Charlie Chop-off was an American serial killer active in Manhattan between 1972 and 1974 killing five black children and leaving another for dead. The nickname comes from the genital mutilation inflicted on the male victims. While the case is still considered open, Erno Soto was held as a suspect and confessed to one of the murders, but was considered unfit for trial and sent back to a mental institution.
On March 9, 1972, eight-year-old Douglas Owens was found dead, stabbed 38 times and his penis mutilated. On April 20, another black boy was stabbed and his genitals cut; he survived. On October 23, nine-year-old Wendell Hubbard was stabbed to death and his penis severed. The following March 7, Luis Ortiz was stabbed 38 times and likewise mutilated. Finally, on August 7, 1973, eight-year-old Steven Cropper was slashed with a razor and his penis left intact.
After a botched abduction of a Puerto Rican boy on May 15, 1974, Erno Soto was arrested by the police. He was an intermittent patient of the Manhattan State Hospital since 1969 and confessed to the 1973 slaying of Cropper. His only surviving victim did say Soto looked like his attacker, but refused to positively identify him. Manhattan State Hospital officials stated Soto was in their custody at the time of the murder but also later confirmed that he might have eluded confinement, as it happened before.
Investigators, despite Soto's acquittal, still believe that he is a likely suspect, citing the fact that the murders ceased after his arrest and that an anonymous source placed him as a potential culprit on the first killing. It is also worth noting the situation that led to Soto's first institutionalization. He reconciled with his Puerto Rican wife after being estranged for several years only to discover she gave birth to a son fathered from a black man. At first he shrugged it off but it finally got to him in 1969 when he was admitted to Dunlop-Manhattan Psychiatric Center.
In 1975 Barbara Gelb published On the Track of Murder and used Miguel Rivera as a pseudonym for Soto. Since then, numerous authors, such as Peter Vronsky or Lane and Gregg, have erroneously cited the name as being the killer.