HARLEM — The boyfriend of a deaf Harlem woman was arrested Thursday and charged with stabbing her to death and stuffing her body into a 55-gallon drum, cops said.
Francis Angelica Alfonso Pellerano, a 19-year-old native of the Dominican Republic who had recently lived in Providence, R.I., had recently moved in with Bismark Lithgow, 24, and his grandmother in their apartment at 2400 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd., but planned on leaving him, police sources said.
The argument that led to the fatal stabbing started when Pellerano told Lithgow, who was also deaf, that she was bored from sitting home all day while he went to his job as a maintenance worker at a gym, sources said.
She said she planned to leave him, the sources added.
On March 2, the grandmother brought Lithgow, who is bipolar, to St. Luke's Hospital because he was acting strangely, sources said at the time.
When the grandmother returned to the apartment later that day she noticed a foul odor coming from a large drum in the apartment. She discovered Pellerano's mutilated body inside, sources said.
Police sources said Thursday that Lithgow's DNA was recovered from the murder weapon and Pellerano's body. Police waited for the results before arresting Lithgow.
Sources say that Lithgow did not get the drum until after the alleged murder.
He has been charged with second-degree murder, police said.
Deaf and unable to speak, Pellerano attended the Rhode Island School for the Deaf on and off for five years until November, an administrator said. There, she enjoyed playing soccer and basketball. Administrators at the school said she knew American Sign Language.
"She was full of life with a very buoyant personality. She was very personable," said Corsino Delgado, assistant director of finance and operations at the school. "We were all very sad and shocked when we heard."
The school held a memorial for Pellerano last week, Delgado said. Students and staff there also raised some $2,000 to send her body back to the Dominican Republic for burial.
Residents at Lithgow's building remembered him as being friendly.
"He usually smiled," said a woman at the building who asked to be identified only as Pat.
Neighbors said Lithgow was generally polite, often handing money to those who needed it, and were shocked to learn of his arrest.
"That makes me nervous," said longtime resident Cindy Stewart, 54. "Police being here is nothing new, but I would have never expected something like this."
Relatives told cops that Pellerano met Lithgow on Facebook and moved to New York City to be with him shortly after they became acquainted online, police sources said. Pellerano's father, speaking through an interpreter, told NBC News 10 in Providence that he was extremely worried about his daughter.
"I always knew that something was going to happen to her. I wasn't sleeping at night," said Manuel Alfonso through tears.
Alfonso said his daughter wanted to be independent and didn't want family to know where she was, but had recently agreed to return to the Dominican Republic. He became worried when he did not hear from her.
Lithgow initially declined to help police in the investigation, sources said. He has a lawyer and was awaiting arraignment on the murder charges.
He is being held at Bellevue Hospital, police sources said.
"I want justice because I know he's not crazy. He cleaned all the blood after he killed her," Alfonso told the news station.