41-year-old Bakary Camara was arrested and charged with 2nd Degree Murder.
Police say they tracked a cryptic 911 call made after her death to him.
Police say Camara told them he was possessed by evil spirits.
When they went to question him at his Bronx apartment, he tried to stab himself.
He was transported to St. Barnabas Hospital where he was treated for his injuries.
Camara says he once had a relationship with the victim, but they were no longer together.
Rita Morelli came to New York from Italy five years ago with dreams of a better life.
Now, her family is grieving.
The door to Rita Morelli's Harlem apartment is bolted shut now to preserve the crime scene.
Inside, the 36-year-old woman's killer tried to strangle her and stabbed her multiple times in the chest and neck.
"I just can't believe what happened, it's very shocking," said Toby Chancey, an acquaintance of the victim.
Toby Chancey knew the Rita Morelli.
He works in a lamp shop down the street from the restaurant where the vivacious Italian waited tables.
"I couldn't believe it like, who would want to hurt her? She's a nice girl," Chancey said.
Everyone Eyewitness News talked to about her said the same thing.
Her friends say she moved to the U.S. from Italy about 5 years ago.
She was studying at Hunter College and working in a restaurant to make some money.
Last Wednesday on Thanksgiving Eve, police say Camara somehow made it into the apartment Morelli shares with her boyfriend on East 120th Street.
Her body was found at around 10:15 p.m.
Sonia Soto lives in an apartment upstairs.
"She was a sweetheart," Soto said.
She says she saw Morelli about five hours before the 36-year-old would be discovered murdered.
They were heading in different directions.
Sonia Soto was going out and Morelli was climbing the stairs to her apartment one last time.
She says the 36-year-old told the pregnant mother of three to bundle up and to be careful climbing the stairs.
"That was the last thing she said to me," Soto said.