NEW YORK — Many New Yorkers would kill for the perfect apartment. And some, it appears, would cut off a tenant's hands, stash his head under the kitchen sink and stuff his torso in a dumpster.
In a case that has raised eyebrows even among jaded New Yorkers, police said Tuesday that two men murdered a Manhattan man over the weekend and dismembered his body to take over his housing project apartment. Earlier, police charge, one of the men murdered another tenant in the same Washington Heights building, hoping to move into her unit as well.
"You don't see this kind of thing too often," a New York police spokesperson said. Housing is tight in the city, the official added, "but this is kind of ridiculous."
When it comes to finding a home--and outsmarting other would-be tenants--Manhattan is rich in legend and lore: People have been known to offer bribes, produce inflated resumes and flash bogus bank accounts, anything to impress a landlord. Big Apple tenants cook up intricate schemes to hold onto cheap, rent-controlled apartments, and some actually scan newspaper obituaries to get a head's up on units that may become vacant. It's par for the course in a rental market with a 2.6% vacancy rate.
But the story of apartments 9-G and 7-G in the Dyckman housing project--a high-rise building at the northern tip of Manhattan--is something else. The annual rent in these city-run units is typically no more than 30% of a tenant's income, and there is a waiting list of 140,851 people, said Howard Marder, a spokesman for the New York City Housing Authority.
Acting on a tip, police said, they were alerted to a "murder in progress" in apartment 9-G of the housing complex at 4 a.m. Monday. As they arrived, two human hands wrapped in plastic bags landed on the lawn in front of them. When they entered Gerry Pollard's one-bedroom apartment, police said, Bernard Perez and Rahman Williams were hurriedly trying to hide some human remains. Williams was arrested trying to flee the scene, officers added.
Police spokesman Jerry Varson said detectives found a bathtub overflowing with bloody water, a plastic bag with a human head under the sink, and a hacksaw. They later discovered a human torso and legs hidden in a dumpster several blocks away. The remains were identified as Pollard's.
Perez and Williams allegedly assaulted the tenant in an elevator on Saturday night, forced him to let them into his apartment, then killed and dismembered him, police said. Pollard, a Navy veteran, had lived quietly in his one-bedroom apartment since 1990, according to neighbors.
Several days earlier, police visited apartment 7-G in the same high-rise after tenant Doris Drakeford's badly decomposed and hogtied body washed up in the Harlem River. She had been missing since early January. Officers found Perez living in her unit, and although he confessed to having helped dump her body, he insisted that someone else had killed her.
Police cited him for criminal trespass, evicted him from the apartment and released him on a desk warrant, saying they believed Perez might lead them to the killer. After his arrest in the Pollard case, officers said Perez, 20, confessed to killing both Pollard and Drakeford--solely for the ability to live in their apartments. Police said that Williams, 20, also had confessed to Pollard's killing, but that he claimed to have had nothing to do with the dismemberment.
Williams was charged with murder Tuesday, and Perez is expected to be similarly charged today, according to a spokeswoman for the Manhattan district attorney. A third man is alleged to be involved in the Pollard murder, but he has not yet been identified or located, Assistant Dist. Atty. Kerry O'Connell said.
Residents of Dyckman said that Pollard and Drakeford lived alone and that they generally kept to themselves. They were not known to have family members, and police said this might have made them attractive targets.
Perez, who grew up in the housing project and still has relatives living there, reportedly tried to kill himself after his arrest Monday, police said. He is being held in protective custody at Bellevue Hospital.
"That guy [Perez] looked very happy after he moved in here," a fellow tenant told New York 1 television. "He seemed to be right at home."