Stepfather of woman found in Hudson River pleads not guilty

TROY, N.Y. (NEWS10) –Johnny Oquendo calmly stood by his attorney in court Tuesday morning who entered not guilty pleas on his behalf.

Oquendo was charged in a three-count indictment handed down by a Rensselaer County Grand Jury charging him with 2nd-degree murder, strangulation, and concealment of a human corpse.

Oquendo is accused of strangling his stepdaughter Noel Alkaramla sometime around November 22, 2015. Her body was later found in a suitcase in the Hudson River. He was a suspect in Noel’s death, but before this weekend he was held only on a parole violation.

According to witness statements, Oquendo’s neighbors heard an argument and saw him leave with a large suitcase, the night Alkaramla disappeared..

Previous witness statements also say that about a week after her disappearance, Oquendo told a neighbor he needed a lawyer because “he messed up.”

Previously sources with knowledge of the case said noel’s body was found intact but she was naked. State police have said they found DNA evidence on Alkaramla that matches Oquendo’s.

Oquendo’s attorney says he is maintaining his innocence.

Rensselaer County District Attorney Joel Abelove explained why it took more than a year to charge Oquendo.

“There were a lot of things being investigated as you know during the pendency of the case we had filed some motions for a collection of DNA,” Joel Abelove, Rensselaer County District Attorney, said. “There’s analysis that had to be done. We were making sure that we were taking our time putting the case together knowing that he was in custody while this was going on.”

“He 100 percent vehemently denies these charges and he looks forward to a jury trial that everyone is assured in this country to have,” William Roberts, Attorney for Johnny Oquendo, said.

Oquendo’s attorney says he plans to file motions, he believes this indictment and information was leaked to the media prior and has an issue with how he says the indictment was delivered to the court.

Noel Alkaramla’s cousin and aunt were at court on Tuesday. They say it’s a very upsetting time for them but they are relieved that Oquendo has been charged with her murder.

It could be some time before this case does eventually go to trial. There will be motions filed and it will be quite a lengthy process, according to the district attorney.

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