Astoria Park shoelace strangler sentenced

By Bill Parry

A homeless woman was sentenced last week for her role in the brutal beating death of a man in the northeast corner of Astoria Park five years ago.

Kelly Harnett, 33, was sentenced to 17 years to life in prison in the death of 32-year-old Astoria resident Ruben Angel Vargas, who was fatally beaten and strangled near the corner of Ditmars Boulevard and 19th Street, according to the trial testimony. Harnett and co-defendant Thomas Donovan attacked the victim around 4 a.m. on July 7, 2010. The victim was choked manually and with a shoelace, which came from Harnett’s sneaker. Vargas was repeatedly kicked in the head and torso and his wallet was taken as he laid motionless on the ground, according to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.

Harnett, whose last known address was 20-41 Shore Blvd., was convicted of second-degree murder and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon following a jury trial before Queens Supreme Court Justice Gregory L. Lasak, who imposed the indeterminate sentence of 17 years to life in prison on March 25.

“The defendant, along with a male co-defendant, brutally attacked a 32-year-old man in the park,” Brown said. “The victim was robbed of his wallet and choked to death. This willful act of violence warranted a long prison term.”

Harnett’s co-defendant Donovan pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter in August 2010. He is currently serving 15 years in prison.

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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