“She may be in pieces, but she’s still my niece.’’
Those were the words of the aunt of a Bronx woman who cops say rushed to help save her best friend from an abusive boyfriend — only to end up killed and carved up as thanks — after the female defendant appeared in court Tuesday.
“The fact that we saw [suspect Ciara Martinez] is overwhelming,” said Jacqueline Perez, the 53-year-old aunt of victim Lisa Marie Velasquez, 25.
“She’s walking, she got her arms and her legs. Where my niece at now? In a bag, in different bags.”
Velasquez’s body was found dismembered in multiple bags over the past two weeks.
First, two bags were found in Crotona Park on Aug. 24 containing her lower torso and head.
Then five days later, three additional bags — with her arms and legs inside — were discovered in water under a pier in Barretto Point Park in Hunts Point.
Martinez, 30, and her convict boyfriend Daquan Wheeler, 31, were arrested on murder charges after Wheeler allegedly beat Velasquez to death with a hammer and then chopped her up, possibly with Martinez’s help. Velasquez had come to the aid of Martinez at her Longwood apartment Aug. 22 after she had been fighting with Wheeler.
Cops say Martinez may have helped Wheeler to dismember her friend’s corpse — with the pair using a cleaver and a machete, officials said.
Police think Wheeler went into a rage, killing the woman, after she had called 911 reporting a domestic dispute involving the pair’s child.
Adding to the tragedy of the victim was the fact that at age 12, Velasquez witnessed her own mother, Marilyn Ginel, murdered.
At the end of Martinez’s brief appearance in Bronx court — during which she wore khaki jail clothes — a friend of Velasquez yelled, “Murderer!”
Lisa Rivera, a family friend, said later, outside court, “I called her a murderer. I called her exactly what she was.”
Rivera said it was “very, very hard” to face Martinez.
A family member of Martinez’s was also in the courtroom and yelled out, “I love you! We are here for you, Ciara!”
Perez said of the defendant’s kin, “I don’t know who she was. I don’t know, and I don’t care at this point. She said, ‘I love you, Ciara, and I’m there for you.’ But I’m there for my niece too. It’s so funny that she’s not alive, but Ciara is. So this is why I’m so angry.”
Wheeler is due back in court Thursday — the same day as Velasquez’s viewing.
Perez said she will find a way to attend both, explaining, “[Family will] be over there holding it down, and we are going to be over here because I’ve got to be in tune with everything, I got to know everything that happens. My niece is not here.”
Martinez is due back in court Sept. 18.
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