NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A murder mystery has hit Manhattan after a student from Italy was found stabbed and strangled in her own apartment.

Rita Morelli, 36, came to New York from Italy five years ago and was found murdered in her apartment on East 120th in Harlem last Wednesday night. She attended Hunter College and worked at an Upper East Side restaurant.

Morelli lived with a boyfriend, who worked in the same restaurant. Police said the boyfriend was at work at the time of the killing. He came home, found the apartment door open and the place ransacked.

Waitress Kate Dulub said everyone who works in her restaurant is shaken by the killing of her co-worker.

“She was the most kindhearted person I ever knew,” she told CBS 2’s John Slattery.

Morelli was found with her throat slit. The medical examiner said she was also stabbed in the chest and had been strangled.

Police said that earlier, someone had seen her in front of her building with a man that the witness did not recognize. It is not known if that man went to her apartment.

Dulub said Morelli was very smart and would not have opened her door for someone she didn’t know.

“It sounds like she was being tricked into opening the door. I don’t think it was random. I think she knew who the person was,” Dulub said.

Neighbor Sonia Soto said the building’s buzzer works, but the intercom doesn’t.

“I wish I would have been able to at least help her,” Soto said.

With no cameras inside the building or out in front, police are hoping forensic evidence from inside will help them catch a killer.

Morelli’s body will be flown back to Italy later this week.

Share your thoughts in the comments section below…

Comments (20)
  1. joseph says:

    I knew Rita not personally but as a normal classmate. She was sweet, always active in class, and every time she caME two mins late she would rush to her seat. She was taken away from deranged evil young man she once knew and trusted. I will miss u Rita R.I.P!!

  2. eaton says:

    .just found out the news on rita. i knew her well. there is not a kinder more loving person on this planet. talk about someone who can really put a smile on your face, it was her. i am glad to have known her. she loved life, she loved ITALY, depeche mode and nutella(lol) . she really made an impact on my life and the people around her. we have definetly lost an angel. r.i.p. you will ALWAYS be in my thoughts and my heart. xoxo eaton

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    my best friend’s step-aunt made $268137 so far just working on the internet for a few hours. Read more on this site makecash4 . c o m

  4. doesnt matter. says:

    I know the man who killed her. He was my co-worker at kmart in Bruckner boulevard in the Bronx. I worked there as a security guard as he did. I was shocked when i heard the news. He seemed like a laid back type of person, but then again that is why you cant trust everybody. He was eventually fired from k-mart because he offered a girl to have sex with him. wow this is unbelievable. may she rest in peace.

  5. Meme Meyagi says:

    …what is done about 7 million mooslime terrorists living in usa?

  6. Bartholomew Harte says:

    I don’t think for One Minute Where this young lady lived had anything to do with
    the crime-This is New York,with all that goes with it Good or Bad. This case screams for the death penalty And Not after 20 or so yrs. of appeals!!
    R.I.P. Ms. Morelli

    1. Joe Schmo says:

      Doesn’t have anything to do with the area?

      Oh, so if i lived in East NY or Brownsville in Bklyn, it would be just as safe as say Riverdale in the Bx or Tottenville on SI?

      Ok. I SEE.

  7. Ag says:

    What a bunch of racists. East Harlem is a wonderful community, and a great place to live. This attack could have happened anywhere, to any woman, regardless of her race or the race of her attacker. I’d rather live here than middle America where all of you ignorant morons appear to be from any day.
    RIP Neighbor

    1. Very conservative says:

      Liberalism is a mental disorder.

    2. Muh Lips says:

      If you like having your hubcaps removed every week, getting gang raped, having your furniture moved out while you’re at the laundromat, being mugged every other month. You sound like you wear lip plates all the time.

  8. Instructor says:

    Rita was a student of mine for about a year. She had an amazing soul and an admirable amount of ambition. Everyone who knows her is deeply saddened by this tragedy. There was something unique about her; an energy that filled the classroom as soon as she walked in. She was one of the most wise, intelligent, warm hearted people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing and her impact on my life, my co-workers lives, and her fellow students’ lives will never be forgotten.

  9. steve says:

    We frequented the reataurant where Rita worked…and she was our regular waitress. She was a smart, hard-working and beautiful person who didn’t deserve being killed! This is a loss to society, NY and our hearts! May they find the sick sob who did this and hang him by his balls! Steve

  10. Remove PORN magazines says:

    Take PORN magazines off of all the newsstands, immediately!! Some people just can’t control their fantasies. Women are objectified and are at the mercy of crazy, lasvacious Creeps who can’t separate fantasy from reality.

    1. John says:

      What does porn have to do with this?

      And most (men) don’t need newsstands when a computer, internet access, a fleshlight, and some water-based lube do the trick. Stop living in the 80’s.

      1. Stop Dreaming says:

        These lowlifes can’t even afford a room, much less own a computer and all the peripherals you mention. Stop dreaming. Get real.

  11. Ambushed says:

    RIP. That’s what you get when you look for dark meat fried chicken. This was an ambush…she walked right into it…smh.

  12. Very conservative says:

    This is probably a result of blacks that don’t like to see their historically such neighborhood gentrified by ol’ whitey. Unfortunately many liberals (probably like Ms Morelli RIP) can’t see that…Well, I most certainly can. And because of it, would NEVER move to Harlem-even if I got free money to live on (as is the case with most Harlem residents-particularly those living above 130 St or so).

  13. troouth says:

    whites moving to harlem because they watch tv and think “hey thats real life , black people are cool!” ugh the real awakening. watch lock up raw, thats black people in their natural environment.

    1. Very conservative says:

      Was typing my comment when you posted. Pretty much stole my thunder.

      Stil a ok as I’m glad that someone agrees with me. Now if we can somehow just dry out the washed brains of liberals.

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