After a 92-year-old woman was found unresponsive on the streets of Queens, police initially thought she had fallen --- now authorities believe she was murdered.
Police say they received a 911 call about Maria Fuertes just after midnight on Monday. She was found lying along 127th Street in Richmond Hill, not far from her home. She was later pronounced dead at Jamaica Hospital and a medical examiner will later determine the cause of death.
Neighbors say she lived her whole life in the southwestern Queens neighborhood.
"If something like this can happen to an old lady like this, what else is gonna happen to any other female," neighbor Aneil Ram told NBC New York.
Fuertes was known for her love of cats. Her doorstep was filled with cat food cans. Neighbors said she was known to go out late at night to buy cat food; some wondered if she had been doing that when she was killed.
"She lived for her cats. She lived for her family, and it’s a very sick thing, what happened to her," Ram said.
The entire community was just stunned. More than a few neighbors simply asked, "Why would someone harm her?"
Investigators said they looked through nearby surveillance cameras and now are searching for a man who allegedly approached Fuertes from behind, assaulted her and knocked her to the ground. Police were seen posting reward posters throughout the neighborhood on Thursday.
Anyone with information in regard to the identity of the man is asked to call the NYPD's Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477).