A Man Among Boys

Stephen Simmons reads a lot. He has sped so quickly through the New Jersey jail's library in the two years he's been locked up that he's already done with the biographies, the thrillers, the Jack Chalker and David Eddings fantasies. Last week, he finished Primary Colors. This week, he's in the middle of Marjorie Morningstar. Every so often he gets to read a letter from the boy he gave a blowjob to three years ago.

That boy, Sam Manzie, had a relationship with the T-shirt maker from Holbrook in 1996 when he was 14 and Simmons was 42. When Sam's parents found out, the boy participated in a sting operation to catch Simmons. After a week of intense police pressure, Sam snapped. He destroyed the cops' wiretap on his phone and he wound up raping and killing 11-year-old Eddie Werner, who had come to his house to sell candy and wrapping paper.

Today, the 46-year-old man doing five years and the 17-year-old boy doing 70 still talk. Speaking to the Long Island Voice from a 16-person protective-custody pod dubbed "Snitches, Bitches, Cops and Queers" by others in the Freehold, N.J., jail, Simmons says he and Sam correspond by letter about politics and philosophy. The most recent debate is whether Hitler and Napoleon are alike—Manzie says they're carbon copies, Simmons thinks they're vastly different. They talk about writing a book about their relationship and the murder, about what Simmons says are their hopes for the future.

Simmons and Manzie share the same lot in life. They are child molesters, so scummy that even the worst rapists, drug dealers and murderers think they're scum.

In a matter of weeks, the Suffolk DA will attempt to bring Simmons back to Suffolk to try him on a charge of third-degree sodomy for the oral sex that took place in Simmons' home. It's a Class E felony that carries a sentence of up to four years. If convicted, Simmons contends, the sentences will probably run concurrently, making the Suffolk authorities' move little more than a public-relations stunt to show that they, too, can prosecute him. The only problem is, Simmons says he isn't going plead guilty.

In the eyes of many people—or at least the likes of Nightline, Dateline and Barbara Walters—monster Steve Simmons created a demon protégé when he met Sam Manzie in an AOL chat room in 1996. According to that view, Simmons sculpted a monster in his image when he took him to a motel, destroying the boy who was Sam Manzie and creating a victim-turned-madman, an über-pedophile. He then sat in the shadows and twirled his mustache when he got the news that his creation had destroyed another boy.

And yet, before this monster was sentenced to two-and-a-half to five years for endangerment of a child, that child got up in front of a packed courthouse, his manacled hands in front of his prison khakis, and read a statement pleading for Simmons' freedom. "Steve, you got what you wanted, but I also got what I wanted," Manzie said. "Some say it must have been a manipulative relationship. But how can they say so if they weren't there?"

Far from being remorseful, Steve Simmons contends that he himself could have saved lives in the tragedy if Suffolk County hadn't set his bail so high when they originally arrested him, before the Werner murder, for having sex with Sam Manzie.

"If the bail was less," Simmons says, "Eddie Werner would have been alive today. Sam would have called me that Saturday and Eddie Werner wouldn't have been killed."

If anything, Simmons is cocky for a veteran pedophile who sits in a New Jersey jail for one sex crime while awaiting prosecution on Long Island for another episode of sex with the same boy.

"This is the most famous blowjob of the 20th century after Monica Lewinsky," he says. "I'm not an angel, but I'm being the fall guy for the other crime."

'I committed the murder they had the opportunity to prevent.'

After that "other crime," the rape and murder of Eddie Werner, every character but Eddie has become a fall guy.

Werner's parents blame a hospital for not keeping Sam Manzie locked up. So do Manzie's parents—they were so in fear of their child that they tried to get him committed, but the hospital thought he wasn't dangerous and sent him back home. But the Werners also blame the Manzies for not keeping a better eye on him the day of the murder. In September, the Werners filed a wrongful-death suit against the Manzies and five doctors. The suit has since been dismissed.

The Manzies also blame Simmons for the murder, claiming that he still has their boy under some maniacal, homosexual spell. "He did a good job grooming his prey," Nicholas Manzie was quoted as saying in the Bergen County Record after Simmons' sentencing. "He still has control of his mind." They blame the anti-depressant Paxil, which Sam was on at the time of the murder. They blame the hospital for not taking Sam off their hands.

Sam Manzie blames the system, telling the court before his sentencing, "I'm responsible in some ways, but they share the responsibility. I committed the murder they had the opportunity to prevent."

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