15-Year-Old Bronx Girl Was Strangled after Sex Assault, Police Sources Say

By Patrick Wall and Murray Weiss  on November 29, 2012 2:31pm

HUNTS POINT — The 15-year-old Bronx girl found strangled to death in a lobby had been sexually assaulted by her killer, police sources told DNAinfo.com New York.

Destiny Sanchez was smothered and strangled when she tried to fight back against her attacker, police sources said.

“She apparently was raped and strangled and bleach was poured all over her body,” the police source said.

No one has yet been charged in Sanchez' Nov. 23 attack. But Luis Vega, 34, who has ties to Destiny’s family, was charged with endangering the welfare of a child after allegedly drinking liquor with the girl on the eve of her death, according to a criminal complaint.

Investigators are zeroing in on Vega, who is the brother of Destiny’s father’s girlfriend, as “the total focus of the murder,” a police source said.

“We’re waiting for the labs to come back, but based on the investigation, how it’s going, it looks like we might have our man,” another police source said.

Vega appeared in Bronx Criminal Court Thursday, where Judge Raymond Bruce added a $1 bail to the existing $1,500 bail, which Vega has not posted.

The $1 bail was issued because Vega violated his parole for an attempted assault conviction, according to the Bronx District Attorney's office.

At the hearing, Vega’s court-appointed attorney, Robert Johnston, said about his client, “The police suspect a homicide and the defendant is a key suspect in that homicide.”

Johnston added that his client requested protective custody.

Michael Marley, a private attorney, was not at the hearing but has been retained by Vega.

Marley, reached by phone, would not comment on the child endangerment charge because that case is pending and said he did not know whether Vega would be charged with any other crimes.

“One thing I do know is that the office of Bronx District Attorney, Robert Johnson, will conduct a clean and thorough investigation,” Marley said. “My client welcomes that investigation because he didn’t kill anybody, particularly his niece.”

Marley acknowledged that Vega is on parole, but would not describe the case that related to,  or any prior arrests.

“He’s not an angel,” Marley said, “but he’s absolutely not a murderer.”

Relatives discovered Destiny bruised and unconscious Nov. 23 in the vestibule of a building at 640 Barretto St., where she had been visiting relatives of her father’s girlfriend, according to police and family members. Vega was staying in the apartment at that time, they said.

Cops think Destiny had been at her father’s Hunts Point apartment on Thanksgiving, then headed over to the Barretto Street apartment that evening. They believe she was drinking at that apartment with friends and that Vega was present too.

Later that night, police suspect the murderer tried to sexually assault Destiny and that, when she resisted, the person began to strangle her, perhaps unintentionally killing her, cops said. Then the person may have tried to use the bleach to destroy any evidence, cops added.

After Thursday’s hearing, relatives representing Destiny and one supporting Vega gave dueling accounts of the night in question and the people involved.

Felicita Caraballo, 49, Vega’s aunt, described her nephew as a new father who gets along well with young people and does not drink.

“He’s a good daddy,” she said, adding that his first child was born this year. “We got a lot of underage kids in the family — his cousins, his nieces…He disciplined them, encouraged them, and told them the good and the bad.”

Destiny was one of the young relatives that Vega cared for, Caraballo added. “He loved Destiny.”
Vega was jumped and injured in the past, and as a result is currently disabled and unemployed, Caraballo said. A separate illness keeps him from drinking, she added.

“My nephew’s got a bad disease on his liver. If he gets a drink, he’s gone,” she said.

Caraballo also pointed out that Destiny’s Facebook page features several photos of her drinking different types of liquor, which Caraballo said shows that she did not need Vega to supply her with alcohol.

“There’s a lot of things going on her Facebook page — it’s all full of alcohol,” she said. “They want to charge everything to my nephew, but other people were hanging out and drinking with her.”

Several of Destiny’s adult cousins who attended the hearing insisted that Vega is to blame for her death and that whether Destiny drank alcohol is irrelevant.

“He’s responsible for her death,” said Edwin Soto, 39, Destiny’s cousin. “He was the last person to be seen with her. He was giving her alcohol.”

Soto added that Destiny may have occasionally drank alcohol, but, “Let’s be real — teenagers are teenagers.”

A few of Destiny’s other relatives said they had been at parties with Vega in the past where he drank alcohol.

Both police and sources close to the family have said that Vega and Destiny’s father, Miguel Sanchez, 39, have maintained a longstanding feud.

Sanchez declined requests for comment.

Vega allegedly stabbed Sanchez at a party a few years ago, according to a relative of Sanchez. Sanchez did not initially retaliate because of open court cases, but last week their bad blood came to a boil and the two had a physical altercation, the relative added.

Still, cops have not suggested that Destiny’s murder was a payback for any prior feud. The sexual assault and murder appeared “opportunistic,” and not premeditated, a police source said.

Either way, Sanchez is hoping the authorities will bring his daughter’s killer to justice, according to the relative.

“He doesn’t want street justice,” the relative said. “He wants the law to take care of it.”

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