Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., today announced the sentencing of DANIEL SANTANA, 35, to 25 years to life in prison for the 1997 murder of Carmen Maria in Harlem. On June 13, 2011, a jury in New York State Supreme Court found SANTANA guilty of all of the charges in the indictment: two counts of Murder in the Second Degree, including one count of Murder in the Second Degree with depraved indifference to human life, as well as one count of Kidnapping in the First Degree.
“The facts of this case are truly chilling,” said District Attorney Vance. “A woman was burned alive, individuals were tortured, and the perpetrators of these heinous crimes were at large for more than a decade. Cold cases are not forgotten cases, and this Office is committed to using all resources available to vigorously prosecute criminals, in spite of the passage of time. I would like to thank our tireless prosecutors and the jury for their service in this trial.”
As proven at trial, in the early morning hours of December 7, 1997, SANTANA and several others, armed with guns, entered an apartment where three people, including Carmen Maria, were sleeping. SANTANA and his accomplices placed the victims on the floor, tied their hands behind their backs with wire hangers, and demanded the victims hand over drugs believed to be in the apartment. They searched the apartment for approximately an hour looking for drugs. SANTANA and the others tortured a male victim by burning his back with a hot iron and shocking him with electricity. A co-defendant, RAFAEL PEREZ, poured acetone down the pants of Carmen Maria and lit a match, setting her on fire. As the fire spread throughout the apartment, the perpetrators fled. Carmen Maria died at a hospital about eight hours later from burn injuries to nearly 100 percent of her body.
For several years, the case went unsolved after surviving witnesses fled the country out of fear. But in June 2008, the survivors were located and in August 2008, SANTANA was arrested after being identified. On September 5, 2008, an indictment was filed charging both SANTANA and PEREZ with two counts of Murder in the Second Degree and one count of Kidnapping in the First Degree. The case against PEREZ is pending. He is a fugitive from justice in the Dominican Republic.
District Attorney Vance thanked Assistant District Attorneys Jeanne Olivo and Elizabeth Brancati, who prosecuted this case. Assistant District Attorney Daysi Mejia, Attorney-in-Charge of the Immigrant Affairs Program, and the DA’s Squad also provided assistance with this case, including Detective Victor Cabassa and retired Detective Stefano Braccini from the Cold Case Squad. Witness Coordinator Judith Osorio, Trial Preparation Assistant Lenora Harris, former Trial Preparation Assistant Michelle Assad, the Spanish Language Unit, and the Witness Aid Services Unit also provided valuable assistance with this case.
District Attorney Vance also thanked Colonel Horacio Veras of the Dominican National Police and Mario Russell of Catholic Charities.
DANIEL SANTANA, D.O.B. 8/30/1975
Yonkers, New York