Former model found fatally stabbed in elevator

February 18, 2011 3:23:30 AM PST
The NYPD is investigating a murder mystery in Manhattan involving a former fashion model.

Jomali Morales was found brutally stabbed to death inside an elevator in a Lower Manhattan housing project. She did not live in the building. Now, a week later, her mother is pleading for answers.

Police are actively involved in a manhunt, searching for the killer who ended the life of a mother less than a mile from her home.

"She was like a light that lit up the room," mom Petra Vitale said. "And that smile!"

Vitale is deperate for answers after her daughter left for work last Friday morning and never returned. Her body was found on the floor of a grimy elevator in the Lower East Side's Baruch Houses. She had been stabbed 20 times.

"I can't understand it," Vitale said.

Petra says her daughter grew up on the Lower East Side and was an aspiring fashion model before moving out of town, where she married and raised a daughter. She came back to New York and was living with Petra in her co-op apartment when she disappeared.

Jomali was last seen leaving a spa on 18th Street, where she worked as a licensed masseuse. Her body was discovered the next morning.

On Thursday night, NYPD housing officers canvassed the crime scene and hung reward posters, appealing to residents for help.

"I guess, in a way, she was naive," Vitale said. "Not everyone who looks good, talks nice, acts nice is nice. Maybe somethign like that happened. Maybe she met someone because she always thinks everyone is nice."

There is a $12,000 reward being offered for information leading to an arrest. Police ask anyone with information to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS.