It's astonishing that somebody could simply vanish for 30 years. "People vanish in New York, you know?" observed Detective Robert Edwards. Indeed that's what happened to Reyna Marroquin, who came to New York with every immigrant's dream.
Some do discover streets lined with gold. Others just get by, at factory jobs or on the service sector's bottom rung. Perhaps no one ended up like Marroquin, a corpse buried in a Long Island home where no one would find her for 30 years.
Susan Spencer reports on this murder mystery, finally solved.
Reyna Marroquin left El Salvador in August 1966 eager for a new start after a failed marriage.
"She'd tell my mom, 'I'm going to be somebody. I'm going to be somebody someday,'" said Dora Marroquin, Reyna's sister.
For three years, Reyna Marroquin wrote her family regularly.
"I'm sorry that I don't write often, but I always think of you," one of her letters read.
Then the letters suddenly stopped.
"We put announcements in the paper in El Salvador: 'Young Salvadorian woman, missing in New York,'" explained sister Dora Marroquin.
Over the years Dora Marroquin and the rest of the family accepted that they might never know what happened to Reyna.
"Not knowing about someone you love is so difficult," Dora Marroquin said.
Now three decades later, Reyna's life came full circle, when her sister could take her home to her native El Salvador. "All we want is to bring her body back, and my mother, who is 95 years old, will finally be able to put her daughter to rest," said Dora Marroquin.
The case cracked open in the fall of 1999 in Jericho, Long Island, when a house was sold. The new owners wanted some debris removed - especially a large drum they found in a crawl space underneath an addition.
Over the years other families had noticed it as well. "It weighed a ton, and I said, 'Why, who cares?'" said Arthur Ebbin.
Arthur and Judith Ebbin - and three other families - lived in the house over the years. No one ever suspected that the barrel held a horrible secret. "We did roll it into the corner, forgot about it," Arthur Ebbin said. "And it was out of sight, out of mind for 12 years."
A secret was discovered only when curious movers opened the airtight drum about a year ago.
Police were called immediately.
"I saw that there was a 55-gallon drum on the curb-line outside the house," said Detective Robert Edwards. "I opened the drum up and I could see...what appeared to be a human hand with a ring on it," he added.
Inside was the mummified remains of a young woman with long black hair. An autopsy showed she was pregnant and had been bludgeoned to death.
Detectives Dennis Ryan, a veteran, and Joan Fiertner, tackling her first big forensics case, found an abundance of leads left by an apparently careless killer.
One important clue was an address bok, according to Fiertner. "Some of the pages you can actually visually see very faintly." But it wasn't possible to actually read them.
There also was a note, according to Fiertner, though the message on it could no longer be read by the naked eye. It could be read, however, when it was manipulated under a video spectral comparitor, a cutting-edge tool in cracking cold cases.
"It allows you to see in the infrared, the ultraviolet and in the visible range," Fiertner explained. And in that light once-invisible letters appear to the naked eye.
When Fiertner first started looking at the address book, "I knew I was just looking for names and whatever information I could find from it....And as I was looking at the information on this page,...a name popped up with an address," she said. It was possible to just barely make out the name Marroquin.
Detective Fiertner found someone else listed in the book and still living at the same address: Reyna Marroquin's best friend, Katy Andrade.
"She was fascinated by New York," Andrade recalled. "She was so happy to be here....She was full of life, eager to learn."
Reyna Marroquin studied English and fashion and took citizenship classes.
She was "very anxious to become a citizen; she loved this country very much," Andrade added.
She had a room in a Catholic home for women, a circle of friends and a job in a plastics factory. "She used to go to the museums," Andrade recalled.
But one day, Reyna Marroquin's happy life began to crumble, according to Andrade.
"I noticed a change in her, and I said, 'Do you have a problem?' Then she started to cry. She said, 'Yes I have a problem. I am pregnant; I'm going to have a baby' - and I was in shock," Andrade said.
"She wanted to run away from the problem," Andrade said. Marroquin refused to tell Andrade the father's identity. She did admit that he was married.
He got her a private doctor and an apartment in New Jersey. She told Andrade that she expected him to marry her at some point, even though he was already married, according to Andrade.
But that was a promise he had no plan to keep.
"Time passed and nothing happened....And this is when she lost her head," Andrade says, adding that that the young woman was desperate. "She lost her head, and she called the house and told his wife," said Andrade.
After that, Reyna Marroquin phoned Andrade in a panic.
"She said, 'He's going to kill me,' I said, 'No...just calm down. Nothing is going to happen; nobody is going to kill you.' She said, 'Yes, yes, he says he's going to kill me,'" recalled Andrade, who rushed to her friend's apartment.
"When I got there, and I knocked on the door, nobody answered," Andrade said. "And then I really got scared."
The door was ajar and warm food had been left on the stove.
"Everything was in order. ut her winter coat was there; her pocketbook was there; gloves were there; the boots were there - and it was winter!" Andrade added.
Marroquin was gone.
"I waited for about four hours, and I said, 'I better get to the police,' but the police said, 'Are you a relative? - don't worry - took off with her boyfriend. Come back in about a week," Andrade said.
But who was this mysterious boyfriend?
Find out the clue that led to a killer.