The cover of last week’s issue of the Nassau Weekly featured the face of Tony Kadyhrob, a 68-year-old man recently accused of trying to entice local college students into his car. Kadyhrob’s story would’ve been a minor one, had his mugshot not come out the way it did: to the collective delight of the Internet, it looks a little like Christopher Walken. Thus within hours this obscure Central Jersey “luring suspect” found his face on Gawker and The Huffington Post. We too were amused, and followed suit: we tiled the next issue’s cover with his face, swapping out one of the mugshots for a headshot of his Hollywood doppelgänger. But as Tony’s backstory is slowly untangled by the local media, it appears that our lighthearted treatment of him may have been a bit callous. It also appears that he looks nothing like Christopher Walken.
Princeton students first encountered Mr. Kadyhrob in a Public Safety’s email blast, which warned us about a man who was arrested after attempting to pull a girl into his car at nearby Rider University. The campus-wide message also contained that now-infamous photograph, which saturated my screen with its lurid blues and fleshy pinks. It is an arresting image, and students reacted exactly as you might expect, forwarding the email, starting a fake Twitter account (@TonyyKadyhrob), reappropriating the mugshot for their profile pictures. With its sunken eyes and severe mustache, it’s an objectively frightening face, almost comically appropriate for a suspected criminal. Kadyhrob looked so obviously evil that one blogger on Barstool Sports proposed a perverse chicken-and-egg scenario: does he look like that because he’s a predator, or did he actively decide to become a predator because he looked like that? Many students dismissed the threat altogether, arguing that someone like that could never successfully lure someone into his clutches—the face alone would be a glaring red flag for any of his prospective victims.
Kadyhrob is very easy to ridicule in 2D. I cannot except myself from the many who were amused by the initial mugshot and all the stupid jokes that followed. But watch that flat image expand into a real three-dimensional person, watch the footage of him from ABC Action News, and he unfolds more fully and tragically. As I stared at the footage of himing him standing in a courtroom looking helpless and bemused, my first observation was that he really does not resemble Walken—that photo captured some fortuitous angle, aligning his facial features just so. My next, more important observation was that this was a visibly unstable person, someone more worthy of sympathy than mockery. Scanning the video, there is plenty to mock: his age-inappropriate clothing (he sports a Baby Phat beanie), the way his sparse wispy hair swoops wildly to one side (he wears a hat for a reason), his unassuming choice of vehicle (a red Toyota Yaris), the words that witnesses use to describe his presence (“stereotypical creeper”). And his unforgettable voice, at once cartoonish and horrifying. Responding to the reporter’s questions, he deploys unthreatening idioms like “Give me a break!” in a thunderous, oddly inflected baritone. That voice is tinged with a certain menace, but it’s also the voice of someone who just isn’t quite there. All of his absurd tics were sapped of humor once I learned that Kadyhrob is a schizophrenic of 38 years. He stopped taking his medicine two years ago, and his sister told the Times of Trenton that she once overheard him assuring himself, “Tony, you are 21 and a graduate from Princeton University.”
At some point Kadyhrob was spotted in Princeton Borough, two blocks from campus. If he did pose a threat, it is irrelevant now: Kadyhrob has since been banned from all college campuses in New Jersey, and on April 6 he was admitted to a Trenton hospital. He has yet to resurface in the media. While in Princeton, he was spotted holding manila folders, which irresistable detail the next Public Safety alert was sure to mention in their next alert. Over the past week, these ludicrous details simply stacked up, almost begging for the derision we so willingly aimed at him last week. As tempting as it to amuse ourselves in his antics, probing just a little bit deeper reveals the very sad forces behind those antics. It’s even sadder to see his reaction to the ordeal. At the end of the ABC video, a reporter accosts him on his way to parking lot as he’s leaving the courtroom. Though his bizarre cadences are often hard to decipher for emotion, this was an unmistakable groan of exasperation: “You have my face, you have my clothes, all right, you got your thrill,” he bellows into the microphone. I’m willing to apologize for how readily I indulged in that thrill.