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Police arrest boyfriend in murder of Ozone Park girlfriend

Jerome Rivers, 52, Brooklyn was brought in as a suspect in connection with the death of Gia Pender, of Ozone Park, and charged with murder.
By Naeisha Rose

Pender, 49, was found unconscious and unresponsive in her apartment on Centerville Street, the NYPD said.

On Saturday the medical examiner said the cause of her murder was death by strangulation, the Queens district attorney’s office said.

According to the criminal complaint filed by the DA, Rivers said after leaving Rikers Island Sept. 28 from a 60-day stint for domestic violence charges, he was not able to get in contact with a housing program manager about his new place, so he called the victim instead.

Rivers said he later asked for Pender’s approval to stay the night at her house and once he arrived the housing manager told him he could pick up his keys the following day for his new residence, according to the complaint.

Rivers went on to say he spoke with Pender about their relationship, he asked her to call his mother to apologize for being disrespectful, which he said she did, and then they prayed and had sex, the complaint said.

The defendant said Pender gave him a sleeping pill, and when he woke up the next day, he heard a thump and found her on the floor face down, according to the complaint. He called the police, was told to do chest compressions and once the NYPD and the EMS arrived, he was told she was dead.

Rivers’ account of events was not the complete story, according to Detective Edward Balfe, who was quoted in the criminal complaint.

Pender reported several domestic violence incidents against Rivers and had an order of protection issued on her behalf between Dec. 4, 2014 and July 29, 2017, according to Balfe.

Criminal Court Judge Dena Douglas granted the order, which would have been in effect until Jan. 26, 2018, according to Balfe.

Rivers harassed Penders throughout his stay in prison with frequent phone calls, according to the detective.

Balfe was informed by the medical examiner there was “internal bruising and hemorrhaging to the victim’s neck muscles, rear of the victim’s tongue and esophagus and further observed no object or substance obstructing the victim’s airway.”

The defendant accused the victim of stealing Supplemental Security Income checks and said he was falsely accused of his earlier domestic violence charges in a videotaped interview, according to Balfe. Rivers concluded Pender’s death was an act of God, according to the detective in the criminal complaint.

“God had stricken her dead,” the defendant said.

Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

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