The victim, Maria Fuertes, was found lying in the street just after midnight Monday morning on 127th Street near Liberty Avenue in South Richmond Hill. She was rushed to Jamaica Hospital where she was pronounced dead.
Police have video showing the suspect walking up behind Fuertes and choking her. He knocks her to the ground, causing trauma to her neck and back. He drags her down the street, out of view of the camera. Police suspect Fuertes was strangled. The medical examiner will determine the exact cause of death.
There’s no apparent motive yet.
Police described the suspect as having a medium complexion, average build, black hair, brown eyes and last seen wearing a black jacket, red hat, jeans and black shoes.
🚨WANTED🚨for a HOMICIDE Opposite of 103-26 127th St. #Queens @NYPD106pct on 1/6/20 @ 12:00 A.M. 💰Reward up to $2500👓Seen him? Know who he is?☎️Call 1-800-577-TIPS or DM us!📞Calls are CONFIDENTIAL! #YourCityYourCall pic.twitter.com/2NZVvCoflV
— NYPD Crime Stoppers (@NYPDTips) January 9, 2020
News of her death shocked her neighbors, who called her “Mom” and said she was a staple in the community, CBS2’s Alice Gainer reported.
“Everybody called her ‘mom.’ Ya know, 92 years old and you see her walking around,” Lazaro Nieves Gonzalez said.
“I was crying because, as I told you, she was a very, very nice person. I’m telling you this: I want them to get punished because she was like a mother to everybody, great grandmother to everybody,” Anita Sewall added.
“Whoever did this, it’s some real sucker stuff, like come on. I mean, this lady was harmless,” Devar Hurd told CBS2’s Aundrea Cline-Thomas. “Couldn’t hurt nothing, even if you asked her to. It’s that kind of thing.”
“Random people would help her, bring her and help her cross the street and bring her home,” Anthony Davis added. “She was an amazing woman… She does the same thing every single day.”
Fuertes’ routine included stopping by the Bakewell restaurant just before it closed. She was last seen there Sunday night.
“Between 10:30 to 11 she comes here, and we make sure she gets her stuff every day,” owner Biba Ramnarace said.
CBS2 has learned Fuertes collected cans and turned them in for cash to feed the many cats she took care of. Police said she was out collecting cans when she was killed.
“You see her mostly in the evening coming out and going to get some food for the cats,” neighbor Walter Persaud said.
Fuertes lived with one of her sons. He did not want to speak to CBS2, but her older son spoke to Gainer in Spanish.
“Why did he have to kill her? What did she do to him?” the son said through a translator. “My mom never hurt anyone. Why did he have to kill her, that degenerate? He’s a degenerate. I wish I had him in front of me right now. I wish I could have him in front of me so I could spit in his face.”
Anyone with information about the attack is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or 1-888-57-PISTA (74782) for Spanish. You can also submit a tip via the Crime Stoppers website, by tweeting @NYPDTips or by texting 274637.