Rewriting the Brooklyn Stabbing Spree: Sometimes Love Gone Wrong Is Just Wrongness

The New York papers have all been going into their various forms of depth and detail in the story of Maksim Gelman, who allegedly started stabbing people Friday morning in Brooklyn and kept going till, as the Times put it, he’d totaled

three fatal stabbings; a hit-and-run homicide; four other stabbings; four auto thefts, including two carjackings; death threats against several others who got in the way.

The Times described the suspect as a “troubled, unemployed man with a drug habit and a hair-trigger temper”; the New York Post, seeing a sensational story and doing its duty, went with ” madman ” and “known drug dealer and angel-dust user.” The Post also had a timeline of the crimes, decorated with an image of a blood-smeared kitchen knife.

In one respect—if only one—the Post’s initial coverage tried to be more tempered than the Times’. The third stabbing victim, Yelena Bulchenko, was described Sunday in the newspaper of record three times, following the lead of the police, as Gelman’s “former girlfriend.” The Daily News likewise called her his ” ex-girlfriend .”

Only in the very last paragraph of its long account of the crime spree did the Times suggest an alternative version of events:

Andre Lev, 35, of Nyack, N.Y., who identified himself as the brother of Yelena Bulchenko, said in an interview at his sister’s home that he had never heard of Mr. Gelman and did not believe that his sister had any romantic ties to him. Acquaintances of the family agreed, saying Mr. Gelman had sought a relationship with her but had been rebuffed.

Where the Times was self-contradictory and opaque, the Post’s indelicate sensibilities led it to propose a clear alternative story: Gelman, according to the tabloid, had pursued Bulchenko “despite the Brooklyn beauty’s expressed disinterest after a short tryst.”

The accompanying bikini photo might have undermined the sense of respectfulness. Still, the Post’s coverage did acknowledge that a romantic relationship requires two consenting people.

Today, all three papers are recalibrating their description of what happened between Gelman and Bulchenko. The Times appears to have followed the Post’s version of events, depending on what the phrase ” briefly becoming friendly ” (between people who “never dated”) might mean when translated from Timespeak into English. The Post retreated to its own tactful vagueness with ” briefly dated ” and “fatal obsession.”

And the Daily News reversed itself entirely, with Sunday’s “ex-girlfriend” by Monday having ” spurned his advances “:

The relationship that supposedly drove lovelorn Maksim Gelman’s bloody rampage was a figment of his imagination, friends of the woman he obsessed over said Sunday.

“That was all in his head,” said Yelena Bulchenko’s pal Andrey Andriak. “They were never a couple - barely friends. He wanted to take it to the next level and she didn’t.”