The two were caught on an FBI recording talking casually about how best to torture a kidnapping victim into turning over cash and real estate before killing him and dismembering his body, federal authorities alleged today in a court filing.
According to the prosecution filing, ex-cop Steven Mandell was referring to the victim’s genitals when he asked his alleged accomplice, “You going to put a little blade there?”
“It’s like slicing a banana split,” the filing quoted Gary Engel as responding.
Prosecutors released the new details of the undercover recordings a little more than a month before Mandell – formerly known as Steven Manning – is set to go on trial in U.S. District Court for the alleged murder plot and a separate scheme to kill an investor in a strip club in order to take over his stake in the lucrative business. Engel, who was arrested with Mandell in October 2012, was found hanged in his jail cell a week later in what authorities have ruled a suicide.
The latest court filing, with numerous sections blacked out for undisclosed reasons, sheds new light on the allegedly disturbing conversations that jurors in Manning’s trial are likely to hear. Prosecutors allege Manning and Engel planned to wage “psychological warfare” on the kidnapping victim to coerce him to turn over his assets and discussed their ideas on how best to drain the victim of blood.
Equipped with handcuffs, walkie-talkies and fake badges, Manning and Engel planned to disguise themselves as federal marshals arresting the victim on a warrant, according to the charges. Once they had the businessman in their car, they planned to take him to a Northwest Side storefront they dubbed “Club Med,” which had been outfitted with restraints, an industrial sink and other equipment for carrying out the murder, prosecutors allege.
In an undercover FBI recording made at Club Med in the days before the planned kidnapping, the two discussed everything from how to instill the most fear in their victim to where it made the most sense to chop up his body.
“But as soon as he bleeds out in about a half hour, we want to straighten him out,” the court filing quoted Mandell. “I don’t want a curled body.”
“Right, no,” Engel was quoted as replying. “We just lay him up here, you get plastic…Here. Just cut him.”
Mandell then jokingly warned Engel not to “be doing any dining” in the area near where the body would be dismembered, according to the filing.
“(Expletive) no!” Engel allegedly replied. “But at least we won’t have a big mess.”
A Chicago police officer in the 1970s and 1980s, Mandell was sent to death row for the 1990 slaying of a truck driver, but his murder conviction was overturned on appeal. He sued the FBI for allegedly framing him, winning a landmark $6.5 million in damages from a federal jury. However, a judge later threw out the award, and Mandell did not receive any money.
In seeking the death penalty for the 1990 slaying, prosecutors linked Mandell to two additional unsolved murders, including the 1986 killing of his own father, Boris.