Suspect In Triple Homicide Near Columbia University Arraigned

Drug TraffickingHealthHomicideTheftColleges and UniversitiesCrime, Law and JusticeMorningside Heights

The suspect in the execution-style, triple murder that took place a few weeks ago, a stone's throw from Columbia University in Morningside Heights, was arraigned Sunday.

Cops arrested Roberto Nunez, 30, Saturday around 8 a.m., just as he was about to enter his brother's Bronx home near Yankee Stadium. They've charged him with one count of 1st-Degree Murder and three counts of 2nd-Degree Murder.

For all intents and purposes, authorities have Nunez dead to rights: investigators say they have the smoking gun used in the killings, and DNA from the shirt the suspect dumped near the crime scene.

The triple-murder came as a shock -- especially because of where it took place: on West 122nd Street between Claremont Avenue and Broadway in a normally quiet part of Morningside Heights, dubbed by the locals as Seminary Row, which is located near the Manhattan School Of Music, Riverside Church, and Knox Hall, home to the university's Middle Eastern, South Asian and African studies programs.

Nunez was caught on surveillance camera wearing gray pants, toting a bag in his right hand as he left the crime scene. And as he walked off, authorities say he changed into a white T-Shirt, and threw the one he had been wearing into a trash can, before turning onto Broadway.

"Detectives assigned to this case did a masterful job, relentlessly working it to apprehend a suspect who initially appeared so calm, collected, and out of reach," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said in a statement.

Nunez is a convicted felon, who's done time for other crimes -- including robbery. According to a report in the New York Post, police picked up his scent after an acquaintance sold his .38-caliber revolver to an undercover cop. The officer had forensics run a check on it; test results confirmed the shell casings taken from the victims' bodies were fired from that gun.

Luis Catalan, 25, Heriberto Suazo, 26, and Amaury Rodriquez, 30 -- all of Manhattan -- were found shot dead June 7 in a dark gray, 2009 BMW 750LI with tinted windows. According to a New York Times report, a passer-by noticed the men around 6:30 p.m., but thought they were sleeping, until the person in question spotted the blood-soaked white, T-shirts of two men sprawled across the front seat. They had bullets to the neck and back of the head, while the one in the back was shot in the temple. When detectives arrived on the scene and opened the car, they found blood splattered all over the interior.

They suspect Nunez blew the victims away from the back seat of the car, which turned out to be stolen.

Catalan, Suazo and Rodriquez all had rap sheets with multiple arrests for drugs and/or gun possession, police drawing the conclusion that the motive for the murders may've related to marijuana trafficking. Recently, a police source with knowledge of the investigation told the Post: "They've all been robbed by drug dealers, or on the other end, they've robbed drug dealers. They flip back and forth robbing each other. This time, it was the end for them."

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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