Police: Women's Ex-Friends Used Cold as Weapon

A 19-year-old woman who thought she was going to a party was instead driven to a rural wooded area and abandoned in 8-degree weather in a long-planned attack by three friends angry with her over an insurance claim, police said Thursday.

The victim was wearing only a dress and one shoe, having lost the other in a struggle as she was dragged from the car, said Lt. Frank Cannella of the North Bergen police. A motorist soon stopped and let the victim use a cell phone but refused to give her a lift.

The victim used the phone to call one of the women who abandoned her, Cannella said. She spent more than an hour in the freezing cold before flagging down another motorist, who took her to a hospital, he said.

The North Bergen woman, whom police did not identify, may need surgery after suffering frostbite to both feet Jan. 16 in Alpine, a town on the Hudson River about 18 miles north of New York City, Cannella said.

"These actions were so profound that it leads you to believe there was a tremendous indifference to human life," Cannella said.

Maria Contreras-Luciano, 22, of Dumont, and Amber Crespo, 20, and Dyanne Velasquez, 21, both of North Bergen, face kidnapping, assault and conspiracy charges and are free on $200,000 bail. Crespo is also charged with making terroristic threats.

The women planned the attack for more than a month, Cannella said. The suspects wanted revenge after the 19-year-old sued Crespo's auto insurance carrier after a car accident, he said, adding that he didn't have details about the accident or claim.

Marvin Walden, attorney for Crespo, said his client had no idea what she was getting into and was not part of any conspiracy. He said the dispute was between one of the other women and the victim and was about a man, not an insurance claim.

"My client thought she was going to a rap concert," Walden said. "There was no intent on her part, or discussion beforehand, about participating in anything resembling a kidnapping."

Attorneys for the two other women did not return telephone calls and e-mails seeking comment Thursday.

The victim arrived at Crespo's home to meet up with the three women and then drive together to a party, according to authorities. She noted that her friends weren't dressed for a party but was reassured by their words and by an evening dress on a hanger inside the car.

The incident didn't come to the attention of police until the victim reported it Jan. 20.

A man identified as Contreras-Luciano's boyfriend was arrested on suspicion of hindering apprehension after he declined to turn his car over to investigators, police said. Police believe his car was used in the attack.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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