Diane Delia Murder: Where are Robyn Arnold and Robert Ferrara Now?

Image Credit: The Village Voice

In 1981, the residents of New York saw one of the most bizarre yet tragic love triangles when the body of a young transgender woman, Diane Delia, was retrieved from the Hudson River in October. The authorities were left baffled by the violent nature of the crime as well as the complicated lifestyle of the individuals involved. Investigation Discovery’s ‘The 1980s: The Deadliest Decade: The Death of Disco’ meticulously untangles the various layers of this case and offers a clear understanding of the way the events played out. If you’re intrigued and want to learn more, we’ve you covered. Let’s just begin then, shall we?

How Did Diane Delia Die?

Born on June 24, 1957, in Riverdale, Diane Delia was assigned male at birth with the name John Delia.  She was the second child of Bruno, a builder, and Joan Delia. Growing up, she knew she was different than others and showed affinity towards dressing up in her mom’s clothes and wearing make-up. She graduated from the High School of Art & Design in Manhattan, specializing in music. Around that time, Diane had begun showcasing her singing and dancing skills by performing as a drag queen at discos. The young and charismatic woman was well known for her lip-synch impersonations of Diana Ross.

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Diane’s mother, Joan, said that the family was musically gifted, but Diane “was the best of the lot of us. She had a beautiful voice. Teeth like Liberace! Eyes like black olives! A personality, a charisma that stole the show.” In 1978, at the age of 21, Diane came out as gay and reportedly engaged in affairs with several men, one of which was Robert Ferrara. He was a bartender at a gay bar, The Playroom, and they got into a relationship. However, John went to see a psychiatrist in 1979, with whom he shared his intention of having sex reassignment surgery.

Diane soon began hormone therapy and also underwent facial surgery. She met Robyn Arnold in December 1979. At the time, Robyn served as a nurse for a plastic surgeon. She hailed from a wealthy Jewish-American family and was the daughter of Dr. Leon Arnold. Diane started courting Robyn and quickly decided to marry her, per reports. It has been reported that Diane had stopped hormone therapy when she began seeing Robyn. However, in November 1980, then 23-year-old Diane ultimately underwent a sex reassignment surgery in Colorado, reportedly paid for by Robyn.

It was then that Diane dropped her birth name (John) and identified as Diane, after her favorite drag queen Diana Ross. She went on to win a modeling assignment with Avon and worked as a hostess at a nightclub in Montreal. However, her relationship with Robyn began to falter in the following year, and Diane eventually married her one-time boyfriend, Robert, in the summer of 1981. Robyn seemed quite okay with the situation, and reports mentioned that she even showered lavish gifts at their wedding. As per reports, Diane had an open marriage with Robert and kept her relationship with Robyn as well.

However, towards the latter half of 1981, it was reported that Diane had moved out of the place she shared with Robert and had been living with Robyn. It came as a shock when Diane’s body was retrieved from the Hudson River at 28th Street on October 28, 1981. She was dressed in a lavender spaghetti-strapped camisole and lavender pants. It was wrapped in a water-sodden yellow blanket, and there were four bullet wounds in the skull. As per reports, one of the bullets pierced the eyeball, and the remaining three were in the skull area.

Who Killed Diane Delia?

It took the investigators some time to comprehend the complex murder case and details about the victim. However, both Robyn and Robert became persons of interest in the murder of Diane, given their relationship with the victim. According to police records, one Dominick Georgio was arrested on the charges of stealing synthetic cocaine from Pascack Valley Hospital in Westwood, New Jersey. He was the one who tipped the authorities regarding the involvement of both Robyn and Robert in the murder of Diane. Both of them were arrested and charged with the murder of Diane within a week of the incident.

Image Credit: New York Magazine

While Robyn claimed to have an alibi on the night Diane was shot, police had reportedly found Diane’s bloated shoes in her closet, and it was claimed that the blanket used to wrap Diane’s corpse allegedly belonged to Robyn. In the case of Robert, a witness stated that he pawned the diamond ring that belonged to Diane even before her body was discovered. The prosecution theorized that on October 7, 1981, Robert and Robyn drove Diane to a dilapidated forest area in Rockland Country, and each shot her twice.

Image Credit: New York Magazine

The prosecution further alleged that Robert returned to the scene about two weeks later, wrapped the body in the yellow blanket, and threw it in the Hudson River. The most damning evidence came in the form of a letter that Robert had written to Dominick. One of their friends had found the letter and handed it to the court. In the letter, Robert had confessed to the murder, stating the gun used had been obtained because Diane allegedly wanted to rob some wealthy studio executive. He claimed that Robyn was the first one to fire the gun twice, hitting Diane in the head. Robert wrote that he then shot Diane twice to allegedly put her out of her misery.

Where are Robyn Arnold and Robert Ferrara Today?

After days of deliberation, the jury acquitted Robyn Arnold while finding Robert Ferrara guilty of Diane Delia’s murder. Robert was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison in 1982. As per reports, Robyn went on to marry a dentist with whom she got engaged before the trial and seemingly started a family, living in the suburbs. At the trial, Robyn said that she intended to go to a law school after everything settled down and become a defense attorney like her attorney – Michael Rosen.

As per official court records, Robert Ferrara was incarcerated in a cell at the NYS DOC Woodbourne Correctional Facility in New York. He was released on parole in 2008 and has since decided to keep his personal life under wraps. Though his exact whereabouts remain unknown, Robert, now in his 60s, might most likely still be a resident of New York.

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