HARLEM — The mother of the woman whose burned body was found in a trash bag inside the DeWitt Clinton Houses Tuesday tried desperately to find her missing daughter — before a chance encounter with police led her to the grim discovery that she had been murdered.
Estalita Edwards, 41, said she sent about 30 unanswered text messages to her daughter Shantee “Mookie” Nakhid, 24, when Nakhid didn’t come home Tuesday morning after leaving her grandmother’s apartment at the King Towers about 1 a.m.
“I called called her about 50 times,” Edwards told DNAinfo through sobs. “We were supposed to go shopping for her baby yesterday. I was Instagramming her, Snapchatting her. I called six different hospitals. They all said they didn’t have her, so I was happy. I figured if something violent happened, she’d be there.”
Edwards said police also came to her house, but told her she had to wait until 1 a.m. Wednesday — 24 hours after Nakhid vanished — to file a missing persons report.
The mother said that after worrying about Nakhid all day, she decided to return to her apartment in East Harlem about 7:30 p.m.
On her way home, she spotted a police cruiser with a high-ranking officer inside.
“I stopped the car and asked him what the next step I’d have to take is,” Edwards recalled. “He asked me if I knew what she had on. I said she had on Uptowns and a floral-print peacoat and a black hat. I said, ‘Wait a minute, I have a picture of her on my phone.’ He looked at the picture and went around to the car to the other cop inside and told me to hold on. He said he was going to run her name in his phone.
“They ran it and came back,” she continued. “Then they stood there for a about a minute in silence. I think he didn’t want to tell me. He said, ‘Can you come with me to the 23rd Precinct?’ We drove over. I knew something was wrong when he pulled up in front but didn’t stop. He drove in the back through the parking lot. I said, ‘I’ve never been in this way before.’”
A detective immediately came downstairs to meet Edwards.
“He told me to tell him about my daughter,” she recounted, with tears streaming down her face.
“He asked me what she had on. Then he showed me a picture of my baby deceased. I knew it was her by her braids. She just put them in. They was red and black. She had a bruise on her face and her eye was pushed in. I knew it was my daughter. That was my baby.”
Police believe Nelson Quinones set Nakhid’s body on fire in a building across the street before slitting his throat and wrists in a failed suicide attempt inside the DeWitt Clinton Houses on Park Avenue near 105th Street Tuesday about 6:30 a.m.
Edwards said she regularly talked to her daughter about her personal life, but had never met Quinones and never heard her daughter mention him.
“I don’t know how she ended up in this situation,” Edwards said. “I don’t know what she was doing with this guy.”
She said her daughter, a nursing student at Long Island University-Brooklyn, leaves behind a 10-month-old son and that Quinones was not the father.
“My baby was a beautiful person. She was a great person, thoughtful and respectful,” Edwards said.
“She was always helping somebody else. She had the magic to ease any situation. I know the world is going to miss her.”