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Sunday, March 7, 2021

Suspect in 14-hour NYC subway stabbing rampage ordered held without bail

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Molly Crane-Newman, New York Daily News, (TNS)

NEW YORK — A mentally ill man accused of killing two people and seriously wounding two others during a grisly train stabbing spree was ordered held without bail Monday.

Manhattan prosecutors charged Rigoberto Lopez with first-degree murder, second-degree murder and second-degree attempted murder at his virtual arraignment in Manhattan Criminal Court.

Assistant District Attorney Alfred Peterson somberly described how the 21-year-old suspect carried out the stabbings as he traveled between upper Manhattan and Far Rockaway, Queens, on the city’s longest subway line.

Authorities said Lopez is mentally ill and has spent time in at least one hospital psychiatric ward. Criminal Court Judge Barbara Jaffe remanded him at prosecutors’ request and ordered medical attention.

All of the victims were homeless and relied on the subway system for shelter.

Rigoberto Lopez, 21, was nabbed Saturday night at West 186th Street and Audubon Avenue in Washington Heights after hundreds of cops were deployed to keep the public safe and find the mystery killer. Cops charged him with murder and attempted murder Sunday afternoon.

The first attack happened in Hudson Heights around 11:20 a.m. Friday. Lopez allegedly stabbed Carlos Martinez in the right knee and left buttocks as he sat in a walker inside the 181st Street/Fort Washington Avenue station. The 67-year-old was rushed to New York-Presbyterian Hospital Columbia in serious but stable condition.

About 12 hours later, a second victim was discovered dead, stabbed numerous times in the neck inside a blood-spattered subway car idling at the Mott Avenue/Far Rockaway station at 11:32 p.m. Police have not released the victim’s name.

Less than an hour and a half later — back on the other side of the city — a third victim in the spree, Claudine Roberts, was discovered dead underneath a train seat at the Inwood/207th Street station.

Manhattan prosecutors said Lopez stabbed the 44-year-old woman seven times in her chest, abdomen and arm.

“She was discovered at 207th Street dead in a pool of blood,” Peterson said in court.

Winston Roberts, 73, the woman’s heartbroken father, told the New York Daily News that Claudine was a shy person and doggedly independent. She emigrated to the U.S. from Jamaica as a child.

Roberts said his daughter dealt with severe mental illness and had recently admitted herself to the Bellevue psychiatric ward.

“None of us expected this. It was so random. On the train, she was sleeping away and she will never return. This animal came and destroyed (her) and changed our lives forever,” Roberts said.

“I’ve been getting calls nonstop from family and friends. We know she was loved by everybody. This feels like a dream.”

Winston said he last saw his daughter on Wednesday, but they could only speak through a window because she wasn’t wearing a mask, and Winston is at high-risk for the coronavirus infection.

I said, “Claudine, I don’t take any visitors because of this virus. I don’t know where you have been,’” he recalled somberly. “She was well-dressed. She had nice pink shoes on. But I didn’t let her inside.”

Completing a 14-hour loop of the city via the A train, Lopez encountered his fourth and final victim sleeping on a stairwell at 181st Street at around 1:30 a.m. Friday, prosecutors charged.

“The defendant took out the same knife he had used in the other incidents and stabbed this man in the back,” the prosecutor said.

Medics rushed the fourth victim to a local hospital in serious but stable condition.

Lopez was arrested with a knife about six hours later at West 186th Street and Audubon Avenue in Washington Heights. He was taken to the 34th Precinct wearing the same clothing he was seen in on surveillance video viewed by cops, Peterson said.

“At that time, the defendant admitted to all four of these incidents,” Peterson said. “He also indicated that the knife in his possession was the murder weapon.”

Lopez’s defense attorney reserved making a bail application. Lopez is due back in court Tuesday.

In an interview with the Daily News, Lopez’s sister Lizbeth Astwood, 27, acknowledged her brother suffered from mental illness but said she did not believe him to be homicidal.

“I want to wake up tomorrow and see that this is all confused,” she said. “Because I can’t believe this is my brother that did those things. That’s not how he acts.”

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