February 13, 2019

CONFIDENTIAL: Tudor City's Most Sensational Crime

This episode of our Confidential series looks at the most sensational crime ever committed in the colony ‒ the notorious 1985 triple slaying in a Tudor Tower studio apartment.
George Senty
Three bodies are discovered in the apartment the morning of January 3, 1985. The victims are George Senty, 62, a freelance photographer and tenant of the apartment; Piroska Lantos, 29, a fashion model with whom Senty was obsessed; and Agnes Gramiss, 37, Piroska's roommate. All three are Hungarian.

Senty, a Budapest native, emigrated to New York in 1957 and opened a photo studio. He readily adapts to American ways, and by the '70s is sporting designer jeans and gold neck chains. He's quite the ladies' man, despite a perpetual cash-flow problem.

When visiting Budapest, he drives a Lincoln Continental and claims to be a famous fashion photographer. Everyone believes him, but in fact, his New York studio is barely scraping by. By 1984, he's decidedly on the downswing, mired in debt, and reduced to selling his cameras.

Piroska Lantos, photographed by Senty

Enter Piroska Lantos, Hungary's top model. For years, Senty has been urging her to come to New York, where he'll make her a star. He's hopelessly infatuated with her. In March 1984, she finally accepts his offer, even agreeing to move in with him. Expecting a chic penthouse, she finds a Tudor City studio apartment instead. Her wannabe boyfriend, truth be told, is a complete fraud. 

She moves out, signs with Legends modeling agency and walks the runway for Ungaro, Carolina Herrera, and Guy LaRoche, among others.

Senty continues to pursue her, growing ever more obsessed. He morosely tells friends "she is a star and I am a nobody," and threatens suicide. He believes that her roommate, Agnes Gramiss, dislikes him and is turning Piroska against him. He's convinced the women are having an affair.

It all finally comes to a head on New Year's Day, 1985. After taking the women out to dinner, he invites them to his apartment for a champagne toast. He serves the champagne, then goes into the bathroom, pulls a chrome-plated 32-caliber snubnose revolver out of the hamper, and shoots both women dead. Then he kills himself with four shots to the chest.

The story was so shocking that it even made the front page of the New York Times. Over at the Daily News, Piroska's face held page one for two days running, above. [The Goetz headline refers to Bernie Goetz, the infamous subway vigilante who had shot four teenagers the preceding week.]

The community was stunned. The News ran a how-could-it-happen-here story, above.

For the definitive, in-depth account of the crime, check out Patricia Morrisroe's excellent New York magazine piece, "Obsession," here.

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