Man Guilty Of 3 Slayings Gets 75
By Ian Fisher - The New York Times
Tuesday, September 22, 1992
His voice even but edged in defiance, Alejandro
Henriquez stood before a Bronx judge yesterday and said that a jury had
wrongly convicted him last month of killing a young woman and two girls.
But after the victims' families spoke of their sorrow -- including one
mother's suicide attempt -- the judge sentenced Mr. Henriquez to 75
years to life in jail, the maximum punishment possible.
"Mr. Henriquez is now in his early 30's," Edward J.
Talty, the prosecutor, said as he asked the judge to show no leniency.
"He should never be allowed to breathe the same air as decent people."
A 31-year-old livery-car driver, Mr. Henriquez was
convicted on Aug. 28 of strangling Lisa Ann Rodriguez, 21 years old;
Shamira Bello, 14, and Jessica Guzman, 10, in a trial that was long on
emotion but short on direct proof. Prosecutors wove a complex
circumstantial case that convinced jurors that Mr. Henriquez was the
only man who could have killed the three victims.
He did not testify during the six-week trial. But
yesterday he proclaimed his innocence in State Supreme Court in the
Bronx, invoking the image of his own children and striking notes of
anger and bafflement that he had been accused.
Observers Applaud Sentence
"To Mr. and Mrs. Guzman," he said while standing at
the wooden defense table, but not looking back at their faces, "I would
have never hurt little Jessica Guzman. I have two daughters of my own,
one who is named Jessica, who is also my life. I had no reason to take
any of these children's lives."
Except for his mother and two sisters, who sat at the
rear of the low-slung courtroom, no one showed any pity. The courtroom
exploded into applause when Justice Daniel J. Sullivan read his sentence
of three consecutive terms of 25 years to life in prison, meaning that
Mr. Henriquez will not be considered for parole for at least 75 years.
"He is a liar," said Santiago Rodriguez, the father
of Lisa Ann, who was his only child. "He has been lying from the
Families Still in Pain
Mr. Henriquez's 75-year term will not begin until he
completes two other sentences: 5 to 15 years for an armed robbery in
Manhattan and 2 to 4 years for scalding the 3-year-old son of his former
wife, Andrea Rosario.
Though family members said they were relieved at the
long sentence, the conviction has done little to ease their pain. Last
month, the Guzman and Rodriguez families filed a $20 million lawsuit
against the city, charging that their daughters' deaths could have been
avoided had the police vigorously followed up leads pointing to Mr.
Henriquez after Shamira Bello was killed, in July 1988.
The decomposed body of Lisa Ann Rodriguez was found
in June 1990, and Jessica Guzman was found dead off the Bronx River
Parkway in October 1990. That killing outraged the community and led the
police to look more closely at a string of slayings of young people in
Mr. Henriquez is also considered a suspect, but has
not been charged, in three other deaths: Heriberto Marrero, 15; Mr.
Henriquez's niece, Nilda Cartagena, 13, and Annette Rosario, 17, no
relation to his former wife.
Verdict Called Unfair
During yesterday's sentencing, Mr. Henriquez's lawyer,
Mel A. Sachs, argued that the verdict should be overturned. One juror
was not competent to decide the case, Mr. Sachs said, because he began
to suffer from withdrawal from methadone on the third day of
deliberations and had to be taken to the hospital.
Mr. Sachs argued that the verdict was unfair because
jurors convicted Mr. Henriquez only hours after that juror was medicated
with methadone, which he had been taking since 1988 to break a heroin
addiction, and returned to deliberations.
"Apparently his withdrawal from methadone and his
being given an ingestion of methadone caused the verdict of this case,"
Mr. Sachs said. "Mr. Henriquez is entitled to a fair and just verdict."
The victims' families also spoke before the
sentencing, recounting their pain and how their lives were devastated by
their children's deaths. Mr. Rodriguez, a 41-year-old banker, said that
last Easter his wife, Evelyn, who stood by his side yesterday, visited
their daughter's grave for the first time. The next day, she tried to
commit suicide, he said in court.
"The void inside me is so deep sometimes I can't bear
it," he said. "That is why I hate this person so much. He not only
killed my daughter. He killed me, too."
Lashes Out at Former Wife
Mr. Henriquez, dressed in a light gray suit and
without the glasses he wore during the trial, showed no emotion as Mr.
Rodriguez spoke, nor when his sentence was read. But during his
statement, he lashed out against Mr. Talty, the prosecutor; Ms. Rosario,
his former wife, and a nephew who had testified against him, accusing
them all of lying.
"There are a lot of things that had been hidden in
this trial," he said. "I feel I haven't been given a fair trial."
At one point, Jessica's 14-year-old brother, Ricky,
yelled out from his seat: "Everybody lies but you, Alex, right?
Everybody lies but you."
A Common Thread
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.
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
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, 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
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
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
M RACE: H TYPE: T MOTIVE: Sex.
Sex-slayer of three females age 10-21 and a 15 year-old boy
DISPOSITION: 25 years to life
for one murder, 1992