About a Tragic Sunday Night In Manhattan:
August 8, 2008
A Night Out at a Superstar’s Party, Then a Deadly Turn
Ingrid Rivera idolized the rap artist Lil’ Kim. So after she learned that the star would appear at a Manhattan nightclub on Sunday night, Ms. Rivera, 24, put on a party dress and high heels and bought a large bouquet of flowers to present to her.
But the bouquet never made it to Lil’ Kim. The party at the Spotlight Live club, held in honor of the rapper’s birthday, was packed, the flowers were cumbersome and, at some point, the authorities said, Ms. Rivera and a friend handed them to a bar employee for safekeeping. On Thursday, the police said, that employee, Syed Rahman, 24, was arrested and confessed to killing Ms. Rivera. He faces a second-degree murder charge, the police said on Thursday night.
About 9:30 p.m on Thursday, the police escorted Mr. Rahman from the 18th Precinct station house on West 54th Street to take him to Central Booking downtown. He did not acknowledge reporters’ questions and kept his head down as he was put in an unmarked police car.
One of Mr. Rahman’s neighbors, Annie Jackson, 65, who lives across the hall from his family on West 115th Street in Manhattan, said she did not know them well but that the man who she believed was Mr. Rahman was “quiet and friendly.”
“I pray to God he is innocent,” Ms. Jackson said.
The body of Ms. Rivera was found late Wednesday afternoon in a utility shed on the rooftop of the club, on Broadway near 49th Street.
At a news conference on Thursday, the police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, said she had been hit in the back of the head with a two-and-a-half-foot-long metal pipe. The cause of death was blunt impact, according to Ellen S. Borakove, a spokeswoman for the city medical examiner.
During the conference, Mr. Kelly said that Mr. Rahman had at first lured Ms. Rivera’s friend, and then Ms. Rivera herself, to the rooftop. He said that Mr. Rahman had a confrontation with Ms. Rivera on the roof but would not discuss the motive for the killing.
When Ingrid Estrada, Ms. Rivera’s mother, learned of her death, “we heard her screams — that’s how we found out they had told her,” said Lizbeth Estrada, a cousin of Ms. Rivera.
Later, the dead woman’s mother described her only daughter as “my life, my happiness,” according to The Associated Press.
A statement released by the club’s management on Thursday said that the club was “shocked” by the tragedy and was cooperating with the police. Ms. Rivera’s killing was the second time this year that the upscale karaoke club has been the scene of a murder. In January, a 20-year old Newark man was stabbed to death after a shoving match that started near the club’s coat check and spilled into the street.
A spokesman for Lil’ Kim, Ronn Torossian, said that the entertainer “mourns the death of Ms. Rivera. She knew nothing of this incident until she heard media reports.”
Mr. Torossian did not respond to further e-mailed questions, and it was unclear whether Ms. Rivera had succeeded in introducing herself to Lil’ Kim.
Sunday night began as an apparently routine outing for a young woman keen on getting close to a celebrity she had admired from afar. She had completed her shift at British Airways at Kennedy International Airport and reached the club, at 1604 Broadway, sometime after 9:30, the police said.
There were about 500 people at the party, Mr. Kelly said.
Ms. Rivera and her friend, whose name the police did not release, met Mr. Rahman, who was working as a “bar back,” stocking the bar, the police said. At some point, the police said, the friends asked him to put the flowers aside for them, which he did.
Ms. Rivera and her friend were drinking. “She was pretty tipsy that night,” said Ms. Estrada, the victim’s cousin, who learned of the night’s events from friends.
Sometime after 2 a.m. on Monday, Ms. Rivera apparently went looking for the flowers, ended up in a men’s bathroom and was kicked out of the club, the police said.
Security guards, meanwhile, prevented others from leaving because of an unrelated dispute outside, a police spokesman said. Ms. Rivera’s friend went looking for her, but was not allowed to leave, the police said. They said that Mr. Rahman approached the friend and lied, telling her that Ms. Rivera was in a penthouse.
The two went to the fifth floor, where Ms. Rivera’s friend later told investigators that she rebuffed sexual advances by Mr. Rahman and managed to get away.
Mr. Rahman then went downstairs, found Ms. Rivera outside and told her he could get her back in, Mr. Kelly said. He took Ms. Rivera through an employee entrance on 49th Street and into a freight elevator to the roof.
Mr. Rahman had keys to a utility shed there, Mr. Kelly said. After a struggle, Mr. Rahman bludgeoned her with the pipe, Mr. Kelly said. That took place about 2:45, the police said. Mr. Rahman then left the club about 3 a.m., according to the police, two hours before his shift was scheduled to end. Mr. Kelly said that Mr. Rahman told colleagues he had a personal emergency.
On Tuesday, Ms. Rivera’s mother reported her daughter missing, Mr. Kelly said. Fliers were still posted on Thursday, taped to a light post near the club, with pictures of the young woman and when she was last seen.
The flier read in part: “Reward! Please help us! $5,000.
Detectives visited the club on Wednesday afternoon, and they searched the five-story building but found nothing, Mr. Kelly said. Mr. Kelly also said that the video surveillance was not working at the club.
Later that day, an air-conditioning repairman discovered Ms. Rivera’s body in the shed, he said.
Mr. Kelly said Mr. Rahman raised investigators’ suspicions because he had left the club early and because of the account Ms. Rivera’s friend gave of their interaction with him.
Reporting was contributed by Al Baker, Jason Grant, Angela Macropoulos, Jennifer Mascia, Andrew Tangel and Mathew R. Warren.