Women testify against NY bouncer at murder trial
NEW YORK — The young women say their ordeals began when a stocky man dressed in fatigues stopped them on the streets of New York City in 2005 and demanded their IDs.
Their guard down, they became victims of eerily similar abductions. Both survived to tell about it. But graduate student Imette St. Guillen wasn’t as fortunate.
Three years later, authorities allege a nightclub bouncer, Darryl Littlejohn, was the same person who killed St. Guillen and accosted the other women. His ongoing murder trial in Brooklyn has featured chilling testimony of the survivors and dredged up memories of the notorious “preppie killer” case from the 1980s.
Littlejohn — a parolee working at a Manhattan lounge where St. Guillen was last seen alive on Feb. 25, 2006 — has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in a case expected to go to a Brooklyn jury sometime this week. He already is serving a sentence of 25 years to life in the kidnapping of one of the other two women victimized in what police say was a sexual assault spree.
At the time of St. Guillen’s death, the 24-year-old from Boston was studying criminal justice at John Jay College in Manhattan. A friend had demanded they take a cab home together after a night of drinking. But St. Guillen set off for another bar.
“I stood there and I watched her walk away,” the friend testified before breaking into tears.
Witnesses told investigators that when St. Guillen refused to leave The Falls lounge at closing, manager Danny Dorrian ordered Littlejohn to escort her out a side door. Dorrian’s family owns Dorrian’s Red Hand, the Upper East Side bar that gained notoriety as the place where “preppie killer” Robert Chambers met Jennifer Levin before killing her in Central Park.
Some witnesses described a drunken St. Guillen as being combative, telling Littlejohn, “I’m an FBI agent,” prosecutors said. Littlejohn, a law enforcement buff, responded: “I’m a U.S. Marshal.”
St. Guillen’s nude body turned up the next evening miles away in a desolate section of Brooklyn, her neck bruised, mouth stuffed with a white sock and taped shut, and hands bound behind her back with a plastic tie.
Littlejohn’s attorneys have theorized St. Guillen had stayed inside the bar well past 4 a.m. for an after-hours party, and could have had a fight with Dorrian, also a trial witness. He admitted given his family’s history with the Chambers case, he initially wasn’t forthcoming with investigators about kicking out St. Guillen.
“I could just imagine some the repercussions — lawsuits, police, bad press,” he said. But he denied trying to conceal anything criminal on his part.
Jurors also have heard hours of testimony by investigators about “CSI”-style evidence as a straight-faced 41-year-old Littlejohn sat at the defense table and scribbled on a notepad.
Police said they learned through cell phone tower records that Littlejohn’s phone had been used the day after St. Guillen’s killing in the area where her body was dumped. They also say Littlejohn’s DNA was found on the plastic tie, and they discovered a hair from his mother and fibers from his apartment on an old bedspread that had been wrapped around the body.
But the trial’s most dramatic moments are owed to a key pretrial ruling: Over defense objections, the judge allowed testimony from the other two women, saying there were “striking similarities” between the three incidents.
The first to take the witness stand, Shanai Woodard, recalled walking home from class at a Queens college when Littlejohn approached her with a gun and wearing a jacket saying “Fugitive Agency.”
After asking for her identification, he suddenly handcuffed her, she said. She thought she was under arrest and asked to call her sister. He ignored her and threw her into the back of a van.
“I realized at that point he wasn’t an officer,” the 23-year-old Woodard said.
When she tried to escape, he punched her in the head and told her to stop “trying to be slick.” Woodard testified she pleaded, “Why are you doing this? What did I do?”
She tried flee again, this time putting her back against the door so her shackled hands could locate the handle. When the door flew open, she “tumbled to the ground really hard” and “ran to the first door I saw.”
The second woman, a 25-year-old Japanese woman with a student visa, testified she couldn’t identify her assailant. But she recounted that only three days before Woodard’s abduction, a man who looked like a police officer drove up to her — also in Queens — got out his car and pulled a gun.
She said through an interpreter he handcuffed her and threw a jacket over her head as she pleaded with him not to kill her. It got worse, she said, when they arrived at what she sensed was a basement room: “A knit cap was placed on my head wrapped with duct tape. … I could not see.”
He handcuffed her to the bed and raped her, she said. Afterward, he took her clothes and gave her a T-shirt and shorts to wear.
Littlejohn hasn’t been charged in the attack, but investigators say DNA matching his mother was found on the T-shirt.
The man later dropped her off in her neighborhood and ordered her to close her eyes.
Then, she said, “He just sped off.”