A Brooklyn man released from a Rikers Island lockup last week has been accused of strangling an estranged girlfriend who had asked a neighbor to hold onto her wallet in case anything happened to her when she met him.
Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown added that 49-year-old Gia Pender had an active order of protection against 52-year-old Jerome Rivers when she was killed in her Ozone Park home sometime between when Rivers got out of jail Thursday and when he called 911 to report that she was hurt on Friday morning.
Rivers, who prosecutors said told police he didn’t have a reason to kill Pender, was arraigned Sunday on murder and contempt of court charges in her death and is being held without bail.
“Domestic violence is a plague in our society and must end,” said Brown. “The defendant now faces the prospect of spending the rest of his life in prison.”
Prosecutors said Rivers had been at Rikers for the last two months, and that Pender had an order of protection barring him from contacting her that whole time. Still, prosecutors allege Rivers called Pender from jail several times over that period, and called to ask if he could stay with her as soon as he was released on Thursday.
Prosecutors said that Pender went to a neighbor before he got to her home, she went to a neighbor, said “Jerome is coming over” and gave the person her wallet, credit cards, pin numbers and ID. She then allegedly said, “if anything happens to me, give this to my mother.”
At about 6 a.m. the next morning, Rivers allegedly called 911 and said he woke up to the sound of a thump and found his estranged girlfriend on the floor. Later, he would tell investigators that the 911 operator told him to do chest compressions and he heard a pop.
When paramedics arrived later that morning, they pronounced Pender dead at the scene; an autopsy showed that she died from strangulation.
Brown allegedly later told investigators that he and Pender hadn’t argued that night, and that he didn’t have a reason to kill her. But Brown said that he allegedly told police that Pender had stolen checks that were written to him, had disrespected his mother and had him locked up on domestic abuse charges.
Attorney information for Rivers, of Brooklyn, wasn’t immediately available.