What to Know
The NYPD said Monday the case of Michael Stewart, a missing Staten Island father of two, has been deemed a homicide
The 40-year-old Staten Island father was last seen on Dec. 20; the next day he sent his mother a text message saying "Please help me"
No body has been found; NYPD and other officials were searching a Pennsylvania landfill last week in connection with the case
The case of a missing Staten Island father last seen five days before Christmas at a restaurant in his home borough has officially been deemed a homicide, the NYPD said Monday, confirming the long suspected belief that 40-year-old Michael Stewart met with foul play.
Stewart, a father of two, was last seen inside O'Neills, a pub on Forest Avenue around dinner time Dec. 20. The next day, he sent a text message to his mother, writing, "Please help me," the New York Post reported.
That was the last communication from Stewart, who has been presumed dead though his case wasn't officially deemed a homicide until Monday. No body has been found and no arrests have been made. Last week, the NYPD traveled to a Pennsylvania landfill in their search for Stewart, law enforcement sources say.
Stewart was seen on surveillance video the day he went missing horsing around with his friend Angelo Nesimi in a barber shop in Port Richmond. Nesimi is a person of interest in Stewart's disappearance, the Staten Island Advance reported.
Nesimi, 33, was arrested Dec. 31 in connection with a violent attack on his girlfriend, Zammara Sanchez, police told the Post. The couple was previously questioned in the suspected killing of Stewart, and Sanchez told detectives that her boyfriend "killed somebody -- and he made me go with him to get rid of the body in New Jersey," the Post reported, citing sources.
Investigators believe it's possible that Stewart's body was dumped in New Jersey and that sanitation workers may have picked it up with the trash and it was incinerated, the Advance reported, citing a source. Another source said surveillance video shows Nesimi and Sanchez tossing what could be a body into a dumpster in Perth Amboy before driving away in a Chrysler sedan.
Sources also told the Post that Stewart had a relationship with the couple: "It was a relationship between the three of them that ended with [Stewart] stabbed up," a police source told the Post.
Nesimi told the Daily News in a jailhouse interview this month, "I didn't do it, 100 percent. They're trying to pin it on me."
Both Stewart and Nesimi have criminal records. Nesimi claimed he knew Stewart only for the past few years and that they kept up with each other because they went to the same barber shop, but said they weren't close.