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May 09, 2023
Faustino Cruz-Marquez is Expected to be Sentenced to 13 Years in Prison (SUFFOLK COUNTY, N.Y.) – Suffolk County District Attorney Raymond A. Tierney today announced Faustino Cruz-Marquez, 26, of Manorville, pleaded guilty to Manslaughter in the First Degree during the third day of his jury trial. “A simple workplace dispute should not have led to the killing of Maria Carmelina VelasquezZhau,” said District Attorney Tierney. “We are satisfied that justice has been served now that the defendant has taken accountability for his crimes, and that he will no longer put the victim’s family through any more pain throughout a trial.” According to the investigation and evidence presented during the trial, 37-year-old Maria Carmelina Velasquez-Zhau was last seen on the evening of July 28, 2020, on the Cosmos Farm in Manorville, where she worked and resided. The victim lived in the property’s main house — separate from Cruz-Marquez, who also lived on the farm. On the evening of July 29, 2020, when the farm owner realized the victim had not shown up to work - an unusual occurrence - he led multiple search efforts to locate her and notified her family in Queens and New Jersey. The next day, July 30, 2023, the victim’s family drove to the farm to search for her. During the search effort, the lifeless body of Velasquez-Zhau was found in a wooded area on the outskirts of the farm. The cause of death was determined to have been homicidal violence by unspecified means, consistent with strangulation. 2 Through the course of the investigation, it was revealed that another farm worker, Javier SantosMoreno, last saw the victim on the evening of July 28, 2020, in the worker’s kitchen, where she was engaged in a physical altercation with Cruz-Marquez. The victim had accused Cruz-Marquez of being responsible for some of the produce getting damaged, making it unavailable for sale. Santos-Moreno informed detectives that the defendant called him that night and told him that he choked Velasquez-Zhau to death and threatened him with violence if he told anyone what he saw. Testimony about their phone call was corroborated by phone records. DNA evidence linking Cruz-Marquez to the victim’s murder was recovered from the victim’s fingernails, and photos of the defendant’s injuries taken in the days after the crime were recovered from his cell phone. On May 3, 2023, Cruz-Marquez pleaded guilty before County Court Judge, the Honorable Stephen L. Braslow, to Manslaughter in the First Degree, a Class B violent felony. Cruz-Marquez is due back in court on June 5, 2023, and is expected to be sentenced to be sentenced to 13 years in prison, with five years of post-release supervision. Cruz-Marquez is being represented by Daniel Russo, Esq., Danielle Coysh, Esq., and Peter Mayer, Esq. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Sheetal Shetty and Bureau Chief Timothy Gough of the Homicide Bureau.

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500 Expressway Dr South
Brentwood, NY 11717

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