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Brooklyn serial killer, 83, charged with murder after cops find woman’s severed head in apartment

Site where a severed leg was found inside an abandoned tire on Jamaica Avenue in Brooklyn. (Kerry Burke/New York Daily News/TNS)

An 83-year-old serial killer was charged with second-degree murder after a woman’s severed head was found in the transgender suspect’s apartment, prosecutors said Thursday.

When cops went to Harvey Marcelin’s apartment to execute a search warrant and question her about a headless, limbless torso found dumped on a Brooklyn street, they found what they believe is the head of Susan Leyden, who was reported missing March 2, prosecutors said.

Marcelin served two stints in prison for killing two girlfriends in Manhattan and now identifies as a transgender woman, authorities said.

Marcelin was arrested for concealment of a human corpse on March 4 and ordered held without bail. She was indicted Thursday on second-degree murder and other charges.

A source said the head found in Marcelin’s apartment was in a plastic bag.

“Last week my office charged Harvey Marcelin with allegedly concealing the severed head of a woman in her home and discarding the victim’s torso in a bag on the street,” said Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez.

”Today, the grand jury indicted Harvey Marcelin for murder, and my office is committed to vigorously seeking justice,” Gonzalez said. “The facts of this horrific case are gruesome and unsettling, and my heart is with the victim’s family and friends,”

A contractor who worked on the newly opened affordable housing development where Marcelin lives said he saw the suspect in the hallways and remembered her distinctive wig, nails and lipstick.

“I’m a pretty social guy,” the contractor said. “But something told me to stay away. With some people, you just get a vibe. Murdering someone is one thing. But killing and chopping?”

Leyden’s torso was found in a multicolored bag with a flower decal stuffed in a shopping cart at Atlantic and Pennsylvania Aves. in East New York last Thursday. The multicolored bag was wrapped inside a black garbage bag, cops said.

A human leg found nearby four days later has now been determined to be Leyden’s.

Police were led to Marcelin after she was identified as the person caught on video disposing of the torso.

Zeroing in on Marcelin’s address, cops recovered video surveillance of Leyden going into Marcelin’s building on Feb. 27 — rolling behind her the same multicolored bag that would later hold her dismembered torso.

A few days later, on March 2, Marcelin was spotted rolling the same bag out of the apartment building and throwing it in the trash near the corner of Pennsylvania and Atlantic Aves., just a short distance from her home.

“[Leyden] never exits the residence,” court papers note.

“I have no idea about the relationship between Susan Leyden and this person,” said Nesrin Oncu, a close friend of the victim who was once married to the victim’s ex-husband.

“This person doesn’t seem like her caliber of person she would associate with,” Oncu said of Leyden. “She liked good things around her, good people. I’m not sure what she was doing there, really.”

Marcelin was convicted of murder for the 1963 shooting of her girlfriend in Manhattan, records show. At that time he identified as a man.

Sentenced to 20 years to life in prison, Marcelin was released on lifetime parole in 1984.

But the killer struck again less than a year later, this time stabbing to death another girlfriend and dumping the remains by Central Park, law enforcement sources said.

Marcelin was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to up to 12 years and was released in August 2019, records show.

Leyden was remembered as a happy person who enjoyed helping people.

“She was really a good person,” Oncu said. “Tragically, she lost her family members at such a young age. Her brothers and then her sister and her father and her mother. She was a survivor.”

Oncu said she never met the suspect.

Leyden was reported missing on March 2. She had been expected at a friend or relative’s house on Feb. 28 but did not show, according to police. That person asked cops to perform a wellness check at Leyden’s Brooklyn home but she was not there.

The person who reported Leyden missing talked to her by phone the day she was last seen walking into the suspect’s apartment, according to an NYPD missing poster.

Leyden, who suffered from high blood pressure and liver disease and was a cancer survivor, complained of feeling very ill that day.

Before she disappeared, Leyden was living at Stonewall House, a residence for LGBTQ+ seniors in Fort Greene that also caters to some homeless seniors through a lottery system. A next-door neighbor, who did not want to be named, said she had been trying to get Leyden active socially.

“She was definitely looking for love,” the friend recalled. “I was trying to get her out of her shell. I was trying to set her up on a date with my best friend. We had a big potluck dinner last fall, and she came, and she made bean casserole.”

The friend said Leyden seemed to be estranged from her family.

“What the hell was she doing here with the homeless cohort?” the friend said. “The only way that could have happened was if she was completely disowned by her family.

“She was trying to impress me that she was upper middle class. She showed me pictures of her grandkids,” said the friend. “They lived in West Jersey. My sense was that she was sort of creating this whole middle-class lifestyle, but there were significant gaps.”


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