Bar grill employee arrested in woman's murder

August 7, 2008 8:52:48 PM PDT
A grill club employee has been arrested in the death of a woman found dead on the roof of a karaoke club in Times Square that hosted a birthday party for the rapper Lil' Kim. Syed Rahman, 24, admitted he smashed Ingrid Rivera over the head at about 2:45 a.m. Monday during a birthday party for rapper Lil' Kim that the victim had paid to attend, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said at a news conference.

It was unclear what Rahman and Rivera, who had met for the first time inside Spotlight Live club that night, were arguing about. But a friend of Rivera pointed police to Rahman by telling them she had fought off his sexual advances on the roof shortly before the slaying, Kelly said.

Rahman - who had worked at the club for four years and had no previous criminal record - was arrested on a charge of second-degree murder, which carries a penalty of up to life in prison upon conviction. Authorities did not have the name of his lawyer.

Rivera was reported missing by her family after she didn't show up at her Queens home after attending a party at the club on Sunday night.

A distraught Ingrid Estrada said Rivera, a ticket agent at Kennedy Airport, was her only daughter whom she had raised as a single mother. She described her as "my life, my happiness."

Police said Rivera was a Lil' Kim fan who arrived at the party around 9:30 p.m. with a bouquet she had hoped to give to the rapper. During the evening, she and her friend spoke with Rahman while drinking at the bar.

At one point, Rivera was kicked out of the club for accidentally entering the men's rest room, police said. Rivera's friend said that around the same time, Rahman lured her to the roof by claiming Rivera was there.

When the friend rebuffed the suspect, he located the victim outside and "told her he could get her back in," Kelly said.

He took Rivera in through the employee entrance, then up to the roof in a service elevator, police said. Once there, he beat her inside a utility shed, killing her instantly, police said.

The man left the club at around 3 a.m., even though he was scheduled to work until 5 a.m., and went to Central Park and slept for a few hours, police said.

Rivera was found by workers doing work on the roof on Wednesday afternoon.

The medical examiner ruled the death a homicide Thursday after an autopsy found that the 24-year-old Rivera died from a blow to the head.

Sources said detectives zeroed in on Syed, a bartender's aide, after they learned he had a key to the restricted, rooftop area where Rivera was found Wednesday afternoon.

Syed was taken into custody at an apartment he shares with his parents on St. Nicholas Avenue in Upper Manhattan soon after the body was found on Wednesday.

Spotlight Live is in the middle of Times Square and has become a popular tourist attraction by offering an American Idol-like experience. Guests perform with backup dancers and singers on a large stage, and the audience can vote for their favorite singers.

But it wasn't the first time the nightclub has seen trouble. In January, a 20-year-old Newark, N.J., man was stabbed to death after an argument inside the club spilled out onto the sidewalk and turned into a brawl. Five other men also were stabbed.

STORY BY: N.J. Burkett, Bob Monek and Shimon Prokupecz

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