It is not often that a true crime story hits so close to home. But, in the new book, The Charmer: The True Story of Robert Reldan—Rapist, Murderer, and Millionaire—and the Women who Fell Victim to his Allure, residents will be taken through the true story that played out in Bergen County.
Reldan was convicted of raping and murdering two women in the 1970’s, and is still serving a life sentence in the New Jersey State Prison. In The Charmer, authors Richard Muti and Charles Buckley, the prosecutor who got the conviction against Reldan, take readers through Reldan’s criminal history, which they say he began at age 16.
“Reldan looked like the all-American boy,” Muti said. “He was like the kid next door that you’d love to see your daughter go to prom with. Instead, he was actually a serial assaulter of women and a vicious killer. But, he had this ability to win people over.”
That ability was not limited to women that he assaulted and later killed, Muti said. “This story is a lesson in the holes in our justice system. How, early on in his criminal career, he got a lot of free passes.” Though Muti said he feels the criminal justice system is “more stringent” now than when Reldan was charming his way around it, “there is no question that something similar could happen today.”
Muti, a Ramsey native and former mayor of Ramsey, released the following synopsis of the book, which is available in both print and electronic versions:
Serial rapist/murderer Robert Reldan—a handsome, personable charmer of the Ted Bundy mold—had an engaging, friendly smile—a smile that promised a charming personality and inspired trust. A smile that would, over the next 20 years, cause a dozen or more unsuspecting women to drop their guard and place themselves under the power of one of New Jersey's most ruthless criminals.
Two of those women—Susan Heynes, a nurse, and Susan Reeve, a recent college graduate—achieved unwanted fame as victims in what a prominent newspaper would call "the Susan strangulations." Both were abducted within days of each other—Heynes from her home in Haworth, NJ, and Reeve after getting off a commuter bus in Demarest, NJ. Their nude and battered bodies were soon discovered, also within days of each other, in Rockland County, NY, not far from the New Jersey border. Each had been strangled with her own pantyhose.
While in prison awaiting trial for the Susan murders, Reldan tried to hire a hit man to kill his wealthy aunt, from whom he hoped to inherit money to retain a top criminal defense attorney. A jailhouse snitch ratted on Reldan, and authorities were able to substitute an undercover cop as the putative hit man.
In an ironic twist of fate, Reldan, while serving life plus 30 years for the Heynes and Reeve murders, would become, briefly, the wealthiest lifer in the prison system. The aunt he'd tried to have killed—still charmed by her beloved nephew and never believing he'd plotted to murder her—left him an $8.9 million trust fund when she died in 2007. Arthur Reeve, father of victim Susan Reeve, would go after Reldan in the courts and, eventually, deprive him of his inheritance.
Muti, who has authored two other published books and numerous op-ed pieces in local and national newspapers, said he was “very interested” in researching this case when Buckley presented him with the idea of co-authoring a true crime book telling Reldan’s story. “I was shocked that no one had written about this case before.”
In preparation for the book, Muti said he interviewed those involved with the case, families of the victims, and poured through piles of court documents. “We worked on this for over three years,” he said.
One thing he did not do in preparation was interview Reldan, who turns 72 this month. “Part of my research was reading his depositions. They were filled with his versions of convoluted facts,” Muti said. “I knew that if I interviewed Reldan, he’d lie. And, I didn’t want to publicize those lies.”
Muti and Buckley are in the middle of a 10-stop local book tour. This Sunday, June 3, at 2 p.m., the duo will be at the , hosting a free discussion on The Charmer. Afterwards, the authors will host a question and answer session and a book signing.
Get more information about the event here.