By Nathan Duke
Police arrested a 22-year-old Richmond Hill man on murder charges Saturday after he allegedly strangled a man who had been fighting with his roommates over rent money at a South Ozone Park apartment, a spokesman for the Queens district attorney said.
Rami Hawana, of 104-56 93rd Ave. in Richmond Hill, was charged last weekend before Queens Criminal Court Judge Joseph Grosso with second-degree murder, a spokesman for Queens DA Richard Brown said. The defendant, who will return to court on Aug. 21, could face 25 years to life in prison if convicted, the spokesman said. His bail was set at $75,000.
Two other men at the apartment, at 117-15 124th St. in South Ozone Park, were arrested following the incident around noon Saturday, but they were released, police said.
Rae Chisolm, 39, the victim, had previously lived at the location of the murder, the DA said. It is believed that he had taken payments for rent from one or two of his roommates and then disappeared with the money, Brown said.
Upon his return, he and his roommates got into a verbal dispute that escalated into a fight, the DA said. Hawana, a friend of one of the roommates, allegedly placed Chisolm in a chokehold to separate him from one of the roommates, Brown said.
The victim was taken to Jamaica Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, police said.
A neighbor who lived several doors down from the apartment but did not want to be named said he had talked to the victim just moments before the incident.
“I'd spoken to him about 10 minutes before and he said his roommates had changed the locks on him,” the neighbor said. “He said he needed to get his stuff and I told him he should get the cops to go up with him. A little while later, I saw him being taken out to the ambulance.”
The neighbor said the roommates had never caused problems on the block.
“The guys who live there never made trouble and never got into fights,” he said. “Everybody around here was shocked. [Chisolm] was a nice, decent guy. He never bothered anybody.”
Denina Coxall, who lives on the block, said she was surprised to hear about the incident on her typically peaceful block.
“It's a very quiet neighborhood,” she said.
Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.