Thursday, February 25, 2010

Former Woodhaven Man Charged with Killing and Dismembering Wife

Woodhaven Woman Went Missing in 2007

By Patricia Adams

The investigation of a Woodhaven mother who went missing more than two years ago has culminated with the arrest of her husband on charges of second-degree murder and tampering with physical evidence.

U.S. Marshals arrested Edwin Fuentes, 42, outside a realtor’s office on Pitkin Avenue in Ozone Park late Wednesday afternoon for the murder of his wife Reina De Los Santos, who went missing in June of 2007. Frustrated Queens detectives put in more than thirty months and conducted a grueling investigation leading up to the arrest. According to one department insider, the case represents an intense effort by Queens Homicide to bring strong evidence to the DA.

Fuentes has long been a suspect in his wife’s disappearance, but police were continually stymied by the fact that no trace of the missing woman was found until 2008 when teens in Forest Park found a suitcase containing bones later identified as those of De Los Santos.

According to charges filed by DA Brown’s office, Fuentes allegedly dismembered his wife’s body and put some of her body parts in a suitcase. Brown said, “The defendant is accused of killing his wife and disposing of her body, leaving her two children without a mother. He was able to evade justice for more than two years but the diligence of police and prosecutors in pursuing this case means that he will now be held accountable for this crime.”

According to the criminal complaint, at some time between June 19, 2007 and June 22, 2007, Fuentes killed his wife inside their apartment on 88th Road in Woodhaven, later dismembering her. He then called police and reported his wife was missing.

When police arrived at the house to take the report one of the officers noticed that Fuentes had fresh scratches on his arms and what appeared to be a bite mark on his left hand. The defendant was also described as shaking, nervous and even stuttering during the interview with police, at which time he told them that the scratches were a result from playing with his children. He told police he had last seen his wife on June 20.

At the time of her disappearance, Fuentes launched a campaign to blanket the neighborhood with posters of his missing wife, even soliciting donations to cover the costs of printing. He was quoted during an interview with The Forum saying there was no reason he could imagine for his wife’s disappearance. “She is a very loving and supportive mother, everyone knows that. I don’t understand where she could be.” Asked if he had a message he would most like to get to his wife Fuentes said, “We love you and we miss you. Just come home safe.”

On March 4, 2008, four teenagers walking in Forest Park found a suitcase containing what appeared to be partial human remains. The suitcase was removed to the Queens County Morgue where the remains were identified as a human skull and various other body parts. The remains were later identified through dental records as those of Reina De Los Santos Reyes and following an autopsy her death was ruled a homicide.

Shortly after the remains were identified, Fuentes was picked up by police in connec- tion with what was termed an unrelated matter. The suspect had allegedly struck De Los Santos’ 17-year-old son Ariel, who was in his custody following the disappearance. The boy was from the victim’s first marriage and suffers from Tourette syndrome and additional dissociative disorders.

A caretaker, assigned to Ariel from the Administration of Children’s Services (ACS), told police that she found the boy, on at least two occasions since December, with bruises on his mouth and face from being struck in the head. The couple also shared a biological daughter, Thais who is now with her father's family. Ariel is presently in the custody of his mother's family. Fuentes is prohibited by law from having any contact with either of the children.

Although there was insufficient evidence against him at the time, police investigators have now pieced together the deadly puzzle leading up to De Los Santos’ murder that is studded with domestic violence and death threats. In April of 2007 there is testimony from a witness who heard Fuentes threatening to kill his wife and another witness who reportedly observed the defendant choking the victim in May of 2007 and threatening to kill her if she ever left him.

In addition, Fuentes is also alleged to have told police that he was once a butcher. When asked by the police if he thought he was going to get away with the murder the defendant allegedly replied: “I sure as hell am going to try.”

If convicted he faces 25 years to life in prison.

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