HIGH BRIDGE — A Bronx mother of three was found dead in a hallway Tuesday with rosary beads stuffed in her mouth — about an hour after her ex-con boyfriend was spotted running naked through the street, law-enforcement sources said.
Hellen Hernandez, 33, was having difficulty breathing and was unconscious inside her building at 1191 Anderson Ave., near Shakespeare Avenue, when medical crews found her at 5:25 p.m., NYPD officials said.
A young neighbor found her body and alerted one of Hernandez's sons. She was taken to Lincoln Medical Center where she was pronounced dead, relatives and police said.
"She was a beautiful, beautiful lady," said Maria Simmons, 55, whose son dated Hernandez for nearly two decades and had three children with her.
"I always loved her. She was a beautiful mother to my three grandchildren, a beautiful person. She'd take them to Orchard Beach, play football with them. It's a family tragedy."
The naked boyfriend, whom sources identified as Pierre Jones, 34, was taken to Bronx-Lebanon Hospital for psychological evaluation after being caught on East 167th Street near Jerome Avenue, an NYPD spokeswoman said.
"He was crazy, no clothes on, nothing," said nearby bodega worker Zeid Ali, 30. "He grabbed my hand, and I pulled it back. Then he ran out. He grabbed a lady's umbrella in the street. He had his arms out like he was flying."
Police were questioning him Wednesday in connection to the death, but he was still only considered a person of interest and hadn't been charged, officials said.
Jones has been arrested 41 times since 2002, when he was handcuffed for stalking in Manhattan, sources said.
He also been arrested for theft of assault, service, harassment, criminal contempt, disorderly conduct and petit larceny, officials said.
He was convicted in 2003 for a Bronx robbery and spent the next six years behind bars, prison records show. The circumstances of his crime weren't immediately clear.
Most recently, on Dec. 8, he was arrested for trying to shoplift three toys and stationary worth $77.79 from a Target at 700 Exterior St., prosecutors said. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to his time served, officials said.
The city's Medical Examiner will determine the cause of death, police said. The Medical Examiner didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
Police said their investigation in Hernandez's death continues.