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Richmond Hill man pleads guilty to murdering 92-year-old woman in 2020: DA

Jun. 20, 2023 By Bill Parry

A Richmond Hill man pleaded guilty on June 20 to murder and other charges in the heinous attack of a 92-year-old woman who was walking near her Richmond Hill home on a frigid night in January 2020.

Reeaz Khan, 24, a Guyanese national who was living on 134th Street and was in the country illegally and facing deportation by ICE at the time, admitted he threw Maria Fuertes to the ground, sexually assaulted her and sprinted from the scene. Khan pleaded guilty before Queens Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Holder to murder in the second degree and attempted rape in the first degree in the fatal attack on Fuentes, who was known locally as the “Cat Woman” of Richmond Hill for taking care of the neighborhood’s stray cats.

According to the charges, Khan was seen on video surveillance footage approaching the elderly woman from behind as she walked on 127th Avenue on January 6, 2020, at approximately 12:01 a.m. Video shows them both dropping to the ground. Approximately five minutes later, Khan is seen on the video footage with his pants undone and running off.

At approximately 2:14 a.m., Fuertes was found by a passerby who called 911. The victim, whose dress was lifted to her chest, was barely conscious and incoherent when she was taken to a local hospital, where she later died. Doctors found that Fuertes had sustained two fractures to her spine, two rib fractures, bruising to her neck and chest and other injuries, according to the charges. An autopsy determined Fuertes died from blunt force trauma and hypothermia.

“This defendant savagely attacked a defenseless, elderly woman and left her to die on the freezing pavement,” Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said. “He rightly will be sentenced to a long prison term.”

Justice Holder indicated that he would sentence the defendant on July 6 to 22 years to life on the murder charge and eight years in prison on the attempted rape charge.

The NYPD arrested Khan in November 2020 on charges of assault and criminal possession of a weapon after he allegedly cut his father in the chest and arm with a mug during an argument. ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations deportation officers lodged a detainer with the NYPD, but under city policy, ICE detainers are honored only when the person has been convicted of a “violent or serious” crime within five years of the arrest.

The case forced then-Mayor Bill de Blasio to defend his administration’s “sanctuary city” policy after ICE officials said Khan should have been deported back in November 2020, months before the “Cat Woman” of Richmond Hill was murdered in a brutal attack.

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