By Nathan Duke
A 48-year-old Peruvian man from Corona who has been charged in the grisly murders of his wife and younger son told police his split personality was responsible for the crimes, the Queens district attorney said.
Otto Herrarte, 48, of 39-02 111th St., was arrested Saturday after police discovered the bodies of Edna, 55, and Daniel Herrarte, 14, stuffed into a closet in the family’s apartment, Queens DA Richard Brown said. The victim’s throats had been slit and their bodies had been wrapped up in black plastic, the DA said.
Herrarte’s other son, who is 15, was not home at the time of the murders.
The defendant has been charged with two counts of second-degree murder as well as criminal possession of a weapon and tampering with physical evidence, the DA said. Herrarte, who worked at two Manhattan hotels, could face up to 50 years to life in prison if convicted, he said.
“The defendant is accused of a particularly horrific and brutal crime,” Brown said. “It is difficult to imagine the anguish being suffered by the surviving son in knowing that his mother and brother died such violent deaths and his father is charged with killing them. This case will be vigorously prosecuted.”
Herrarte will return to court on Dec. 22, a DA spokeswoman said. He has been held without bail and ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation, she said.
He had been employed for 19 years as a steward at the Doubletree Metropolitan Hotel on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan and held a second job as a cleaner at the New York Helmsley Hotel on East 42nd Street for the last four years.
The father of two is alleged to have slit the necks and throats of his wife and son with a knife between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. Friday, cleaned the weapon and placed it back in the kitchen, the DA said.
The city chief medical examiner’s office determined the victims died as a result of deep cuts to the throat, during which the carotid arteries and tracheas of each individual had been severed, Brown said.
At the time of his arrest, the defendant allegedly told police he had a man inside him named Roberto, who was “responsible for everything that was bad,” the DA said. He is also alleged to have said Roberto killed his wife and son while they were in bed.
Herrarte told police he, not Roberto, went to the store to buy plastic bags and duct tape and then placed the two victims in the bags, which he then placed in the closet of his apartment, the DA said.
The defendant was hospitalized at Elmhurst General Hospital on the night of his arrest.
Residents in Herrarte’s neighborhood said they were shocked by the murders, but most of them would not give their names.
“It’s pretty surprising,” said one neighborhood resident who watched as police surveyed the crime scene. “Most of the stuff that happens around here is gang-related, so this is crazy.”
An employee at a store along the street who did not want to give his name said he may have seen the defendant or his family at some point along the street.
“They might have shopped here,” he said. “This is usually a pretty quiet neighborhood.”
A crowd of at least 100 people stood behind police tape for several hours, watching as the bodies of the two victims were removed from the building. Most people at the scene said they did not know the family.
State Assemblyman Jose Peralta (D-Jackson Heights) and state Sen. Hiram Monserrate (D-East Elmhurst) have set up funds to help Herrarte’s surviving son. Monserrate is also attempting to secure visas for the victims’ family in Guatemala.
Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.