Arrest in Italian Student's NY Death

Rita Morelli, 36, was choked and stabbed.

Thursday, Dec 1, 2011  |  Updated 2:58 PM EDT
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Arrest in Italian Student's NY Death

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A man claiming to be under an evil spell went to the home of an acquaintance, a college student from Italy, and stabbed and choked her to death, then made a cryptic 911 call to authorities about the body, police said Thursday.

Bakary Camara, 41, was arrested on a murder charge Wednesday evening in the death of Rita Morelli, 36, of Spoltore, Italy. He was awaiting arraignment and there was no immediate attorney information. There was no number associated with his address.

Morelli's live-in boyfriend found her body in a pool of blood on Nov. 23. Morelli, who was studying at Hunter College and also waiting tables, had been stabbed twice and her throat was slashed.

There was no sign of forced entry. The killer left the door ajar and had taken off with some of her belongings and ransacked her apartment, police said.

Two days after the body was found, police received a 911 call from a man talking about the killing. Detectives traced the number to Camara, and when they arrived at his Bronx home he had a knife to his chest.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Camara told officers he had committed the crime and then stabbed himself in the chest. He was taken to a hospital and is in stable condition, Kelly said.

Detectives found a three-page letter in his pocket in which he incriminated himself, Kelly said.

"It was a somewhat rambling note but he says there was some sort of spell placed over him and that's why he did it," Kelly said.

Camara told investigators he once had a relationship with the victim, but they were no longer together. Kelly said detectives were still trying to piece together the extent of the relationship, but there were no reports of domestic violence calls or any immediate evidence of past abuse.

Authorities also were looking into claims by Camara that he served years in prison in Senegal for a robbery, and whether he had a history of mental illness, police said. Camara had no criminal record in the U.S.

The victim's cousin, New York journalist Giorgio Morelli, told the Italian-language U.S. newspaper America Oggi that Morelli was happy in East Harlem with her boyfriend, also a Hunter student, and was on track to graduate next year. He said the news reached her family in Italy quickly and came as a terrible shock.

She loved New York City and it fit her interest in art, music and languages, he said. She once told him, according to the paper: "Better to live five years as a lion in America than 15 of boredom in Abruzzo."

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