In 2009 a Woman's Body Was Found in the Air Duct of a Manhattan Building — What Happened?

A gold crucifix had been taped to the mouth of Eridania Rodriguez who had died by suffocation. To this day no one knows why.

Jennifer Tisdale - Author

Mar. 21 2024, Published 6:54 p.m. ET

Eridania Rodriguez smiles in a photo
Source: Netflix

Eridania Rodriguez's story was also told on Netflix's 'Homicide: New York'

While speaking with the Associated Press nearly two weeks after his sister disappeared, Victor Martinez told the outlet that she hated where her sister worked. Eridania Rodriguez cleaned a commercial building in Manhattan and didn't like going from floor to floor by herself. It frightened her. The 46-year-old grandmother showed up for her regular shift on July 7, 2009, and was seen performing her usual duties when she suddenly vanished. Despite the numerous cameras, no one knew what happened.

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Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne told the Associated Press that Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly was afraid something horrible had happened to Rodriguez. Four days later his worst fears were confirmed when Rodriguez's body was found. It didn't take long for authorities to arrest someone they had suspected was involved in her death. Where is Joseph Pabon now? Here's what we know.

Photo of Eridania Rodriguez used by the Associated Press once she went missing
Source: YouTube/AP Archive (video still)

Photo of Eridania Rodriguez used by the Associated Press once she went missing

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Where is Joseph Pabon now? He is currently serving a 25 years to life prison sentence.

Pabon is currently serving a sentence of 25 years to life in Sing Sing Correctional Facility, in Ossining, N.Y. The earliest he will be eligible for parole is July 12, 2034.

In June 2012, nearly three years after Rodriquez was killed, Pabon was sentenced by Justice Maxwell Wiley of State Supreme Court in Manhattan after assistant district attorney Christine Keenan requested the maximum punishment. While arguing for this, she told the court, "These are the acts of a despicable, soulless human being."

The New York Times reported that Keenan also pointed out the warning signs in Pabon's behavior both before and after he committed this heinous act. He had a history of violence toward his first wife and was "recorded on a Rikers Island telephone after his arrest making repeated violent threats to his current wife," per the outlet.

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During her victim impact statement, Rodriguez's daughter sobbed uncontrollably while conveying the absolute heartbreak she and her family were dealing with. The 29-year-old told the judge and the court that her mother's "horrible, disgusting death" haunted her. "My mother was a person full of positive thoughts,” she said. “I miss seeing her, spending time with her. I miss her voice, her laughs." Pabon never revealed to police why he killed Rodriguez and chose to remain silent during his sentencing.

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What happened to Eridania Rodriguez?

On the night she was murdered, Rodriguez was scheduled to clean floors 5 through 8, per SI Live. The eighth floor was empty, and it was there her abandoned cleaning cart was found. It was later discovered that Pabon — who was there "running a freight elevator as movers cleared furniture out of a recently vacated office," per the outlet — had asked another employee where Rodriguez was before claiming he had to go to the bathroom.

Security cameras were unable to locate Pabon for 42 minutes and when he finally returned, he had a shirt around his neck. Pabon then claimed he wasn't feeling well and went home early. Four days later, Rodriguez's body would be found stuffed in an air duct. She had been suffocated using industrial tape. Strangely, Pabon had affixed a gold crucifix to her mouth. Police noticed scratch marks on Pabon who willingly submitted to a DNA test. That ended up matching DNA found under Rodriguez's fingernails.

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