By Ivan Pereira
A disgruntled worker from Co-Op City was convicted by a jury Monday in Bronx Criminal Court of murdering his Rosedale boss in retaliation for losing his job, the Bronx district attorney’s office said.
Paulino Valensuela, 47, faces up to 65 years to life in prison after his convictions on several criminal charges, including second-degree murder of Audley Bent, attempted murder and criminal possession of a weapon, the DA’s office said.
Bent, 59, of Rosedale, was the only victim who did not survive Valensuela’s shooting rampage at the Bronx housing complex Aug. 30, 2007.
After shooting Bent in the back of the head with a handgun, Valensuela opened fire on more workers at the largest co-op complex in the world and wounded Sander Palaj, 50, in the neck and Filip Zadrima, 56, in the arm, according to the DA’s office. Both men were hospitalized, but Palaj is now a quadriplegic, the Bronx DA’s office said.
Valensuela fled the scene but soon turned himself in to the authorities, the DA’s office said.
In 2005, Bent, who had worked at the Bronx apartment complex for seven years, fired Valensuela, who lived in Co-op City, from his position as a janitor at the housing complex for threatening and assaulting co-workers, police said. He filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against Bent and Co-op City’s management firm, Riverbay Corp., claiming he was terminated for being a Latino but a federal judge tossed the suit several days before the shooting.
In an interview with TimesLedger Newspapers a day after the shooting, Bent’s family said he would always tell them he was concerned about Valensuela’s behavior.
“He said he was a trouble maker, you know. He said he saw him arguing with people, drinking and one time he punched someone,” Kevin Bent, the victim’s son, said.
Audley Bent immigrated to New York from Jamaica in 1973 and worked as a super and manager at several buildings in the five boroughs. His wife, Cynthia, said he earned several accolades from Co-op City’s administrators for his years of hard work.
Bent’s family, which includes his widow, son Kevin, daughter Niva and grandson, could not be reached for comment on Valensuela’s conviction.
Acting State Supreme Court Justice Alvin Yearwood scheduled a sentencing date May 15 for Valensuela, who faces consecutive sentences of a maximum of 65 years to life in prison, the DA’s office said.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4546.