Murdered New York Woman Was Found With Crucifix Taped on Lips

The cleaning woman whose body was found in a New York City building had been hogtied and her mouth taped shut — left with her gold crucifix dangling over it — before being tossed down an air duct, authorities said Sunday.

Detectives continued to closely watch a hotheaded, freight-elevator operator. They used a search warrant to gather potential evidence from his girlfriend's car last night — including some of his work clothes and a pair of sneakers they'll try to match to the crime scene, sources said.

The hands and ankles of victim Eridania "Iris" Rodriguez were bound by black and yellow tape, which also was used to cover her nose and mouth, cops said.

Her head had been bashed in, and wound in the tape over her mouth was her neck chain, whose gold crucifix dangled outside of the tape, over her mouth, sources said.

The body, discovered Saturday, was fully clothed except for her shoes, which had been placed neatly to her right, and a sock was found underneath her, said NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne.

She was wearing a uniform identifying her as an employee of Stellar Management, the 46-year-old Rodriguez's employer.

Joseph Pabon, the elevator operator who had worked with the mother of three at 2 Rector St., was followed by four police cars yesterday.

He had been working overtime the night she disappeared because the Department of Transportation was moving some offices out of the building, law-enforcement sources said.

But he suddenly told co-workers that he had to leave early. He later told cops that he needed to go to Richmond University Hospital on Staten Island, where he lives, to be treated for scratches on his arms, but they could find no record of him having been there

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