Suspected Serial Killer Investigated in Dismemberment Killings in US, Europe

A man wanted for allegedly mutilating and murdering an elderly woman in New York in 1990 is also being investigated in the suspected serial killings of five women in Belgium and of at least one in Albania, Montenegrin officials said Friday.

Montenegrin authorities said Smail Tulja, 67, was arrested last week in his home in the Balkan country's capital, Podgorica, on an FBI warrant forwarded to Interpol.

Tulja was wanted in the slaying of Mary Beal, a 61-year-old Yugoslav immigrant who was reported missing in New York on Sept. 15, 1990, said Paul Browne, a spokesman for the New York Police Department. Three weeks later, Beal's decapitated, dismembered body was found in two bags near the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Tamara Popovic, a Montenegrin police spokeswoman, said Tulja was also under investigation for the murder of five women near or in the Belgian city of Mons in the mid-1990s, and at least one woman in Albania.

The serial killer, dubbed by Belgian media as "the Butcher of Mons," cut up the bodies of five women who frequented a slum neighborhood around the town's railway station.

The women disappeared between January 1996 and July 1997 and their body parts were discovered in garbage bags later that year. Belgian authorities were baffled by the serial killer who was thought to be a surgeon or butcher due to the remarkable precision he has demonstrated in dismembering the bodies.

The case of Beal's killing regained momentum last year after a member of the NYPD's Cold Case and Apprehension Squad learned about the dismemberment killings of two women in Albania.

The detective, James Osorio, noted the slayings "were carried out in a similar fashion to Mary Beal," court papers said. His squad eventually sought the assistance of federal and international authorities, providing them with Tulja's fingerprints from a prior arrest in 1974.

According to court papers, Interpol notified the FBI in January that it had matched the 1974 fingerprints to those of Tulja. He appeared in court in Podgorica on Thursday, said Tamara Popovic, a spokeswoman for the national police. He has refused to speak to judges or crime investigators.

Dusan Luksic, a lawyer representing Tulja, told The Associated Press that his client was not guilty of the murders.

Tulja, who was born in Montenegro, resettled there in the late 1990s and lived alone on the outskirts of Podgorica, officials said.

"Several pieces of evidence and some documents have been seized in his home that may be connected to the alleged crimes committed in the foreign countries," Popovic said. Tulja's DNA sample has been taken, she added.

Police suspect that a woman whose body was discovered in Albania shortly after Tulja's return to the region, and who has never been identified, may have been his wife — and his last victim. Tulja's wife was an Albanian woman who had disappeared under unclear circumstances.

His lawyer said Tulja must be tried in Montenegro because local laws do not allow extradition of Montenegrin citizens. He said the maximum sentence he could face if tried and convicted is 20 years.

Tulja, who was working as a cab driver in New York in 1990, met Beal during an appearance in a courthouse when she was an interpreter, said Sgt. Dennis Singleton, who investigated the case.

The two began dating before arguing over money, police said. After Beal's killing, detectives discovered bloodstains in Tulja's Bronx apartment, but he left the country before they could question him, they said. He eluded authorities by moving to Montenegro, Sgt. Singleton said.