NEW YORK – A man accused of killing a woman and leaving her 4-year-old daughter on a Queens street was arraigned Sunday on multiple counts including murder, endangering the welfare of a child and tampering with evidence.
Cesar Ascarrunz (search), 32, had been arrested Saturday in connection to the death of 26-year-old Monica Lozada-Rivaineira (search). Police were led to Ascarrunz by a dozen tips that came in from the public after 4-year-old Valery Lozada (search) appeared on television Thursday.
The child, with her hair in pigtails, described her mother as looking "like a princess." Police ultimately used records from Valery's day care center to figure out her mother's identity.
Ascarrunz was remanded into custody after his arraignment on Sunday, said Kevin Ryan, spokesman for Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown (search). His next court date was scheduled for Oct. 17. Ascarrunz's attorney, Christopher Renfroe, declined any comment.
Authorities were still looking for the body of Lozada-Rivaineira. Ascarrunz is accused of dumping her bagged corpse in a pile of trash on a Queens street corner.
Child welfare officials took the unusual step of putting Valery on television in the hopes that it would produce more information. Authorities were unable to find her mother since she was discovered crying and shivering on the street in Queens. She told neighbors her father left her there and drove away.
Kevin Flood (search), a city firefighter who gave her a drink and a fruit snack that night, said her hair was tousled as if she had just been awakened. But she showed no signs of abuse and neglect, authorities said.
"She was scared. She was crying," said Flood, 34. "She said her daddy had left her on the corner."
Valery had been asking to see her mother, and officials at the city Administration for Children's Services planned to consult with a child trauma expert on Monday before telling her, agency spokeswoman Sharman Stein said Sunday. The girl is staying with a foster family in Queens.
"For several days, of course, nobody knew" about Lozada-Rivaineira's fate, Stein said. "And now that we do know, we want to make sure that it's handled appropriately."
Ascarrunz also was charged with reckless endangerment and child abandonment. If convicted on the murder charge, he faces 25 years to life in prison.
Lozada-Rivaineira was last seen at the apartment she shared with Ascarrunz late on Sept. 24, authorities said. According to a criminal complaint, Ascarrunz choked Lozada-Rivaineira to death in the apartment, put her body in a plastic bag and left it in the living room for two days.
On Sept. 26, he took her body from the apartment and dumped it in a pile of trash on a Queens street corner, the complaint said.
Investigators found traces of blood throughout the apartment. Ascarrunz told police he had cut Lozada-Rivaineira's throat in an effort to revive her after choking her, according to the complaint.