Arizona Prosecutor Won’t Hand Over NYC Hotel Murder Suspect

Getty Images/Surprise Police Department
Getty Images/Surprise Police Department

An Arizona prosecutor says she will keep a man suspected in the bludgeoning of a woman in a New York City hotel this month in custody in her state, saying she doesn’t trust the Manhattan district attorney to handle the case properly.

Rachel Mitchell, the Maricopa County prosecutor, said Wednesday that she and her team would not cooperate in extraditing the man, Raad Almansoori.

“Having observed the treatment of violent criminals in the New York area by the Manhattan DA there, Alvin Bragg,” she told reporters at a news conference, “it’s safer to keep him here and keep him in custody so he can’t be out doing this to individuals either in our state or county or the United States.”

The suggestion that Almansoori, 26, could soon be back out on the streets if left in Bragg’s hands prompted a sharp rebuke from the district attorney’s office.

“It is deeply disturbing that D.A. Mitchell is playing political games in a murder investigation,” a spokeswoman, Emily Tuttle, said in a statement. “In Manhattan, we are serious about New Yorkers’ safety, which is why murders are down 24% and shootings are down 38% since D.A. Bragg took office.”

“New York’s murder rate is less than half that of Phoenix, Ariz., because of the hard work of the N.Y.P.D. and all of our law enforcement partners,” Tuttle continued. “It is a slap in the face to them and to the victim in our case to refuse to allow us to seek justice and full accountability for a New Yorker’s death.”

Mitchell quickly tweeted back: “It’s great to see the @ManhattanDA finally take interest in violent crime. My job is to focus on the victims I was elected to protect.”

Almansoori was arrested Sunday on suspicion of stabbing two people in Maricopa County last week—a woman whose vehicle he tried to carjack and a female McDonald’s employee. Both women survived the attacks. Almansoori was booked on suspicion of attempted murder, aggravated assault, and theft of means of transportation, and is being held without bond while Mitchell’s office decides how to pursue the case, she said.

It was only after his arrest in Arizona that Almansoori was linked to the New York murder, telling investigators to “Google ‘SoHo 54 Hotel,’” Joseph Kenny, the New York Police Department’s chief of detectives, said at a Tuesday news conference.

Police said that staff at the SoHo 54 discovered a woman’s body in one of the hotel’s rooms after she’d been beaten to death with an iron sometime between the afternoon of Feb. 7 and the morning of Feb. 8. The victim was identified as Denisse Oleas-Arancibia, 38, who police said had been working as an escort.

Almansoori allegedly left the hotel and flew to Arizona, where he has a history of prior arrests. He has also been arrested in Texas and Florida, and may have committed other recent crimes in other parts of the country not yet connected to him, with Kenny saying that he’d “told Arizona cops that he hurt three additional girls in Florida.”

“He intended to find and harm more individuals in our community,” Benny Piña, the chief of police in Surprise, Arizona, said at a news briefing, according to the Arizona Republic.

“This arrest without a doubt stopped someone,” he continued, “with as heinous as everything he has done so far, from continuing to that path of destruction and eroding community safety.”

Almansoori’s half-sister, who was raised alongside him in Phoenix, told the New York Daily News on Wednesday that news of his arrest was a relief. “It sounds mean, but I hope he gets what essentially he deserves,” she said. “If they let him free again, who knows what else could happen.”

After Wednesday afternoon’s melee between Mitchell and Bragg, a spokesperson for the Arizona prosecutor’s office clarified that there was a reason for her apparent grandstanding. In an email to The New York Times, the spokesperson said that Almansoori would not be extradited because the charges against him in Maricopa County were serious enough to warrant adjudication there first.

Another spokesperson for Mitchell’s office denied to the Times that Bragg had even formally requested an extradition, though the newspaper reported that a Manhattan prosecutor had flown to Arizona this week to discuss the matter.

Mitchell is just one of many Republican officials who have attacked Bragg, a Democrat, in recent months for his handling of violent crime. Some critics, including Donald Trump , have latched onto vastly inflated statistics to support their claims, with the former president bellowing falsely last year that “killings are taking place at a number like nobody’s ever seen, right in Manhattan” under Bragg’s watch.

Relatedly, Bragg is currently prosecuting Trump on 34 counts of falsifying business records to cover up an alleged hush-money payment to Stormy Daniels. His trial on those felony charges is set to kick off next month.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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