An elevator operator at a skyscraper in the Financial District has pleaded not guilty in the slaying of a cleaning woman whose bound body was found stuffed in an air conditioning duct.
Joseph Pabon,25, appeared in State Supreme Court today with about a dozen of the victim's family in attendance at the courthouse.
Pabon was taken into custody near his Staten Island home earlier this month and charged with the murder of 46-year-old Eridania Rodriguez.
Pabon's attorney, Mario Gallucci, has said his client is innocent. "He looks forward to the day when he has an opportunity to fight these allegations in court," Gallucci said.
Police said DNA evidence had linked the elevator operator to the killing of Rodriguez, whose body was found with a gold crucifix taped to her mouth in the Manhattan skyscraper where she worked.
Pabon voluntarily submitted to DNA testing during questioning after Rodriguez' body was found July 11, police said.
The DNA taken from Pabon is linked to material found underneath Rodriguez's fingernails, police said.
Rodriguez disappeared July 7 in the middle of her shift at the 26-story office building a few hundred feet from ground zero.
The case touched off an exhaustive four-day search by police and raised questions about how she could have vanished from the high-security skyscraper.
Like most office towers in the financial district after the 9/11 attacks, guards staff the lobby 24 hours a day, and cameras cover every exit.
The cameras recorded Rodriguez, 46, when she turned up for work at 5 p.m. and again as she moved around the building, but they never showed her leave. Her last appearance on tape was at about 7 p.m. in an elevator lobby.
Police swept through the building with search dogs in the following days, sure that Rodriguez couldn't have walked out alive.
Finally, they discovered blood leaking from the ventilation shaft;her body was stuffed inside.
An autopsy determined she had been asphyxiated by the tape.
Rodriguez was born in the Dominican Republic but had lived in Manhattan for decades. She was married with several children.