2015-06-24 / Front Page

Forest Park Murder Suspect Nabbed For Public Drinking

BY LIZ GOFF

Police last week arrested a suspect in connection with the brutal murder of a Flushing man who was found bludgeoned to death inside Forest Park.


Murder suspect Zoltan Forai, 44, was taken into custody on June 19 by Queens police officers who spotted him drinking beer in public. The arrest occurred at a time when City Council members are considering decriminalizing “low-level” offenses such as drinking in public or public intoxication.


Police who arrested Forai on the public drinking charge recognized his name and notified detectives who were working the murder, police sources said. Forai was arrested and charged with first-degree murder and criminal possession of a weapon following questioning by the detectives.


Police have not disclosed a motive for the murder, but said Forai and Piedrahita knew each other prior to the attack.


Investigators had recently released a photo of Forai, who was described as a “person of interest” in the murder of Diego Piedrahita, 23, whose bludgeoned body was discovered at about 3:30 pm on June 10 by passers-by in a wooded area of Forest Park, near Park Lane South and Woodhaven Boulevard.


Cops who arrested Forai on June 19 did not immediately recognize him as the murder suspect, because he had shaved off the beard he sported in the photo released by investigators, law enforcement sources said.


Police who were called to the murder scene found Piedrahita unconscious and unresponsive, with severe head trauma, authorities said. Paramedics pronounced Piedrahita, a Flushing resident, dead at the scene.


The city Medical Examiner’s Office later ruled the death a homicide resulting from severe blows to the head and skull fractures.


Law enforcement sources said police found a trail of blood leading to the body, indicating the victim may have tried to flee his attacker.


The murder has angry neighbors questioning the status of 14 security cameras proposed for installation following a series of sex attacks in Forest Park in 2013.


Assemblyman Michael Miller and state Senator Joseph Addabbo allocated a total of $250,000 for installation of the NYPD security cameras.


Miller and Addabbo allocated the funds after police linked a “stun gun” attacker to a spree of six sexual attacks in and around Forest Park that occurred between March 2011 and August 2013.


Miller said at the time that the initial plan was to install security camera at entrances to the park in locations where the cameras would work.


“We can’t put them where they’re surrounded by trees,” Miller said.


A spokesperson for the Assemblyman said that after the funds were allocated the project was approved by NYPD officials and sent to Albany, where it was given a nod by both the state Senate and Assembly.


When Gov. Andrew Cuomo signs off on the proposal, it will move on to the State Dormitory Authority (SDA), the agency that oversees the dispersal of funds for projects such as the cameras. The SDA will work with NYPD officials to install the cameras at specific locations in and around Forest Park.


“This may not be the fastest process, but it is necessary to protect public funds from being misused,” a Miller spokesperson said.


NYPD officials said the proposed cameras would not have been helpful to detectives searching for a suspect in the June 10 murder.


“The cameras cannot be installed in wooded areas, like the section of the park where the murder occurred,” the officials said.


Forai was arraigned on murder and weapons possession charges at his arraignment at Queens Criminal Court, where he was held without bail.


“This case perfectly illustrates the need to allow police to continue arresting people for low-level offenses,” a police source said. “If these cops weren’t allowed to arrest this guy for drinking alcohol in public, he might still be walking the streets of Queens, posing a real threat to law-abiding citizens.”


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