Suffolk County D.A.: Manorville man pleads guilty to manslaughter

Suffolk County D.A.: Manorville man pleads guilty to manslaughter

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Faustino Cruz-Marquez

Suffolk County District Attorney Raymond A. Tierney on May 4 announced that 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 Velasquez Zhau,” 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, 2020, 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. 

Through the course of the investigation, it was revealed that another farm worker, Javier Santos Moreno, 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.