Three men in their 20s face murder charges and a fourth is accused of evidence tampering in the mysterious death of a woman they were allegedly found carrying in a blanket from a Queens home in the middle of the night this week, NYPD officials said Thursday.
The NYPD said officers saw the four men toting a large object as they left an area on Foam Place in Far Rockaway before 2 a.m. Wednesday. Cops saw them place the object in the trunk of a vehicle and they all drove away, officials said.
The officers followed the men and eventually stopped them near Nassau Expressway and Bayview Avenue. After they searched the vehicle, they found a woman wrapped in a blanket. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
Police identified the woman Thursday as 31-year-old Nazareth Claure, of Queens. Her cause of death has yet to be determined. Neighbors in Far Rockaway said she was the landlord of a building, though her connection to the men remains unclear.
A Homeland Security Investigations spokesperson in New York said the arrests stem from a long-term investigation, which may explain why the NYPD officers were so quick to pursue them after seeing them carry a large object. A senior law enforcement official tells News 4 the case involves the MS-13 gang.
One of the men taken into custody was brought back to the scene hours later by law enforcement officials as their investigation focused on an abandoned lot across from the home. Detectives were seen loading up and cataloging evidence bags.
According to police, one of the three men who now faces a murder charge in the case is linked to the address from which the body allegedly initially was taken. That man is 20-year-old Rigel Velasla, officials said.
Also accused of murder: 22-year-old Allan Lopez and 21-year-old Gustavo Salmiento, both of Queens. Both also are charged with criminal possession of a weapon, while Lopez is accused additionally of a controlled substance offense.
The fourth man, 26-year-old Rodolfo Lopez, of Brooklyn, is accused only of concealing a human corpse and tampering with physical evidence.
It wasn't immediately clear if any of the men facing charges had attorneys as of Thursday afternoon. Police say their investigation is ongoing.