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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Police say cabdriver killed sex offender

1-28-2004 New York:
YONKERS — Police yesterday identified 24-year-old Joshua Torres of Yonkers as the man who fatally shot a paroled sex offender as he walked along a street in the southwest section of the city Monday, and said Torres believed the man had molested his 2-year-old daughter.

"We consider Mr. Torres to be armed and dangerous," Police Commissioner Robert Taggart said yesterday during a news conference where he called on Torres to surrender. "This man has a violent criminal history."

Torres is accused of shooting at 50-year-old Richard L. Tunley nine times, striking him with six bullets outside 290 Riverdale Ave. shortly after 4 a.m.

Detectives obtained an arrest warrant charging Torres with second-degree murder, a felony, Taggart said. Torres contacted police twice since the shooting to arrange a surrender but reneged. Police said they will contact the FBI's violent fugitive task force to help them find Torres.

The Tunley homicide — the city's first of the year — was the violent end to a series of events that unfolded in a Nodine Hill apartment Sunday.

Tunley's sister, Leandra DeGree, 54, yesterday said Tunley had been living with another sister, Denise, at 26 Loudoun St. in Yonkers, but he sometimes stayed with his niece on Elm Street at Van Cortlandt Park Avenue. There — despite his classification as a Level 3 sex offender — he baby-sat for the niece's 2-year-old child and two other children.

According to Tunley's family, the baby began to cry around 2 p.m., and Tunley went to change her diaper. He was about to put on a fresh diaper when an unidentified nephew, who is in his 20s, walked into the room. At this point, accounts by police and family differ. DeGree said Tunley was simply caring for the child. But police said the nephew told them he caught Tunley in the act of molestation.

Another nephew, James DeGree, 35, also said yesterday he didn't believe Tunley had done anything to the child.

Police and Tunley's family agree, however, on what happened next: The nephew who walked in on the diaper change viciously beat Tunley, breaking his jaw, teeth and ribs, and then the baby's mother threw Tunley out of the apartment. After Tunley left the apartment, his niece called her boyfriend, Torres, a cabdriver. Torres arrived, and he, Tunley's nephew and another unidentified man jumped into a car to look for him and beat him again.

"If they beat him, why beat him again and shoot him like an animal in the street?" asked Haygood Tunley, a brother of the victim.

Tunley, fearing that he would be pursued, called his girlfriend and told her he was afraid for his life. For safety, he took a different route home to avoid the pursuers, his family said.

Torres and the others checked his girlfriend's house, another sister's home and just after 4 a.m., spotted Tunley walking on Riverdale Avenue and shot him, Leandra DeGree said. After the shooting, Tunley's nephew returned home and went to sleep, his family said.

Taggart said a doctor examined the toddler and the two other children and determined that they were not sexually abused.

Some of Tunley's relatives yesterday said they are furious that the slain man was portrayed as a worthless sex offender. "He did not give him a chance to explain," said Leandra DeGree, referring to the nephew. They were upset that police found the nephew and did not arrest him.

"They let him go," said James DeGree. "He is an accessory to murder, and they let him go."

Meanwhile, Taggart yesterday said Tunley had registered with police last fall after moving to Loudoun Street. The commissioner said Monday that Tunley had not registered. Police, however, had not yet notified residents in the Loudoun Street area that the sex offender was living there. In the past, police notified residents in two other neighborhoods that Tunley lived in their area.

Tunley had 15 arrests, including six felonies and nine misdemeanors, and a third-degree rape conviction.

Torres was convicted of third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, a felony, on Oct. 25, 1999. In July 1999, he was convicted of second-degree assault. He was convicted of criminal sale of a controlled substance in October 1997. He also has a conviction for fifth-degree criminal possession of a marijuana. ..more.. by

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