Body found in building where woman vanished

July 11, 2009 8:53:59 PM PDT
A female body was found stuffed inside an air-conditioning duct Saturday in a Manhattan skyscraper where a cleaning woman disappeared four days ago. Police discovered the corpse, hidden in a utility room duct, just before 9 a.m. as they began searching the 26-story tower for 46-year-old Eridania Rodriguez.

The remains had not been officially identified as of late Saturday, but police spokesman Paul Browne said investigators presumed the body was that of Rodriguez, who had been missing since Tuesday night.

A medical examiner was on the scene trying to confirm the find and determine how the woman died. Authorities believe she was murdered but haven't identified a suspect. They have questioned some people who work in the building.

"We just want answers," Rodriguez' brother, professional bodybuilder Victor Martinez, told WNYW-TV.

The body was recovered from the duct late Saturday.

For days, workers at 2 Rector Street wondered how a missing persons case like this was possible in their building.

Like most office towers in the financial district, this one, a few hundred feet from the World Trade Center reconstruction site, got enhanced security after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Cameras cover every exit. Guards staff the lobby 24 hours a day.

Visitors are photographed before they are allowed in. The streets outside are patrolled by a high concentration of police officers.

Nearly every block in lower Manhattan is covered by security video.

Those cameras recorded Rodriguez when she turned up for work at 5 p.m. Tuesday and again as she moved around the building, but they never showed her leave.

Her last appearance on tape was about 7 p.m. in an elevator lobby. Her cleaning cart was discovered abandoned on the eighth floor. Her street clothing was still in her locker. She missed a dinner date with co-workers at 9 p.m.

Police first swept through the building early Wednesday morning after Rodriguez' family raised the alarm, but investigators found nothing. They came back in the following days, sure that Rodriguez couldn't have walked out alive. A sour odor tipped off police to the location of the body.

Workers at the skyscraper were allowed to return to their offices days ago when the original searches were fruitless.

The building has more than 400,000 square feet of interior space and plenty of places to hide, including some floors that were empty, and a subbasement partially flooded with water.

Investigators traveled Friday to a landfill in Pennsylvania where the building's garbage is taken, on the chance that someone had taken Rodriguez' body out with the trash.

Rodriguez was born in the Dominican Republic but lived in Manhattan for decades. She was married with several children.

Tenants of the building include noted ground zero architect Daniel Libeskind, law firms and another architectural firm.