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Former pimp charged with murder says he had to kill a ‘white devil’

May 20, 1997

NEW YORK (AP) _ A one-time pimp accused of murder by a former prostitute admitted he killed a businessman 34 years ago to slay a ``white devil″ as retribution, according to court documents.

The gruesome description of the Nov. 28, 1963, slaying of Lawrence Bart was in documents filed Monday as Lawrence Henry, 61, pleaded innocent to first-degree murder.

Bart, a 25-year-old printing executive, was found at his Manhattan apartment with a metal leash around his neck and a broken steak knife in his chest.

Henry was turned in last month by Vernice Bennett, a 60-year-old born-again Christian who worked for Henry as a prostitute and had a relationship with Bart. Henry himself was described by neighbors as kindly and popular with children, who nicknamed him ``the preacher.″

After his arrest April 30, Henry told police he had recently heard Malcolm X and other fellow blacks speak, and felt impelled by the racially charged atmosphere at the time to do something ``for my race.″

He said he killed Bart as retribution for police brutality against black Muslims. He said he felt he had not done enough for his race.

``One night around Thanksgiving 1963, I told my woman that I had to do something to get my mind some rest,″ Henry said. ``I told her that I had to kill some white devil, no matter who or what.″

Henry said he asked Ms. Bennett where to find one and she told him she had a date with a white man in Manhattan. Henry went with her.

Once the two arrived at Bart’s apartment, Henry said, he barged in and dragged his victim from room to room, stabbing him with a knife.

``When the knife broke, I pushed him to his bed, snatched the phone wire and began to choke him with that, but it broke,″ Henry said.

Dragging Bart to the bedroom, he picked up the leash ``and began to choke him with it.″

``I don’t remember how long I squeezed the chain,″ he said, ``but I remember Vernice saying, `Oh God, I think he’s dead.‴

Henry said he felt relieved after the killing ``because I felt as though I had done a good thing for my race,″ but in time ``I began to regret what I did but I was afraid to come forward with it.″

Henry’s lawyer, Howard Meyer, said he intends to present an insanity defense for Henry, who has been a patient in at least two psychiatric hospitals. The next court date is June 10.

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