November 8, 2006 in Nation/World

Man held in actress’ slaying that was first thought suicide

New York Daily News The Spokesman-Review
 

NEW YORK – Actress Adrienne Shelly’s hanging death in her West Village office bathroom looked like suicide. It turned out to be murder.

The stunning whodunit was cracked Monday after police linked a bathtub sneaker print to a teen construction worker who allegedly snapped when Shelly made a noise complaint last week, sources said.

Diego Pillco, a 19-year-old illegal immigrant who had been renovating the apartment below Shelly’s office, told police that he was afraid of getting arrested and deported, sources said.

So he followed the 40-year-old married mother of a toddler into her apartment and knocked her unconscious, sources said.

Pillco told police he panicked and staged a suicide – using a bedsheet to string up the petite actress by her neck from a shower curtain rod, sources said.

He was ultimately done in by a Reebok sneaker print he allegedly left in the native New Yorker’s bathtub, sources said.

His arrest Monday came as a relief to Shelly’s loved ones, who refused to believe the well-regarded indie actress and director would take her own life.

Shelly’s husband, Andrew Ostroy – who was grilled by detectives for five hours, who pushed police to keep investigating, who even paid for a private autopsy – had only praise for the NYPD.

“My wife’s senseless death is devastating to me, our families and friends,” he said. “We are incredibly grateful to the New York City Police Department for their dedication, professionalism and tenacity in following up on every lead in this case.”

It was Ostroy who sounded the alarm when he arrived at Shelly’s pad last Wednesday and found the door unlocked – and then saw his wife hanging in the bathroom, police said.

Police at first suspected suicide because there were no signs of struggle in the apartment, and no signs of trauma to the body except for a bruise over one eye. But when they did not find a suicide note, they turned their attention to Ostroy, a thrice-married, 47-year-old marketing executive who runs a liberal blog.

Police found no evidence of an unhappy marriage.

As they kept digging, detectives paid renewed attention to a sneaker print in the tub, which investigators originally chalked up to a sloppy misstep by a crime scene responder, sources said.

Over the weekend, detectives spotted a similar print in the dust on the brown protective paper laid in the apartment directly below, where Pillco had been working, sources said. The prints matched.

Pillco, who left Ecuador and is believed to have sneaked into the United States via Mexico in July, spoke little English, friends and relatives said. He was charged with second-degree murder.


Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email