UPPER WEST SIDE — A 34-year-old man with a history of erratic behavior was arrested for fatally stabbing the manager of an Upper West Side HIV treatment shelter, police said.
Bernardo Paulino, an HIV patient who lived at the Camden Hotel, at 206 West 95th St., where the victim worked, was arrested shortly after police responded to the scene of the attack on the third floor of the residence on Friday, at 12:30 p.m. Paulino faces charges of murder in the second degree.
Residents of the building described the victim, John Baisley, 56, of the Upper West Side, as a caring, compassionate man who had turned his life around after surviving drug addiction, incarceration, and infection with HIV, and who had devoted the last 14 years of his life to helping those also in treatment for virus.
"It really hurts me," said Charles Brown, 62, who has lived on the 4th floor of the Camden, which he described as a hospice, for a year. Brown said he'd been friends with Baisley since 1997.
"Me and him were pretty close. It really hit me," he said. The victim was shot two days after his 56th birthday, according to a memorial poster in the lobby.
Baisley, whose longtime girlfriend, Margaret, also lived in the building, he said, had been hired as the building's manager because "he could relate, having the virus, having the drug background, having the incarceration background."
Another resident, John Flemings, 71, who has lived there for four years, said Paulino had been kicked out before for his erratic and violent behavior, but Baisley had lobbied to have him readmitted.
"That same guy, they had put him out of here, and John got him back," said Flemings. "He'd help anyone. John talked to them and did him a favor."
"He was a very good person. I don't know why that person would do that to him," said Flemings.
Many residents said Paulino had gone on violent tears in the past, and said he had thrown a fit prior to the attack. Paulino was also known by many to regularly smoke crystal methamphetamine.
Residents said that Paulino lashed out at Baisley after complaining about problems with his room, and the NY Daily News reported that Baisley had refused to change his room assignment.
"He said something was wrong with his room, so John went in there and that's when he stabbed John," said Linda, 42, a resident who lives a floor below where the attack occurred. She said she heard Baisley crying "Help!" from the hallway, and ran upstairs.
Linda, who said she's been living on the second floor for a few months, said she saw the immediate aftermath, with Paulino wielding the bloodied weapon. "He came to the door with the knife in his hands," she said.
"The police had to tazer him. He wouldn't drop it," she added, describing the knife as 6 to 8 inches long.
Other residents said drugs, along with other unsanitary living conditions like trash and cockroaches, were a pervasive problem at the facility.
More than a day after the attack, it was unclear what, if any, healthcare corporation or public agency had oversight of the facility, and what services exactly are provided by Camden Hotel, or who pays for them.
In public records it is registered as a private hotel, and owned by limited liability company. However, residents said they had been referred to the facility by the city's HIV/AIDS Services Administration, and that partial rent payments were covered by city disbursements.
A HASA spokesperson said the agency could not confirm or deny that HIV patients in need of emergency housing were sent to the facility, or say what the facility offered. A New York State Health Department website points to Bronx Lebanon Hospital as running the facility, but the hospital does not in fact operate or own the property, Hospital Administrator James Dunn confirmed by phone Saturday.
Brown's recollection was similar: "When I came down the steps...and I hit the third floor I heard John kept arguing with this character, and all of a sudden the argument ceased."
Then, he said, the building's maintenance man, "was ready to go in there with a baseball bat."
The worker dropped the bat, and Sevorwell grabbed it to save for cops, he said.
A reporter witnessed police leaving the hotel with the bat described on Saturday.
Saturday afternoon, a woman standing in the lobby of the hotel, who identified herself as the victim's wife, set up a small memorial, and offered a photo of Baisley to DNAinfo.com New York. "I just wanted to honor his memory," she said, before building staff intervened.
Paulino was being held in police custody at Bellevue Hospital Saturday, and had not yet been charged by the Manhattan District Attorney's office.
Calls to the building's owner were not returned immediately.