Handyman guilty of killing cleaner and stuffing body in skyscraper air duct after stalking her as they worked night shift
A handyman was convicted yesterday of suffocating a cleaning lady and stuffing her body in an air-conditioning duct in a deserted office tower where they worked at night.
Joseph Pabon, 27, was found guilty of the kidnap and murder of Eridania Rodriguez in July 2009.
Mrs Rodriguez, 46, disappeared while working a night shift cleaning at a skyscraper in Manhattan’s downtown financial district. Her body was found after an extensive four-day search.
Pabon, 27, has denied killing the married mother-of-three. His lawyers said authorities had woven a criminal case out of coincidences and innocent conduct.
However jurors concluded he abducted the woman as she worked and smothered her, covering her mouth with industrial tape.
He faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced on May 11. Mrs Rodriguez’s sister, Denise Figueroa, wept as she left the New York courthouse.
‘It’s Joseph Pabon’s turn now to suffer,’ Mrs Figueroa said. ‘You don’t call that person a human being — he’s an animal.’
Defense lawyer Mario Gallucci noted that although Pabon was convicted of a murder charge that involved killing in the course of another felony, kidnapping, he was acquitted of equally serious counts of intentional murder and reckless murder.
Mr Gallucci said: ‘That said a lot to me. It said that the jurors listened, they deliberated and they thought about it during two full days of deliberations.’
The lawyer said he would explore possibilities for an appeal.
The Manhattan district attorney’s office said Pabon tracked Mrs Rodriguez down and killed her on a deserted floor of the building, a few blocks from the World Trade Center site.
Prosecutors said he hid her body in the air vent and then told co-workers he was sick and went home early.
‘He senselessly and brutally murdered her and discarded her body as if it were trash,’ District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr said.
Pabon’s DNA was found on Rodriguez’s fingernails, and he had scratches on his neck.
He took unusual and unnecessary routes through the building that night and wasn’t seen on security cameras for 42 minutes after asking a co-worker where the cleaning woman was, prosecutors said.
The evidence ‘crushingly proves that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,’ Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Christine Keenan told jurors in a closing argument.
But Pabon’s lawyers said authorities rushed to judgment in charging him and misinterpreted blameless behavior as sinister.
Pabon went home early simply because he truly was sick, the DNA sample could have come from routine work contact between Pabon and Mrs Rodriguez and the scratches could have come from heavy lifting at his job, the defense said.
DNA from two unidentified men was collected in the case and police said vagrants sometimes slept in the building’s stairwells, defense lawyers noted.
‘That man right there didn’t do a thing. Nothing,’ Mr Gallucci said in his closing argument.
Pabon, whose family is originally from Puerto Rico, had worked at the building for a few years.
Mrs Rodriguez, originally from San Francisco de Macoris in the Dominican Republic, was married with three children and had worked at the building for a year.
Her bodybuilder brother, Victor Martinez, is a high-ranked competitor who has won the Arnold Classic, an annual event promoted by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Source: Dailymail