Suit­case al­lowed into ev­i­dence

Pros­e­cu­tion may wrap up case today in Troy mur­der trial

The Record (Troy, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Ni­cholas Buonanno nbuonanno@troyrecord.com @Nick­Buo­nanno on Twit­ter

Ju­rors de­cid­ing the fate of a Troy man ac­cused of killing his for­mer step­daugh­ter, stuff­ing her body in a suit­case and dump­ing it in the Hud­son River will soon be able to see that suit­case, as well as other ev­i­dence re­cov­ered from the suit­case.

Af­ter two ex­tended af­ter­noon breaks, state Supreme Court Judge Andrew Cere­sia ruled the suit­case would be ad­mit­ted as ev­i­dence against Johnny Oquendo, who is charged with sec­ond-de­gree mur­der, crim­i­nal ob­struc­tion of breath­ing and un­law­ful con­ceal­ment of a hu­man course in the death of 21-year-old Noel Alka­ramla. Cere­sia also ad­mit­ted into ev­i­dence two pieces of a plas­tic gro­cery bag found around Alka­ramla’s neck when her body was re­cov­ered from the suit­case af­ter it was pulled from the river near the USS Slater in Al­bany on Dec. 29, 2015, more than a month af­ter she dis­ap­peared af­ter leav­ing work about 9 p.m. Nov. 21, 2015, from Verdile’s res­tau­rant in Lans­ing­burgh.

Cere­sia, how­ever, re­jected what prose­cu­tors be­lieve to be the bro­ken han­dle of the suit­case, say­ing pros­e­cu­tor Andrew Botts of the

Rens­se­laer County District At­tor­ney’s Of­fice failed to of­fer rea­son­able as­sur­ance that the han­dle did in­deed come from the suit­case.

Prose­cu­tors al­lege Oquendo beat and suf­fo­cated Alka­ramla in his apart­ment at 170 3rd St., then stuffed her body into a suit­case that he sub­se­quently wheeled to River­front Park and dumped into the river.

Cere­sia started the day in court Mon­day by hand­ing the de­fense a vic­tory, as he re­fused to al­low ju­rors to hear a recorded state­ment made by Oquendo dur­ing in­ter­ro­ga­tion by city po­lice in 2015. Cere­sia ruled po­lice vi­o­lated Oquendo’s rights when they sug­gested in a ques­tion that he knew some­thing about Alka­ramla’s dis­ap­pear­ance be­fore read­ing him his Mi­randa rights.

Tes­ti­mony be­gan Mon­day morn­ing with Mal­lory Gage, a for­mer state po­lice foren­sic sci­en­tist who be­gan her tes­ti­mony last week about per­form­ing DNA tests on ev­i­dence, in­clud­ing the gro­cery bag and hair found inside the suit­case when it was pulled from the river. Gage said test­ing on the bag was in­con­clu­sive, while DNA re­cov­ered from un­der her fin­ger­nails matched two peo­ple, but nei­ther could be pos­i­tively iden­ti­fied.

Af­ter Cere­sia ruled to al­low the suit­case into ev­i­dence, Kim­berly Cooney, for­mer pub­lic safety dis­patch su­per­vi­sor at Rus­sell Sage Col­lege in down­town Troy, tes­ti­fied about roughly three hours of video footage near Di­vi­sion Street and a nearby al­ley­way from Nov.. 22, 2015, that she pro­vided to city po­lice at their re­quest. Ju­rors were shown about three min­utes of that video footage, which shows a per­son prose­cu­tors claim is Oquendo pulling a heavy item be­hind them.

The trial is ex­pected to re­sume Tues­day morn­ing at 10 a.m., with the pros­e­cu­tion ex­pected to wrap up its case.

RECORD FILE PHOTO

Johnny Oquendo speaks with his at­tor­ney, Wil­liam Roberts, be­fore open­ing state­ments in his mur­der trial Oct. 31.

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