From the NY Post: FBI & NYPD team up in ‘crazy 8’ gunman hunt
The FBI has joined the hunt for a suspected serial killer who has murdered three Middle Eastern shopkeepers in Brooklyn, sources told The Post Sunday.
At first, New York City Police did not see a serial killer was kidnapping and murdering Hispanic children in the South Bronx.
The first victim was 14-year-old Shamira Bello, who disappeared on July 2, 1988 from her working-class neighborhood. Her sexually abused body was found the next day in Pelham Bay Park. She had been killed by repeated blows to the head. Finding dead bodies in Pelham Bay Park is not unusual, between 1986 and 1992 police found 40 bodies dumped there.
Almost a year later, two more children, Nilda Cartagena, 13, and Heriberto Marrero, 15, disappeared from the same area, only to be found strangled to death near the Whitestone Bridge on June 21, 1989.
Lisa Ann Rodriguez was taken on June 14, 1990. She was found dead, her body dumped along the Hutchinson River Parkway.
Three months later, 10-year-old Jessica Guzman vanished only to be found strangled near the Bronx River Parkway.
The killings helped bring the community together. They raised money for additional police patrols, and held vigils and news conferences to keep the murders on the front pages. When Jessica’s body was found, 2,000 people attended her funeral.
In response, police formed a 40-member task force to solve the murders.
Although the victims were all Hispanic and all lived within a two-square mile swatch of New York City, there wasn’t much on the surface to link them together. Decomposition made determining how the victims died difficult, their ages ranged from 10 to 21 (Rodriguez was the oldest) and Heriberto was male.
But when the investigators began putting the pieces together, they became convinced that there was a serial killer loose and their investigation began to focus on the one common denominator: Alejandro Henriquez.
Henriquez, who operated a livery cab company in the area had ties to each of the victims:
- He had dated Lisa Ann Rodriguez
- He was Nilda Caragena’s uncle
- He knew Shamira Bello
- He was one of the last people seen with Jessica Guzman
- He was dating a woman whose daughter was one of Jessica’s close friends
Almost immediately after Jessica failed to return home for dinner, Henriquez came under suspicion despite his participation in search parties and candlelight prayer vigils. He was cooperative when questioned by police, but they were disturbed by his responses to some of their questions. Henriquez was also more than curious about the effectiveness of the bloodhounds detectives were using to try and find clues, they recounted.
His request to a young friend to follow the tracking dog and report what it found prompted police to elevate his status from “person of interest” to “suspect.”
When they looked into his background, their suspicions were confirmed.
Henriquez at first denied knowing 21-year-old Lisa Rodriguez. But when confronted with a picture of Rodriguez and asked about a date they had had, Henriquez admitted knowing her and claimed he never saw her after the date.
He told children that he was an undercover federal narcotics agent, and he often bought them video games and toys. Henriquez liked to brag about his sexual prowess, officials told the media.
Detectives Irwin Silverman and Gus Papay served as the chief investigators of the case.
“I lived with this case every day, every night,” Irwin later told the New York Daily News. “We checked out Alex from the day he was in his mother’s womb. Gus and I went into everything in his whole life.”
It was that detailed investigation that cracked the case.
The evidence against him was largely circumstantial, however.
A police expert, Francis X. Callery, testified that three strands of hair found on Bello, matched that Henriquez. Using charts and slides that dramatically showed the similarities, he also said that fibers found on three victims matched those in a vacuum cleaner in Henriquez’s apartment or on a spool of red thread that according to other testimony had been in his apartment.
Most damning, though, was his attempt to have his nephew make phone calls to the media pretending to be the killer.
“He wanted me to pretend like I was the killer,” the nephew, John Anthony Ramirez, testified. “He told me to
disguise my voice, to be careful not to get caught, to keep it a secret between me and him.”
When Ramirez asked for more details of the crimes, Henriquez slipped up and told him things that only the killer would know — such as a rip in the training bra that Jessica was wearing. That fact had not been made public.
A note Ramirez was to use as a script also emerged during the trial:
“I called you to worn you put you didn’t listen. I will strik again were when how. But soon my this time youll belive me . . . I will stop when I reah Big 13. So far luckey 7 ha ha ha ha hang up.”
After a six-week trial, Henriquez, who did not take the stand, was convicted of the murders of Jessica Guzman, Lisa Ann Rodriguez and Shamira Bello and sentenced to the maximum term of 75 years. He has not been charged with the other two killings.
*The original title of this post was ‘Racist Serial Killers,’ which a reader, Aimee, pointed out was inaccurate because Ramirez wasn’t targeting his victims based on race. I goofed, but damned if I can come up with another headline…M.G.