William Prout and Peter Grassia

Just after 9 p.m. on Monday, January 15, 1979, 18-year-old William Prout received a court summons for jumping a subway turnstile instead of paying his 50-cent fare at the Broad Channel elevated IND station. A tollbooth attendant had reported him to a Transit Authority police officer.

The next night, Prout returned to the same tollbooth, accompanied by his friend, 16-year-old Peter Grassia. Linda Krauss, 18, played lookout. Inside the booth, clerk Regina Reicherter was early to work, and Venezea Pendergast was finishing a shift. Prout and Grassia sprayed a mixture of gasoline and propane into the booth’s robbery-proof coin slot. The booth exploded in flames. Reicherter was burned on over 60 percent of her body, Pendergast on 27 percent. Neither woman had been on duty when Prout jumped the turnstile.

Prout, Grassia, and Krauss were in custody by Thursday. By Saturday, Reicherter was dead. Pendergast died on February 2. Prout and Grassia entered guilty pleas on November 5. A week before, Krauss had pleaded guilty to attempted manslaughter and agreed to testify against them. She was sentenced to 1½ to 4 years. Prout and Grassia got 15 to life. 

In 2009, Newsday interviewed Linda Krauss 30 years after the murders. She lives in Queens with her children. Grassia did 10 years and resides quietly in Brooklyn, while Prout has been denied parole 8 times for disciplinary problems. Krauss, the aider and abettor of two innocents’ firebombing, said of her crime: “Unfortunately, it was something that took place.”