Seventeen cuts lined Alejandro Uribe’s forearm like tally marks — each, he said, for a year he had been with Nadia Saavedra, his hometown bride from a riverside village in Mexico.
Ms. Saavedra had asked her husband to leave their Bronx apartment in late January, after years of absorbing his abuse. But Mr. Uribe grew obsessed, cutting himself and, after Ms. Saavedra called the police, planting himself in the stairwell and knocking on her door.
A short stay in a hospital psychiatric ward had not kept him from grasping at a vanishing marriage. He took to walking the 400 or so steps from his new home to Ms. Saavedra’s apartment — past a boxing gym, a pharmacy, two churches and a mosque — to watch who came and went. He followed her to Manhattan. He called their 16-year-old son, Uri, almost daily, asking about a man who he suspected was Ms. Saavedra’s boyfriend.
On Ms. Saavedra’s 34th birthday, March 7, Mr. Uribe waited in the hall outside her second-floor apartment, this time without knocking. When Ms. Saavedra opened the door to take their 11-year-old daughter, Naiyela, to school, he pushed his way past the girl and forced Ms. Saavedra into her bedroom.
She screamed her son’s name, but by the time Uri broke down the door, his mother had been stabbed 13 times. His father, shirtless, moved the 12-inch kitchen knife from one hand to the other before plunging it into his own rib cage, forcefully enough to pierce his heart. Mr. Uribe’s dead body crumpled on top of his wife’s.
A neighbor, Celin Feble, 16, heard Ms. Saavedra screaming “Stop, please stop!” She did not understand the gravity of what was happening until she saw Naiyela, weeping, emerge onto the sidewalk with a small black-and-white dog. Uri walked outside with blood all over his hands.
As murders in New York City have fallen to record low in recent years, domestic killings have come to make up an ever larger part of detectives’ workloads. The cases often take shape out of the Police Department’s view — less than one-third of victims and abusers in domestic homicides have had previous contact with officers — frustrating an agency that is trying to home in on the most violent and vulnerable people.
And, like gang killings and attacks by mentally ill people, domestic murders occur overwhelmingly in poor neighborhoods, where jobs are scarce and seeking help from city agencies is not necessarily the norm. Among those neighborhoods is Mott Haven, part of the 40th Precinct, a two-square-mile trapezoid at the southern tip of the Bronx that is one of several pockets in the city where domestic violence and killings persist.
To understand what drives such violence, The New York Times is documenting each homicide in the 40th Precinctthis year. It recorded nine murders in the precinct last year, the 11th highest total among the city’s 77 precincts. It had recorded five as of Saturday, more than all but two other precincts.
Police officers in the South Bronx are trying to break through the shame and fear that often keep victims from reporting abuse, visiting them repeatedly even if they slam the door.
The killing of Ms. Saavedra, who lived in a private, five-story walk-up building, emerged from the same swirl of jealousy, mental instability and silence that makes it difficult for investigators across the city to anticipate domestic violence.
Ms. Saavedra told relatives that she was staying with Mr. Uribe for the sake of their children, despite the years of marital problems. There were no reports to the police of domestic abuse, though she filed for a temporary order of protectionwith Bronx Family Court on Jan. 29, after Mr. Uribe cut himself and banged on her door; the order was never served.
Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center, where the police brought Mr. Uribe after that episode, released him after less than two days, reflecting the difficulty in decoding risk factors.
At a recent public safety meeting, Sgt. Michael J. LoPuzzo, the commander of the 40th Precinct detective squad, expressed regret that Ms. Saavedra had never told officers she feared for her safety. “Maybe we could have prevented that,” he said.
Even in retrospect, relatives struggled to pinpoint the moment a tumultuous marriage had turned murderous.
“They have many problems, for many years,” said Omar Mendoza, a nephew of Ms. Saavedra’s, with whom Mr. Uribe came to stay after leaving the hospital. “It was nothing new.” But, he added, “I don’t know why he makes this decision.”
The couple had gotten married in their hometown, San Pedro Aytec in Huamuxtitlán, Guerrero, when Ms Saavedra was 15 before moving to South Bronx. “They did seem like they were very much in love,” said Magali Garcia, a neighbor there who attended the wedding and now lives in Florida.
Source - New York Times