Who Is Mike Sheehan? New Details On The Central Park Five Lead Detective And His Death At 71

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Who Is Mike Sheehan? New Details On The Central Park Five Lead Detective And His Death At 71

At a moment when the nation’s attention has once again been riveted to the case of the Central Park Five, thanks to Ave DuVernay’s outstanding mini series on the subject, one of the investigators in the case has died. Former NYPD detective Mike Sheehan passed away in New York City on June 7th. He was 71-years-old and in treatment for cancer.  Sheehan had a 25 year career with the NYPD before retiring and moving to television news. He was a reporter until 2009 and later served as a board member for SAG- AFTRA, the union for television and radio performers. Who is Mike Sheehan?

1. The Preppy Killer

Sheehan was an investigator on the murder of Jennifer Levin in 1986. The 18-year-old was found, strangled, in Central Park one morning. Police followed leads about the man she had left a bar with the night before: Robert Chambers. At 20-years-old, he had a high class pedigree, having attended schools like Saint David's School, Choate-Rosemary Hall, The Browning School and York Preparatory School. But he started getting in trouble when he was at Boston University, eventually being kicked out after stealing a friend’s credit card as well as dog related offenses. Sheehan and the rest of the investigative team figured out that he had left a bar with Levin the night prior to her discovery and soon had his in custody for the crime. Chambers eventually pleaded guilty to manslaughter and served 15 years.

The press dubbed Chambers "The Preppy Killer".

2. The Central Park Five

Sheehan was also part of the investigative team on the infamous Central Park Five case in 1989. In that case, a Trisha Ellen Meili was found beaten nearly to death in Central Park. While she was in a 12 day coma after the attack, police tracked down five teen boys who had been in the park that night. Under questioning, all five boys confessed to raping and beating Meili. The case gained national attention and all five defendants were convicted of the brutal attack. However, they were completely innocent of the crime and the confessions had been coerced by the police. Years later, DNA evidence would exonerate all of them and their sentences would be vacated.

The Central Park Five today.

RELATED: Who Is Elizabeth Lederer? New Details On The Central Park Five Prosecutor And Where She Is Today

3. False confessions

The Central Park Five case hinged on false confessions given by each of the teens. Then and now, especially after DNA evidence exonerated them all, criminal justice reform advocates have questioned the methods police used to elicit the confessions from the teens. While some have alleged that there was coercion used by police, The Heavy reports that Sheehan spoke about against the idea. In 2002, he told the New York Post, “All this stuff about coercion really pisses me off. Do you honestly think that we — detectives with more than 20 years in, family men with pensions — would risk all of that so we could put words in the mouth of a 15-year-old kid? Absolutely not.” 

At that time, Sheehan still claimed to believe what the teenagers had told him that night. He went on to tell the reporters, “That’s your biggest fear: You never want to put an innocent person in jail. Mother of God! I didn’t worry much on this one. Because they’re telling us where they were. They are telling us— the sequence may be off, but they’re essentially telling us the same stuff.”

Sheehan denied coercing confessions.

4. Media career

After retiring from the NYPD in 1993, he took on the role of crime reporter for the New York City Fox affiliate. He was a well respected figure there until 2009, when he got into a drunk driving accident — with a horse. According to The Heavy, one night, he was allegedly driving his car while under the influence and crashed into Mounted Unit horse on N. Moore Street. The horse and the officer both suffered minor injuries. Sheehan’s lawyer tried to flip the blame for the accident to the horse, saying: “It is Mr. Sheehan’s position that the horse ran into his car. He did nothing wrong. Mr. Sheehan is going to be vindicated.” He was not vindicated and was instead sentenced to community service, lost his license for 90 days and paid a fine. It may have also contributed to the end of his career on television news.

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He was an on camera reporter.

RELATED: Who Is Matias Reyes? New Details On The Man Who Admitted To Rape Of Central Park Jogger

5. Cancer

Sheehan passed away this week at the age of 71 according to The Heavy. He had been in treatment for cancer and had complications with his kidney. He leaves behind his wife Denise and daughter Clair. NYPD Detectives Endowment Association president Michael Palladino told the New York Daily News“He was a great detective .He was one of those old-time detectives that people write the books and make the movies about.” 

Sheehan died of cancer.

Our sympathies go out to Mike Sheehan's family and friends.

Rebekah Kuschmider has been writing about celebrities, pop culture, entertainment, and politics since 2010. Her work has been seen at Ravishly, Babble, Scary Mommy, The Mid, Redbook online, and The Broad Side. She is the creator of the blog Stay at Home Pundit and she is a cohost of the weekly podcast The More Perfect Union.