Classification: Serial killer
Number of victims: 3 - 6
Date of murders: 1988 - 1990
Date of birth: 1961
Victims profile: Jessica Guzman, 10 / Lisa Ann Rodriguez, 21 / Shamira Bello, 14 / Heriberto Marrero, 15 / Nilda Cartagena, 13 (his niece) / Annette Rosario, 17
Method of murder: Beating with a rocks / Strangulation
Location: South Bronx, New York City, New York County, USA
Status: Sentenced to three consecutive terms of 25 years to life in prison, 1992
Man Guilty Of 3 Slayings Gets 75 Years
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 beginning."
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 the area.
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.
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
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 todisguise 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
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.
And a short of a Hallmark movie based on the case and starring (lol) John Stamos :