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Squatters killed woman found dead in duffel bag after move into Manhattan apartment

Police investigate after a woman’s body was discovered in an apartment at 206 East 31st Street in Manhattan, New York City on Thursday, March 14, 2024. (Gardiner Anderson for New York Daily News/TNS)

The woman found dead stuffed in a duffel bag in the closet of the Manhattan apartment she was staying in was killed by a pair of squatters who had taken up residence there, police said Thursday.

The killers, who are still on the run, escaped in victim Nadia Vitels’ vehicle, which was found crashed and abandoned in Pennsylvania, according to NYPD Chief of Detectives Joseph Kenny.

Vitels was getting the apartment on E. 31st St. near Third Ave. in Kips Bay ready for another relative to live in when she stumbled across the couple squatting there, Kenny says.

Around the same time Vitels was killed, the squatters threw her belongings down the garbage chute, arising the suspicion of the victim’s next-door neighbor who has access to the same chute.

“There’s a garbage chute in the apartment. They threw clothes and luggage down there,” the building’s super, Jean Pompee, told the Daily News. “The police stopped us from looking because it was a crime scene.”

“The duffel bag that she was in, it wasn’t so big,” he added. “I thought it’d be a big bag. It was pretty small with zippers. I’m only guessing, but I think they might have thought about throwing her down the chute. The chute falls down to the basement, and there’s a compactor in the basement.”

Cops are searching for the squatter couple, believed to be in their 20s, in Pennsylvania after discovering Vitels crashed vehicle there.

After not hearing from her for several days, Vitels’ family headed to the unit around 4:30 p.m. March 14.

“Her son and the two in-laws looked around,” said Pompee.

By the time firefighters showed up, the relatives had found the duffel bag in the closet.

“(One of the in-laws) immediately pointed to the closet and said, ‘Can you please open this bag. I believe that there’s a body in there,’” the super recalled.

Vitels finished moving into the apartment on March 12 and was killed the following day. Her parents had lived in the building years earlier, said the super.

Pompee watched surveillance video from the building that captured the squatter couple coming and going.

“The video shows them here on Sunday morning. The last time they saw [Vitels] on the video was Tuesday.”

The super said the couple left the building Tuesday and returned the same day wearing disposable gloves and carrying luggage.

“It’s just tragic, you know. I hope that they catch them,” said Pompee. “I need some closure for this. I don’t know if there’s anything I could’ve done. If I knew she was moving in, I would’ve been on the lookout for her.”

An autopsy revealed Vitels died from blunt force trauma to the head, the city’s Medical Examiner said March 15, ruling her death a homicide.

Inside the apartment, officers found signs of a struggle, including a dented and broken sheetrock wall that the woman’s head could have struck, police sources said.

At Vitels’ Long Island funeral on Monday, she was remembered by her son, Michael Medvedev, as a doting mother who had lived a colorful adventurous life and was embarking on a new chapter.

“Getting ready to move to New York City where she would conquer the world,” he remarked. “She was so excited to move into the city.”


© 2024 New York Daily News

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