An elevator operator at a high rise near the World Trade Center site was arrested in the slaying of a Dominican-born cleaning woman whose bound body was found stuffed in an air conditioning duct.

Joseph Pabon was taken into custody at 7:30 p.m., New York Police Department spokesman Paul Browne said. Police pulled him over after he left his Staten Island home in a car with two other people, Browne said.

Charges were pending, he said. Pabon's attorney, Mario Gallucci, didn't immediately return a telephone message Friday

Browne said earlier Friday that DNA evidence had linked the elevator operator to the killing of Eridania Rodriguez, whose body was found with a gold crucifix taped to her mouth in the Manhattan high rise where she worked.

Pabon voluntarily submitted to DNA testing during questioning after Rodriguez' body was found July 11, Browne said. Blood leaking from the ventilation shaft led police to the body at 2 Rector St., a 26-story office tower a few hundred feet from ground zero.

The DNA taken from Pabon is linked to material found underneath Rodriguez' fingernails, police said.

Rodriguez disappeared on July 7 in the middle of her shift at the 26-story office building at the office tower.

The case touched off an exhaustive four-day search by police and raised questions about how she could have vanished from the high-security building.

Like most office towers in the financial district, this one got enhanced security after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks: Guards staff the lobby 24 hours a day, and cameras cover every exit.

The cameras recorded Rodriguez, 46, when she turned up for work at 5 p.m. and again as she moved around the building, but they never showed her leave. Her last appearance on tape was about 7 p.m. in an elevator lobby.

Police swept through the building with search dogs in the following days, sure that Rodriguez couldn't have walked out alive. Finally, they discovered blood leaking from the ventilation shaft; her body was stuffed inside.

An autopsy determined she had been asphyxiated by the tape.

Rodriguez was born in the Dominican Republic but lived in Manhattan for decades. She was married with several children.