A Bronx woman whose remains were found in two boroughs was killed by the boyfriend of a friend she was trying to help, the NYPD said Thursday.
Police said Lisa Marie Velasquez, 25, called 911 to report a domestic incident involving her friend, 30-year-old Ciara Martinez and her friend's boyfriend, 31-year-old Daquan Wheeler.
According to authorities, Velasquez called 911 for help August 22 from the couple's apartment in the Bronx and was never heard from again. The NYPD said police responded to the apartment after receiving the call but it was not confirmed if officers saw Velasquez. No charges were filed. NYPD officials said the call was about an attempted kidnapping and lasted about five minutes.
"That was a domestic dispute that the victim of the homicide was not involved in. She's reporting a domestic incident regarding, essentially, her friend. As I said earlier, there were a number of prior domestic incidents coming back — from my recollection, at least four. But this is still ongoing," NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea said in a press conference.
Police said Wheeler bludgeoned Velasquez to death with a hammer and, with the help of Martinez, dismembered the body and tossed her remains in trash bags that were found in Crotona Park on Friday and in Barretto Point Park on Tuesday. Velasquez was identified Wednesday.
Wheeler faces multiple charges, including murder and manslaughter. Martinez faces charges that include concealment of a human corpse and tampering with physical evidence. Both suspects, who were arrested Wednesday night, live at an apartment on Longfellow Ave. near Whitlock Ave.
Velasquez lived within five miles of the two parks. The NYPD said a passer-by in Barretto Point Park found the plastic bags that contained body parts of Velasquez. A city parks department worker discovered two other bags containing Velasquez's remains in Crotona Park, officials said. Officials said a knife was also found at that scene, but it's unknown if it's linked to the case.
Velasquez's family had already dealt with a vicious crime 12 years ago, when the victim's mother was brutally murdered. Velasquez's grandmother raised her and two younger siblings after her mother was tortured and killed in front of her children while she was nine months pregnant.
"In this lifetime, I never thought we would go through something like that again," Jacqueline Perez, an aunt of Velasquez, told members of the media.
Perez said Velasquez's grandmother was the last to see her on August 21.
"She came to my mother's house. The last thing my mother remembers is her coming, grabbing her bag and being in a rush, saying she had to go help a friend that was in danger, and she ran out of the house," Perez said.
The news devastated residents of the Melrose Houses, where Velasquez lived.
"It's and hard and it's going to get worse," Perez said at a vigil Thursday. "My mother has not been able to get over my sister."
"She's the nicest person," a mourner said. "She cares for her grandmother, she cares for her siblings, she cares for all of us."
Wheeler and Martinez have a criminal past that includes a robbery charge. Wheeler is on parole for a previous attempted murder case. The couple has a child together, who is now in protective custody.
"Anyone who has attempted murder should not be in the streets, because when they attempt it they're going to do it," community activist Awilda Cordero said at the vigil.
The family said it wants to remember Velasquez by her smile and love for softball, not the gruesome way she died.
After attending the arraignment, family members called for Wheeler and Martinez to face equal punishment.
"She's got to be charged just as well — maybe more," Perez said to members of the news media.
The suspects are due in court Tuesday.
Velasquez's funeral is slated to be held after Labor Day at the Ortiz Funeral Home on 149th St. in the Bronx.