave them a card out of the blue. And her boyfriend was two classes above me, and everyone loved him as well. It was horrible."
Jacobs helped with the search effort, manning the phones, until the news of Fox's death was broken to her in the most callus way imaginable.
"I was answering phones in the office, and this reporter called and said, 'They found her body. It's dead, it's over, they found her naked at the bottom of a well, do you have any comment?'
"That was how I found out they'd found her body."
A SUSPECT EMERGES WITH CHILLING DETAILS
The nature of the crime shocked locals. Inwood Hill Park was somewhat secluded in areas, but considered safe. The neighbourhood had a low crime rate for Manhattan, and the sprawling park was a popular spot for joggers and dog walkers. There had been previous trouble there though, which lead many people to contact detectives and suggest an obvious suspect.
Dimitry Sheinman, 39, had made many enemies due to his habit of stalking the park with his ferocious dog off the leash. Sheinman would routinely get into fights with other dog walkers who objected to his dog being allowed to wander freely.
Police brought Sheinman in for questioning and were shocked by what he revealed.
Claiming he had sudden psychic visions of the entire murder unfolding, Sheinman delved into details of the crime that hadn't been revealed to the public, such as a stick being put between Fox's legs, and one of her ribs being broken. He also knew the location where the body was found, and explained how the killer chose the spot due to nearby machinery noise drowning out her screams.
Not surprisingly, the police thought they had their man and took a DNA sample. Despite the case seeming airtight, Sheinman couldn't be physically linked to the murder, and was released. Police kept him under surveillance, during which time he was arrested for punching another dog walker in the face in the same park.
Sheinman served two months in jail for the assault, and upon release, moved to Cape Town in South Africa. Police had lost their main suspect, and the case soon went cold.
'SARAH WANTS THIS GUY'S BLOOD'
Sheinman clearly believes his own innocence.
In 2012, he returned to New York City and held a press conference on the steps of the 34th Precinct station, the same place he was initially questioned. In the eight years that had passed, Sheinman had lent into his self-proclaimed clairvoyance skills and claimed he had further information about Fox's murder: "Information obtained using extrasensory perception with help from other clairvoyants, pointing at a possible murderer."
Again, police dismissed Sheinman's claims, and he returned to South Africa.
In 2014, he gave a truly bizarre interview to the New York Post, in which he claimed he was now in constant contact with Fox, who he said was angry at the injustice surrounding the false accusations. He invited a Post reporter to his house in Cape Town and showed them a shrine he had constructed: A desk cluttered with candles, animal figurines and a photograph of Sarah Fox underneath a glass panel.
It is through this shrine that Sheinman claims he speaks to Fox.
"You know when people ask, 'Does she communicate with you?' Of course she does," he tells the reporter.
"Who else would she communicate with?"
After showing The Post reporter a photo of "the real killer" - "Sarah wants this guy's blood," he explains - things get even weirder.
"Sometimes I walk by and she winks at me, you know. And she knows: 'I know exactly what you're doing, and I love you'.
"Right now she just looked at me and made a bunch of faces. She knows what's going on. I can't speak for her, but she knows exactly what's going on."
A DETAILED CONFESSION IN BOOK FORM
Since the New York Post interview, Sheinman has changed his first name to Victor and written and self-published a book about Sarah Fox's murder and the investigation.
The book details his police interrogation in third-person, in great detail, and includes his explanation of how his psychic visions began to take hold.
Sarah Fox's name is changed to Tara Wolfe throughout the book.
"Victor had the strangest sensation of latching onto a pertinent segment of reality which was out there, in the depth of the park. Something was clicking. He was transfixed, staring somewhere in the direction of the bridge, fingering his chin."
He explains in great detail where the murder took place, and how it occurred. It makes for unsettling reading, with phrases like "Victor was looking in slow motion at a fist slamming into a woman's rib cage and then experienced sharp pain from the punch!"; "Victor was transported to the murder site, suspended from above, observing the nightmare unfolding below".
Most troubling of all he wrote: "Thankfully a mechanism to spare Victor from seeing the entire dreadful process of changes inflicted on Tara's flesh blurred the worst. He did not want to know what the 'sick f*ck' was doing. There was no need for it! Gaping at the creature who by now switched to a pure survival mode Victor sensed himself standing at the entrance to the darkest room imaginable, beyond which threshold lies every mental disease belonging to this world leading to sadism. The murderer became a crouching, gorilla-like shape, abruptly moving his head this way or that, making a quick getaway while trying to melt into the thicket."
SHEINMAN STARTS A RELIGION
These days, Sheinman still lives in Cape Town with his wife and two children. He has started a religion named The Power, and maintains a rambling website named The Sheinman Source. From this site he offers "healings" and other clairvoyance services including one in which "Victor can tell if a piece of technology is damaged and where", the reasoning being "because even man-made machines including non mechanical objects have simple souls, which in essence want to be functional, well lubricated or at least not be broken".
While such services are largely harmless, The Power religion seems plain confusing. Victor Sheinman is alternatively referred to as "The One", "The True Messiah", or plain old "Victor", and the religion's beliefs are largely incomprehensible. The main tenet seems to revolve around Victor's ability to inhabit the bodies of the suffering "to become the most compassionate of beings".
The aforementioned book acts as the main scripture for The Power and slides from the murder case into his journey to South Africa and the creation of The Power, when "Victor accepted his responsibility together with his destiny".
FOX'S MURDER REMAINS UNSOLVED
Meanwhile in New York, Sarah Fox's murder is now a cold case, having remained unsolved for 14 years.
Sheinman remains the number one suspect, and although two other men were subject to forensic testing and questioning in 2013, these tests also lead to dead ends.
The last update was two years ago, when Lt. David Nilsen, leader of the NYPD Cold Case squad, gave an interesting quote to the Daily News, after revealing they had another suspect who had also moved overseas. He maintained this suspect wasn't Sheinman.
"It may not be a total stranger attack," he explained.
"For all we know it's someone she had a past relationship with many, many years before. Some people never forget."
Nathan Jolly is a Sydney-based writer who specialises in pop culture, music history, true crime and true romance. Follow him on Twitter @nathanjolly