RIDGEWOOD — An ex-con with a history of sexually abusing younger relatives smothered his mother's boyfriend to death and ditched the body in a shallow grave in the family's backyard, officials said.
Derek Tudor, 27, turned himself in to police Wednesday on charges of murdering Frank Soucie, 60, police said. He was arraigned in Queens Criminal Court on charges of second-degree murder and held without bail, according to the Queens District Attorney's Office. The medical examiner's office found Wednesday that Soucie died of homicidal asphyxia.
Tudor faces 25 years to life if convicted, according to Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown.
"His alleged actions have caused a great deal of pain to the victim’s friends and family and showed little regard for human life," Brown said in a press release.
Tudor sparred frequently with Soucie, who wanted to bar Tudor from their home at 1866 Putnam Ave. in Ridgewood, neighbors said. Tudor was placed in a treatment program for sex offenders after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor for repeatedly fondling two female relatives — one younger than 11 and the other younger than 14 — in Queens between 2004 and 2008, sources said.
The tension appeared to come to a head April 22 when Soucie disappeared after a particularly bad row, neighbors and sources said. Two days later, girlfriend Stephanie Bernie, 54, told police Soucie was missing, sources said. She tried to enlist the help of neighbors too, but no one knew anything, they said.
Then Tudor was spotted Tuesday hauling a laundry bag out of his building and into a nearby dumpster, neighbors said.
"The way he threw it and the way he left, I said, 'I'm going to open it,'" said Iliana Bratu, 64, who added that she pried open the sack with a stick.
Inside, she found clothing, several other bags and a scorched gray sleeping bag covered in ash, she said.
Separately, others spotted a suspicious mound of dirt appear in the backyard of 1866 Putnam Ave. overnight Tuesday, and notified police, who dug into it to discover Soucie's shrouded body in a shallow grave, neighbors and sources said.
"The bags were closed, but you could tell it was a body," said neighbor Anne Marie Mandala who watched the investigation from her window.
Police also searched the building’s rooftop and found a large plastic bin on the roof of a connected building, and what looked like blood, Brown said. There was also a knotted electrical cord and a bottle of ammonia nearby, and police found drag marks leading to the back of the building, where the body was buried.
Neighbors were reeling at the discovery.
"This is the place where this man lived and you're just going to put him in the backyard — who does something like that?" said a shocked neighbor, Jennifer Harris. "I just can't believe what exactly happened right next door to me."
Soucie's son had also been desperately searching for his father since his disappearance, according to a Facebook post by his biological son, who shares his name.
"I Need Your Help!!! Please Share!!! This is my farther [sic] Frank L Soucie. He has been missing since Monday April 22nd. He is 60yrs old about 5ft8 180lbs. Average build with a bit of a beer belly. Balding Black hair, recently has grown a full bread that is brown in color. Last seen in Ridgewood, Ny (Queens)," the younger Frank Soucie posted every day on his Facebook page since his father's disappearance.
After his father was found, the younger Soucie thanked supporters.
"This has been a very hard time on my family and myself," he said in a Facebook post on Wednesday. "I just want to thank everyone [for helping] us out with the flyer on Facebook, all your thoughts and prayers. The NYPD for working so hard. I will inform those close to the family of funeral services when we are able to [plan] them. Thank you."
Neighbors said the older Soucie liked to sit outside of his apartment building and listen to Yankees games on the radio.
"I'm a Mets fan so he'd always call my team 'the other team,' or 'the minor league team in Queens," said Antonio Benenati, 34. ''He'd be out here 'til 4 in the morning just sitting in a collapsible chair, drinking Bit Burger. Ten degrees, 50 degrees, 100 degrees, he would always be out.''
But while Soucie was remembered fondly by his neighbors, they said Tudor never quite fit in.
''He was not friendly," Bratu said. "His face, his eyes were ominous looking. He never smiled. He wasn't friendly. He was like a stranger on the block.''
Another neighbor, Debbie Webster, said Tudor and Soucie often argued loud enough to be heard from outside the house.
''You could hear them sometimes when they were arguing, cursing," she said. "You would hear Derek once in a while say, 'I could kill you.'"