Lower East Side Resident Sentenced in Stabbing Death of Jomali Morales

Family of Woman Murdered in Baruch Houses Sues City

Jomali Morales

The family of Jomali Morales, the woman violently killed in the Baruch Houses last winter, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city, seeking unspecified damages.

Morales’ body was found in an elevator at Baruch February 12th. She had been stabbed 20 times. A 19-year old resident of the city’s largest public housing complex, Markeece Dunning, was arrested and charged with second degree murder.  The 42-year old woman, who was born and raised on the Lower East Side, had been out in the neighborhood, celebrating her birthday the night of the killing.

According to the Post, Morales’ mother, Petra Montanez (also known as Petra Vitale), filed the civil lawsuit against the New York City Housing Authority in Manhattan Supreme Court.

The suit alleges the city knew the Baruch Houses were “infested with criminals” but neglected to evict tenants with “vicious properties, violent outbreaks and prior violent acts, criminal backgrounds, gang affiliations and criminal behavior,”

Morales did not live in Baruch. She had been staying temporarily with her mother, a Grand Street resident. Dunning was arrested one month after the murder. He allegedly confessed to the crime. He had been arrested on at least 11 previous occasions for drug possession, trespassing and gang assault, among other charges.  Dunning has pleaded not guilty to the charges in the Morales case.  He’s due back in court in October.

Arrest Made in the Murder of Jomali Morales

Channel 7 is reporting tonight that police have arrested a suspect in the brutal murder of Jomali Morales at the Baruch Houses last month. According to the story, 19-year old Markeece Dunning confessed to the crime and has been charged with second degree murder. Dunning has been arrested 11 previous times on various allegations,  including drug possession, trespassing and gang assault.

Morales’ body was found in an elevator at the public housing development February 12th. She had been stabbed 20 times.  It’s unclear whether Dunning, a Baruch resident, and Morales knew each other before the night of the murder. Just last week, 7th Precinct Deputy Inspector Nancy Barry pleaded with the public for information about the crime.

Morales grew up on the Lower East Side. Her mother, Petra Vitale, still lives on Grand Street. More details to come…

Follow-up: The Murder of Jomali Morales

The Times just posted a follow-up on the brutal murder of Jomali Morales, the woman whose body was found in an elevator at the Baruch Houses February 12th. Two excerpts:

The murder was overshadowed by the unrelated citywide manhunt and arrest of a suspect in four other killings. But this case sent ripples through one particular city population: the New York Police Department. Ms. Morales’s half-brother, Joseph Vitale, is a 20-year veteran police officer who, assigned to the Manhattan South Task Force, has worked the very area where she lost her life. Perhaps second only to the murder of a fellow officer, in terms of let’s-find-this-guy determination, would be the murder of an officer’s kid sister, and residents of 555 Roosevelt have said detectives have been up and down its halls many times since Feb. 12. There is a $12,000 reward for information. But so far, no arrests and no known suspects.