By Alex Christodoulides
An argument between an estranged couple in Briarwood turned violent Monday night, when a 21-year-old man allegedly slashed the throat of his 32-year-old ex-girlfriend and killed her in front of her young daughter, the Queens district attorney said.
Police arrived at the brick house at 84-42 151st St. in Briarwood around 7:30 p.m. Monday night to find the young man, Pedro Ayala, at the scene with a bad hand wound, crying and screaming that the victim had tried to kill herself, a source said.
But inside the basement apartment, it became clear that Veronica Rivera, 32, had been trying to save her own life and she had not succeeded, the source said.
Police found Rivera inside the apartment with a laceration to her neck, multiple stab wounds to her face, neck and arm, and a knife nearby, authorities said. Emergency Medical Services responders pronounced Rivera dead at about 10:30 p.m., and took Ayala to Queens Hospital Center for treatment of his hand injury, authorities said.
He had been ordered by a judge to stay away from her in February.
Ayala was arrested on charges of second-degree murder, aggravated criminal contempt, endangering the welfare of a child and criminal possession of a weapon, the district attorney said. At press time Tuesday, Ayala had not been arraigned on the charges because of his hand injury, the DA said. If convicted of the charges, Ayala faces up to 25 years to life in prison, the DA said.
Rivera's death is the first homicide of 2008 in the 107th Precinct, according to CompStat, which tracks crime in the NYPD.
Neighbors at the scene said the incident had taken place with two children, a 9-year-old girl from Rivera's previous relationship, and the seven-month-old baby boy she had had with Ayala, in the apartment.
“The 9-year-old apparently witnessed the entire thing and she is obviously traumatized,” District Attorney Richard Brown said at the scene.
Neighbors said the couple had fought often and that Monday night's argument had begun at about 7 p.m. Someone at the house had called 911, a source said, but it was unclear whether it was Ayala or another resident.
Rivera had brought the baby and her young daughter to the apartment she had shared with Ayala so he could see his son, DA Brown said.
Rivera's mother, Lucy Suarez, said the couple's 2-1/2-year relationship had been rocky and that her daughter had left him for good last week.
“She was a little thing, 4-foot-10, and he was big, 6-foot-1, and he abused her,” Suarez said. “He wanted to take her life. He didn't want the baby, he wanted her back, and when he realized this time she wasn't coming back, he killed her.”
Suarez said Monday night that she would raise the baby with the little boy's grandfather. It was unclear what the arrangements would be for Rivera's daughter.
The DA's office said Ayala had previously been arrested Jan. 23, 2008, for allegedly grabbing Rivera by her shoulders, pulling her hair, throwing her into a wall and then to the floor. Rivera was pregnant at the time, the DA's office said.
He was also accused of breaking her cell phone into two pieces, the DA's office said. He pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct charges in February and was awarded a conditional discharge requiring him to stay away from Rivera, the DA's office said.
Christina Santucci contributed to this story.
Reach reporter Alex Christodoulides by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.