Person of interest in custody in E. Harlem murder

October 27, 2011 9:13:45 AM PDT
The person of interest in the brutal murder of an elderly woman inside her apartment in East Harlem is now in police custody.

The victim, 73-year-old Julia Hernandez, was apparently suffocated. Her body was found bound by her daughter.

Police have identified and released a photo of a person of interest in the case. They took 35-year-old Gregory Velez into custody just after 7 p.m. on Wednesday.

Friends of the victim tell Eyewitness News that Velez has a daughter with the victim's granddaughter, Jasminda Otero Hernandez. That makes Velez the father of the victim's great granddaugther, who is believed to be around 10 years old.

Julia Hernandez was described as an energetic grandmother, a beloved member of her family and a fixture in her community. Now, police say it appears she may have been killed for her flat screen TV.

Hernandez' daughter found her in her ninth floor apartment at the Wagner Houses on East 120th Street. Police say Hernandez had been suffocated, her head wrapped in plastic. Her feet were bound with a scarf, and her cash, some jewelry and TV were gone.

"When I walked in, I went to the neighbor's house to get the key," daughter Jeannette Hernandez said. "My mother was dead on the floor. She seemed like they had suffocated her, and they had her tied up. It was an apparent robbery. They stole several items from the apartment

Hernandez had lived at the Wagner Houses for half a century.

Police are reportedly are questioning a neighbor who saw a man entering the apartment.

"A beautiful older woman, who was born and raised here," Jasminda Otero Hernandez said. "Everyone knew her. Everyone loved her. Everyone knows her. Why would they do this awful thing to her? I hope you enjoy your flat-screen TV. I really do. I hope you enjoy it."