2 suspected squatters in custody in Pennsylvania after woman found dead in duffel bag in Manhattan

WABC logo
Saturday, March 23, 2024
2 suspected squatters in custody after woman found dead in duffel bag
N.J. Burkett has the latest on the arrests from Kips Bay.

KIPS BAY, Manhattan (WABC) -- Two suspected squatters wanted for questioning in the murder of a woman who walked in on them living inside her recently deceased mother's Kips Bay apartment are now in custody.

The suspects were caught Friday in York, Pennsylvania, by members of the U.S. Marshals Regional Fugitive Task Force just before 11 a.m.

Halley Tejada, 19, and Kensly Alston, 18, were wanted in connection to the brutal death of Nadia Vitels.

Tejada is being held on a local charge of receiving stolen property, for possession of the victim's stolen Lexus. Both are being held pending extradition for her murder.

Building superintendent Jean Pompee says a weight has been lifted from his shoulders.

"Knowing that there's justice for her and her family? That's a relief," Pompee said.

Vitels arrived in the country from Spain last week to prepare the East 31st Street apartment for a family friend. It was owned by her mother, and had been vacant for the three to four months since her death.

Instead, she discovered the man and a woman living inside.

A struggle broke out and the victim was slammed against the wall and died of blunt force trauma to the head.

Her body was found on Thursday of last week by her son, who came to the apartment with relatives after they had not heard from her for two days. Pompee was there when her body was discovered. A foot was protruding from a duffel bag.

"The closet, you know, was partially open with all the clothes pulled out," Pompee said. "And one of the inlaws said, 'I believe there's a body in that bag. Can you please open it?' The firemen did, and he announced there was a body in there."

Many of Vitels' belongings were tossed down the garbage chute.

The suspects stole her Lexus and fled across the George Washington Bridge through New Jersey to Pennsylvania, where they crashed in Lower Paxton Township, just outside Harrisburg.

Local police in Pennsylvania did not run the license plate until the day after the crash, giving the two the opportunity to get away.

Detectives recovered surveillance video of the two visiting multiple car dealerships, attempting to buy a new car for $1,000. They were not successful.

The squatters were able to occupy the apartment, which has no front door, through the building's elevator, which opens directly into the space. The elevator requires key access and detectives are still figuring out how the two got the elevator to open on Vitels' floor.

Pompee told Eyewitness News he'd never seen them before.

"As far as this connection between the perpetrators, nobody knows," Pompee said. "I've never seen them before. The last we saw of the victim was on Tuesday, going up to the apartment. I can't imagine treating someone's life, you know, so heartlessly."

Investigators have recovered surveillance video of Vitels waiting for alternate side parking rules to park her Lexus on East 31st Street before entering the apartment building, and of the suspects driving away in the vehicle after she was killed.

The motive is still not clear.

ALSO READ | Squatter standoff captured on camera in Queens: 7 On Your Side Investigates

Dan Krauth has more in this 7 On Your Side Investigates squatting story.


* Get Eyewitness News Delivered

* More Manhattan news

* Send us a news tip

* Download the abc7NY app for breaking news alerts

* Follow us on YouTube

Submit a tip or story idea to Eyewitness News

Have a breaking news tip or an idea for a story we should cover? Send it to Eyewitness News using the form below. If attaching a video or photo, terms of use apply.