What to Know
- A 21-year-old Queens man with a criminal record is in custody in the Jan. 6 death of 92-year-old Maria Fuertes
- Police say surveillance video shows him following her, then attacking her; the two fall to the ground behind a parked car
- Only the attacker emerged; Fuertes, a neighborhood fixture, was later found and pronounced dead at a hospital
A 21-year-old man has been charged in connection with the death of a 92-year-old woman found lying on a Queens street earlier this week -- a death police initially thought was caused by an accidental fall. They later said she was killed.
Reeaz Khan, of Richmond Hill, was charged with two counts of second-degree murder and two counts of first-degree sexual abuse for the "heinous attack" of the Queens woman, who was walking near her home in the early morning hours of Jan. 6 when he allegedly threw her to the ground, sexually assaulted her and fled from the scene, Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said Friday.
If Khan is convicted, he faces 25 years to life in prison, prosecutors say.
"This was senseless, brutal act of violence. The victim was found with her clothes pulled above her waist and near death. The defendant has been apprehended and now faces the possibility of spending the rest of his life locked behind bars,” Katz said in a statement.
Attorney information for Khan was not immediately known.
Chief of Detectives Rodney Harrison initially tweeted early Friday morning that the man suspected in Maria Fuertes' murder was arrested.
Fuertes' was found lying along 127th Street in Richmond Hill, not far from her home, early Monday. She was later pronounced dead at Jamaica Hospital; a cause of death is pending, but investigators said Friday that she had contusions to her neck. She also had injuries to her groin area.
Police say surveillance video shows the man follow Fuertes and blitz her from behind. Both fall to the ground. They landed behind a parked car, where they remained out of view of cameras for 4 to 5 minutes. After that, the suspect emerged alone and ran north. He was taken into custody Friday. Authorities said the suspect is from Queens, and that he placed himself at the scene of the attack. They're looking into whether he may be connected to other crimes, though said this case appears to be an isolated incident.
He does have a criminal history, but police declined to go into details on his prior record at their press conference Friday.
Fuertes' death rocked her close-knit community. 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?"