A mentally ill man accused of murdering two people in stabbing spree on New York City subway trains and seriously wounding two others was ordered held without bail on Monday.
Manhattan prosecutors charged Rigoberto Lopez with first-degree murder, second-degree murder, and second-degree attempted murder at his virtual arraignment in Manhattan Criminal Court.
Assistant District Attorney Alfred Peterson described how the 21-year-old suspect carried out the stabbings during a 14-hour stretch between upper Manhattan and Far Rockaway, Queens – the city’s longest subway line.
Authorities said Lopez is mentally ill and has spent time in at least one hospital psychiatric ward. Criminal Court Judge Barbara Jaffe remanded him at prosecutors’ request and ordered medical attention.
All of the victims were homeless and relying on the subway system for shelter.
Rigoberto Lopez, 21, was taken into custody Saturday night in Washington Heights after hundreds of police officers were deployed to keep the public safe and find the mystery killer. Lopez was charged with murder and attempted murder Sunday afternoon.
The first attack happened in upper Manhattan’s Hudson Heights neighbourhood on Friday morning. Lopez allegedly stabbed a 67-year-old homeless man in the right knee and left buttocks as the victim sat in a walker at the West 181st Street station in upper Manhattan.
The assailant reportedly shouted “I am going to kill you”.
About 12 hours later, the second victim was discovered dead stabbed numerous times in the neck inside a blood-spattered subway car idling at the Far Rockaway-Mott Avenue station in Queens.
Less than an hour and a half later, back on the other side of the city, a third victim in the spree was discovered dead under a train seat at the 207th Street station in Manhattan. Prosecutors said Lopez stabbed the 44-year-old woman seven times in her chest, abdomen, and arm.
“She was discovered at 207th Street dead in a pool of blood,” Peterson said in court.
Lopez then rode the A train to Fort Washington, where he encountered his fourth and final victim sleeping on a stairwell, according to prosecutors.
“The defendant took out the same knife he had used in the other incidents and stabbed this man in the back,” the prosecutor said.
Lopez was arrested with a knife about six hours later, wearing the same clothing he was seen in on surveillance video viewed by police, Peterson said.
“At that time, the defendant admitted to all four of these incidents,” Peterson said. “He also indicated that the knife in his possession was the murder weapon.”
Lopez’s defence lawyer reserved making a bail application. Lopez was due back in court on Tuesday.
Lopez’s sister Lizbeth Astwood, 27, acknowledged her brother suffered from mental illness but said she did not believe him to be homicidal.
“I want to wake up tomorrow and see that this is all confused,” she said. “Because I can’t believe this is my brother that did those things. That’s not how he acts.”
Additional reporting by Reuters