Manhunt Widens In Astoria FIT Student Slaying
By LIZ GOFF
Police last week said they have interviewed and cleared several men who accompanied an Astoria coed to a party in Long Island City just hours before her brutal murder.
Sources said investigators believe that someone followed Carmen Saldana-Mundo to her home on 47th Street after the party. Investigators believe Saldana-Mundo partially opened the door to her apartment and the killer pushed his way in, breaking a chain on the door.
Saldana’s mother discovered her daughter’s body at about 10 p.m. on July 12 after returning from a weekend job cleaning houses in the Hamptons. The mother told police she tried calling her daughter before she arrived at their apartment at 47-17 30th Ave. but got no answer.
When she arrived at the apartment, Saldana noticed the door was ajar, police sources said.When the mother walked into the apartment, she found the security chain lying on the floor, apparently torn from the wall by the killer.
The mother called out to her daughter, and when the young woman failed to respond Susana Saldana went to her daughter’s bedroom, where she made the grisly discovery.
“She touched her daughter’s feet and they were cold,” said an uncle, Juan Guerra.
Police sources said it does not appear that robbery was a motive for the killing. While the chain was broken from the door, indicating the killer pushed the door in, there were no signs that it was a robbery gone wrong since nothing was missing, the sources said.
Footage from a surveillance camera at the building where the party was held shows Saldana leaving alone at about 1:30 a.m., Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said. Investigators believe that a person followed her home to Astoria, and have questioned several partygoers and the host. Police are tracking down everyone who attended the party in their search for the killer, Kelly said.
Police widened the search for the killer after finding a message posted on Saldana’s computer just days before her death that hinted she had a stalker.
Sources said Saldana wrote on July 10, “Ain’t that a shame. The guy that does like me I don’t like but won’t leave me alone and the guy that I do like has no clue that I like him. I think I’ll survive.”
Sources said she followed up that message three days before she was found dead with another, bizarre message: “OMG am being pimped out by my boss LOL crazy noche.”
Sources said it is unclear if she was referring to her waitress job or her internship at Complex Magazine.
The city medical examiner ruled Saldana’s death was caused by asphyxiation. Police sources said it appears that the killer strangled Saldana with one hand around her throat, while clamping his other hand over her mouth.
Saldana grew up in the Astoria neighborhood and recently returned to live with her mother after breaking up with her boyfriend, family members said. Neighbors described Saldana, a student at the Fashion Institute of Technology, as a “sweet, really nice girl”.
Saldana’s parents, both Mexican immigrants, are divorced. Both were planning to return to live in Mexico, family members said.
Saldana’s body was flown home to her native Mexico on July 17 for burial.
Anyone with information is urged to call the Crimestoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS. The Hotline is offering a $2,000 reward to anyone with information leading to the arrest and conviction of a suspect.
Victims Thwart Shakedown By Cop Impersonator
Police last week arrested a 25-year-old Queens man after he posed as a police officer to shake down two men at a College Point home.
Vincent Raffa was wearing an NYPD tee-shirt when he confronted the two men in a garage attached to the house at 25th Drive and 146th Street at about 5 p.m. on July 9, authorities said.
Police sources said Raffa pointed to his tee-shirt, announced that he was an undercover cop – and demanded that the victims hand over a stolen watch. He then rifled through the victims’ pockets, searched a backpack belonging to one of the men and brandished a pair of handcuffs, threatening to arrest the men, the sources said.
Police responding to a 911 call nabbed Raffa as he tried to flee the scene. He was charged with criminal impersonation and unauthorized use of handcuffs.
Police officials are urging the public to report all incidents involving a suspect or suspects who pose as police officers to gain entry to a residence, threaten, rob and/or terrorize or extort money from victims.
Incidents should be reported to the Crimestoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS. The Hotline is offering a $2,000 reward to anyone with information leading to the arrest and conviction of a police impersonator.
Tot-Abandon Cabby Pleads Guilty In Rape
By Liz Goff
The Queens cabby who went from hero to zero after his phony abandonment of a baby at a firehouse unraveled pleaded guilty last week to the attempted rape of a female passenger who passed out in his cab last March.
Klever Sailema, 46, surrendered to police at the 114th Precinct in Astoria after the 23-year-old woman reported that he picked her up in his black livery car in Astoria on March 1, then drove her to another location, where he raped her.
Sailema tried to turn the tables on the victim by telling detectives at the Astoria Boulevard stationhouse that the woman’s charges were false and that she attacked him in the cab, leaving him with two black eyes and a lump on the back of his head.
Salema told detectives he picked up the woman, a waitress from Ireland, outside a bar in Astoria on March 1. Salema claimed the woman was drunk and passed out in the back of the cab, and when he tried to wake her, she screamed and punched him, tossed his keys in a pile of snow, then grabbed his hack license and ran off into the night.
The woman told police she woke up in the back seat of Sailema’s black Town Car and realized the cabbie was raping her. “She woke to find him on top of her and she screamed, ‘What’s going on?’ a few times, then put up a fight and ran from the car.” Police sources said, “She had the presence of mind to grab the hack license containing his picture and ID.”
The shaken woman hailed another cab to take her home, then called police and gave them the license with the ID. She was taken to a local hospital for examination and treatment, police said.
Sources said the woman’s story was credible and that she went through DNA testing that helped identify her attacker.
Law enforcement sources said that after the incident, Sailema called family members he’d been staying with in Elmhurst to let them know he wasn’t coming home. Investigators believe he then hopped a flight to his native Ecuador.
Police alerted the media that they were looking for Sailema. He eventually made contact with Fernand Matteo of the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers. Matteo told reporters outside the 114th Precinct that Sailema was afraid and didn’t understand why he is being charged. “According to him the contact was consensual and he doesn’t feel like he’s done anything wrong,” Matteo said.
All of that changed on July 15 when Sailema admitted in Queens Criminal Court that he tried to force himself on the sleeping woman.
Sailema made headlines in February 2008 when he scammed authorities by dropping off a six-month-old baby at a Corona firehouse that he claimed had been abandoned in his cab. He was exposed two days later and admitted he was in cahoots with the baby’s father, who had grabbed the baby from her 14-year-old mother. Charges were later dropped against Sailema and the baby’s father.
Sailema, who has been behind bars since his arrest in March, is facing five and a half years in prison and must register as a sex offender when he is sentenced on August 4.