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'Headless body in topless bar' killer wants out of prison

January 23, 2012 |  7:05 am

Charles Dingle committed one of New York’s most horrific crimes — a crime that inspired one of the city's most famous tabloid newspaper headlines: "Headless Body in Topless Bar."

And now, three decades later, Dingle is continuing a mostly futile battle to be released from prison.

In 1983, Dingle, then 23, went on a murderous rampage in a Queens topless bar — first killing the bartender, Herbert Cummings, 51.

After gunning down Cummings, Dingle took four hostages. He raped one of them, a topless dancer, and robbed the others. While going through the pocketbook of one of his female hostages, he noticed that she was a mortician. He forced her to dig the bullet out of Cummings' skull so his gun couldn't be linked to the shooting.

Apparently high on cocaine and alcohol, Dingle then made her saw off the head with a steak knife.

After several hours he stole a gypsy cab and, with two of the hostages in tow, drove around the city with Cummings' head in a box. He eventually parked the cab in Upper Manhattan and passed out behind the wheel.

The next morning the New York Post ran the famous headline that has become part of the lore of tabloid newspapers in this city.

(Although the Post, under the ownership of magnate Rupert Murdoch, has been accused of sensationalism and bias, it has over the years received attention for its clever and eye-catching headlines. Just last week, the Post referred to the captain of the sunk Italian cruiser who didn't help passengers as "Chicken of the Sea.")

Dingle was convicted of murder, rape and robbery and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

On Monday, the Post reported that Dingle, now 53, was asking a parole panel this week to free him from a prison near Buffalo.

Dingle has already been denied parole in 2008 and 2010.

Although he has earned an associate degree with honors and a certificate in legal studies, Dingle does not appear to be the ideal inmate.

A source told the Post that more than once he has assaulted prison staff and tried to conceal deadly weapons, including a shank.

In a prison interview with the Post in 2010, Dingle denied that he'd killed Cummings and said the media had made it difficult for him to get a fair trial.

"Don't think I don't have hope," he said. "The board might let me go one day, but until then, I'm gonna fight. That's all I can do."

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-- Geraldine Baum in New York

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