New York: A man ran over his estranged wife with her car and then repeatedly slashed her with a machete in broad daylight Thursday morning in the Bronx, police said.
The grisly killing of the woman, Noelia Mateo, 58, happened in view of her grandchildren, witnesses said, and rattled residents on Ellsworth Avenue in the Throgs Neck neighborhood, a mostly working-class community in a southeastern corner of the Bronx where Mateo had recently moved.
Around 7am, Mateo was getting into her car when the man chased her down in a different car, hitting her vehicle and then smashing into a parked white van, witnesses and police said.
Neighbors, hearing loud bangs and screams, ran outside to see the commotion.
"When I saw the condition of his car, I thought somebody was dead, because it looked like an accordion," said Kathy Bellwood, whose husband owns the white van.
When Victor DiChristina, who lives in a neighboring house, opened his front door, he said, he saw Mateo trapped under her car and a man he did not recognize trying to pull her out from under the vehicle. Then, DiChristina said, the man hopped into Mateo's car.
"He went into the car and put it in gear and reversed," DiChristina, 78, said. "He banged into the car behind him, and he ran over the person that was underneath."
Police said that the suspect then climbed out of the car and slashed Mateo multiple times using a machete.
"I was screaming at him to distract him from beating on her," DiChristina said, who said he saw the man strike Mateo at least three times. "And then after he took off with the car, I called 911 and I screamed at the operator, asking them, 'Where the hell is that ambulance? Where's the police?'"
When emergency workers arrived on the scene, Mateo was unconscious and covered in blood. She was taken to Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx and pronounced dead.
Police have said that they are looking for the man, who they identified as Victor Mateo, 63. Police officials said Friday that he was still at large.
Dave Colon, another neighbor, said he ran out onto the street to find Noelia Mateo covered in blood. She had managed to crawl from the street to a small patch of grass on the curb, he said.
Her grandson and granddaughter were standing across the street in shock, Colon said.
"It was a terrible sight," he said.
Mateo was bleeding profusely, Bellwood said.
"She was suffering because she was crying or praying in Spanish," she said.
Bellwood retrieved Mateo's shoes and handbag from the middle of the street. Another neighbor fetched a blanket to cover Mateo, and they waited with her until police arrived.
Mateo had lived in the area for about a year, residents said. They often saw her in the mornings taking her young grandchildren to school. Victor Mateo did not live with the family, neighbors said.
Richie Bonilla, 82, who lives nearby, said that Noelia Mateo and her family were "very quiet."
"Churchgoing, no loud music, very polite," he said. "A nice, nice family."
A young woman who said she was a family friend and had known Mateo "all my life" described her as a doting grandmother who always found time to play games with her grandchildren. She added that Mateo was "very sweet" and an excellent cook.
The young woman, who was repeatedly coming and going from Mateo's home Friday, asked not to be named because she did not want her name attached to details about the case.
According to public records, the Mateos had owned a home in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, a small city about 150 miles west of the Bronx. The pair sold the house in May 2018.
Police did not say whether a specific incident sparked the gruesome killing. Even as murders in New York City have dropped over the last two decades, the number of domestic violence homicides has remained relatively constant, according to a 2019 report from the city.
But Colon said he suspected it was premeditated.
"He knew exactly what he was doing," Colon said.