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June 26, 2019

Cold case trial winds down some 30 years after murder in a Harlem hallway

June 13, 2019
Zunilda ?Suni? Rosario is seen in the hallway during a break in her murder trial in State Supreme Court on June 10, 2019 in New York. (Alec Tabak/for New York Daily News)

It wasn’t his drug connections that got known dealer Juan Deleon killed in a Harlem hallway nearly 30 years ago, a Manhattan prosecutor said Wednesday as both sides wrapped up a murder trial of the victim’s scorned girlfriend that was decades in the making.

Suspect Zunilda Rosario cried along with the victim’s mother and sister as an image of Deleon’s dead body was shown briefly during closing arguments. But Assistant Manhattan District Attorney Erin Tierney said Rosario didn’t share the family’s pain.

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“It’s not a drug execution,” Tierney told jurors in Manhattan Supreme Court. “It’s a murder by jealousy by a vengeful and hateful woman,”

Prosecutors said Rosario was livid that Deleon had fathered a child with another woman, and shot him eight times in the lobby of a drug-infested Harlem building, a murder that looked like a drug killing. She said two men entered the lobby and killed him.

Rosario’s lawyer, Frank Rothman, said there were serious discovery issues, including three photos he said were never introduced as evidence. He also said a key witness who cooked meals for Deleon’s drug-dealing crew said she was smoking crack the night Deleon was killed – information he said was never presented as evidence.

Zunilda “Suni” Rosario was charged in 2016 with killing Deleon on the night of Feb. 11, 1990. He was 20 at the time and the father of her two daughters.

Rothman said the Drug Enforcement Administration informant whose testimony in 2014 fingered Rosario was just trying to save his own skin. “From Day One, they misrepresented what this case is about,” Rothman said.

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“Not one person saw anyone shooting, saw her running out with a gun,or without a gun. Nobody saw anything,” he said.

Deliberations are expected to start Thursday.

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