NEW YORK (AP) — A man with a criminal past admitted killing a woman whose body was found stuffed in a suitcase, but he said she attacked him first, prosecutors said Tuesday.
Hassan Malik, already on probation in a separate attempted robbery case, was being held without bail after being arraigned Tuesday on a murder charge.
“(Malik) killed a woman, put her in a suitcase and left her on a sidewalk,” Manhattan assistant district attorney Brendan Tracy told a judge.
A passer-by found 28-year-old Betty Williams’ body in a suitcase last week while rummaging through trash in East Harlem, police said. Police later released surveillance-camera video of a man wheeling the suitcase down a sidewalk in the area.
An investigation led police to Malik, 55. He was arrested Monday in suburban Sleepy Hollow, N.Y., after authorities used cell phone records to find him.
He told police Williams had been staying with him in his East Harlem apartment, about three blocks from the spot where her body was found on Dec. 22, Tracy said.
Malik initially told a detective he’d left Williams there with someone else and returned to find her dead, according to a court complaint. But then Malik said he’d killed Williams during a fight she started by hitting him with a frying pan, the document said.
Malik said he ultimately choked her with an electric cord after she wound the cord around his neck, the complaint said. He acknowledged packing her in the luggage and abandoning it in a street, according to the document.
Malik wasn’t visibly injured, and prosecutors believe forensic evidence will contradict his claims, Tracy said.
Malik pleaded guilty last January to attempted robbery after being accused of snatching $48 and a public-benefits card from a woman’s pants pocket, then punching her in the stomach and knocking her down when she tried to retrieve them, Manhattan court records show. She isn’t identified in the records.
Malik was sentenced in April to five years’ probation, according to the records.
He had been poised to start a job this week as a drug counselor, said Richard Ma, the lawyer who represented him Tuesday.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)