A bouncer with a long rap sheet has been charged with murder in the death of a graduate student from Boston who was savagely raped, strangled and dumped last month in a desolate area of Brooklyn, a law enforcement official said Wednesday.
An announcement of a murder indictment against Darryl Littlejohn, 41, was expected on Thursday, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the indictment was still sealed.
The murder case would mark a major breakthrough in a gruesome case that drew national attention ever since Imette St. Guillen's body was found Feb. 25 with a sock stuffed in her mouth and her head wrapped with packaging tape.
St. Guillen's mother, Maureen St. Guillen, was seen leaving her home in Boston on Wednesday morning in a car filled with suitcases. She left with her daughter and son and spoke briefly with reporters, saying she wished "my baby was home" then started crying.
A call to Littlejohn's attorney was not immediately returned.
Littlejohn has maintained his innocence, with his lawyer contending he was being scapegoated because police couldn't find the real killer. But authorities say they uncovered blood and other evidence linking the parolee to the slaying.
St. Guillen, 25, was last seen alive after a late night of drinking at The Falls bar, a SoHo nightspot where Littlejohn worked as a bouncer.
A manager at the bar has told police Littlejohn escorted her out after she stayed sipping a drink past the 4 a.m. closing time; he recalled hearing the pair arguing before they disappeared through a side door. Sometime during the next 17 hours, the student at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan was killed.
Investigators soon set their sights on Littlejohn, a career criminal whose record includes robbery, drug and gun convictions, and locked him up on a parole violation as they slowly built their case.
Authorities say they collected evidence showing that Littlejohn's cell phone was used in the area where the body was discovered. They also claim the suspect's blood was found on the plastic ties used in the crime.
The ties were used to bind the 24-year-old's hands behind her back, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said last week. He wouldn't comment on how blood got onto the restraints but said, "It is a very important piece of evidence for us."
Littlejohn's first brush with the law came at age 17, when he robbed someone with a shotgun. Over the years, he was convicted on drug and gun charges using names like Darryl Banks, John Handsome and Jonathan Blaze — the name of a comic book character. He allegedly violated his parole by working at The Falls past his 9 p.m. parole curfew.