Karen Bermudez-Rodriguez wanted to break up with her boyfriend. And she wanted him to give back her keys.
Bermudez-Rodriguez, a 26-year-old au pair who lived with a family in a New Jersey suburb, exchanged text messages with the boyfriend, Joseph Porter, on Saturday at about 1:30am Eastern time, according to court documents.
Less than five hours later, Porter used the keys Bermudez-Rodriguez had previously given him to enter the home of her employer, and stabbed him to death, according to the authorities.
He then bound Bermudez-Rodriguez's hands. When she fled, he chased her down the street with a knife.
The new details about the double homicide emerged Monday as residents in Maplewood, New Jersey, a suburb 32km west of New York City, grappled with comprehending the loss that had struck the tight-knit community. A memorial of bouquets and notes cropped up near the township's train station. "I love you, Karen. Thank you for being part of our lives," one note read.
Porter, 27, of Elizabeth, New Jersey, was arrested Sunday and charged with the murders of Bermudez-Rodriguez and her employer, David Kimowitz, 40, who managed comedians and owned the Stand Restaurant and Comedy Club, a venue near Gramercy Park in Manhattan. Kimowitz's wife and two young daughters were out of town at the time of the attacks, the authorities said.
Porter was detained Sunday at Newark Liberty International Airport while, according to the police, he was attempting to flee the country for Cancún, Mexico. He was taken to the prosecutor's office in Essex County, where authorities noted he had visible marks and scratches around his neck, according to court records released Monday.
According to the records, Porter told officers he went to a home on Walton Road in Maplewood early Saturday and stabbed Kimowitz in a second-floor bedroom. After Bermudez-Rodriguez fled — her hands bound with tape — Porter caught up with her on the street, 300 feet outside her employer's residence, on Woodland Road, and stabbed her with a knife.
The police responded to the area at about 6am, after a 911 caller reported hearing people fighting and had observed a woman being attacked. Bermudez-Rodriguez was found lying on the ground. She was transported to Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, where she died. Authorities found Kimowitz inside his home, where he was pronounced dead. A knife was recovered near his body, according to the affidavit.
Authorities said they had recovered video at the scene that showed a man chasing Bermudez-Rodriguez down the street. Text messages police reviewed from Bermudez-Rodriguez's phone showed that Porter had been upset about the breakup. At least one of Bermudez-Rodriguez's friends said she had ended the relationship with Porter last year.
Friends and acquaintances remembered Bermudez-Rodriguez, a native of Colombia, as a quiet but charismatic young woman. A photo left at her memorial showed her posing near the Brooklyn Bridge wearing an off-the-shoulder blouse and black hat. A friend, Valeria Rodriguez, had taken the photo a year ago.
"We went there to bid farewell to a friend, another nanny, who was returning to her country," Rodriguez, 27, said. "She put that hat on and posed, because she loved taking photos. And she smiled. That's how I am going to remember her, full of life."
She said her friend had moved to the United States from Bogotá, Colombia, about a year and a half ago, leaving behind her mother and other relatives.
Rosa Nieves, 28, an au pair from Puerto Rico, said Bermudez-Rodriguez's mother called during a heartbreaking vigil in downtown Maplewood on Sunday evening and thanked the group of young women for honouring her daughter's life.
"Her mother called us on FaceTime during the vigil. It was very emotional. She understood that we all come here from other places and feel alone. We become each others' families," Nieves said. "Her mom told us, 'Thank you for being there for my daughter. I love you all.' We all cried."
Bermudez-Rodriguez was paired with the Kimowitz family through an agency, AuPairCare, and other nannies said she became well-known in the local au pair community — a group that often socialises on the weekends.
"She enjoyed being an au pair and was grateful to have such a lovely host family," read a statement posted on a Facebook fundraiser page set up by several au pairs. "She especially cherished her time with her host family's daughters and loved them very much. Karen had pursued the au pair program to advance her English skills and to travel, which she loved."
The fund was created to help Bermudez-Rodriguez's family retrieve the body and bury her in Colombia, according to the Facebook page. A memorial service will be held for her Wednesday at Morrow Memorial United Methodist Church in Maplewood. A funeral service for Kimowitz will take place the same day at Bernheim-Apter-Kreitzman Suburban Funeral Chapel in Livingston, New Jersey.
Those who knew Porter are shocked at the charges he now faces. Victor Toro, a superintendent at the Elizabeth building where Porter lived with his mother, said he saw him often walking in and out of the apartment with his girlfriend.
"She was always really quiet, next to him," Toro said.
He said he frequently asked Porter to move his car, because he tended to park in the wrong spot, and Porter never expressed any anger.
"He always obeyed," Toro said. "He did as I told him. He was a well-composed, quiet young man. He never yelled or talked back to me. This is why what he did shocked me."
Written by: Corina Knoll and Edgar Sandoval
Photographs by: Bryan Anselm
© 2019 THE NEW YORK TIMES