Montengro Citizen Convicted in Brooklyn Navy Yard Cold Case

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A citizen of Montenegro was convicted last week for the murder and mutilation of a woman in Brooklyn, where he had been working as a taxi driver.

Smail Tulja, 69, has been called the Navy Yard Butcher, after the location of his crime. According to authorities, Yugoslav immigrant Mary Beal had dated Tulja for a brief period in 1990, after meeting at the courthouse where Beal was an interpreter. They broke up after an argument about money, and family members reported Beal missing in September 2001. Three weeks later, her decapitated and dismembered body was found in two bags near the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

After bloodstains were found in Tulja’s Bronx apartment, detectives suspected him of Beal’s murder. The Montenegro native had already left the United States, however, and it was not until 2007 that detectives were able to track him down in Montenegro and arrest him there, on an FBI warrant that was forwarded to Interpol. The break in the case came when the Cold Case and Apprehension Squad of the NYPD learned that two women had been killed and dismembered in Albania, which borders Montenegro, in a manner similar to Beal’s case. They were able to locate Tulja based on fingerprints which had been taken during an earlier arrest.

During trial, the court said that Tulja had “hit Mary Beal on the head with a blunt object and then used knife and a saw to cut her body and leave it at three different places.”

Tulja has also been investigated in the deaths of at least five additional women in the Belgian town of Mons. Owing to the surgical precision with which these women were dismembered, the Belgian media dubbed the killer the “Butcher of Mons.”

The case has taken two years to resolve. In February 2009, witnesses—who included two medical examiners and some of the victim’s former neighbors—gave their testimony from Kings County Supreme Court in Brooklyn via satellite. Tulja, who admitted during trial that he had know Mary Beal but denied killing her, could not be tried in the United States because the laws of Montenegro do not permit its citizens to be extradited.

Tulja was sentenced to serve 12 years in prison, atlhough he had pleaded innocent to the murder and mutilation. His lawyer, Zeljko Jocic, has stated that they will take the case to an appeals court.

 

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