Saturday, May 1, 2010

"Boyfriend" sentenced to 25 years for slaying of woman in NYU apartment

A man who choked his girlfriend to death inside her mother's apartment was sentenced to 25 years for 1st degree manslaughter Wednesday in a Manhattan courtroom. Michael Cordero plead guilty to 1st degree manslaughter in a Manhattan courtroom for the chance to avoid life behind bars.

Mr. Cordero, 26, pleaded guilty last month to manslaughter for the 2007 killing of Boitumelo McCallum, the daughter of two New York University professors. In exchange for his guilty plea, Mr. Cordero was promised a 25-year sentence.

The killing took place early Wednesday, August 1, 2007, at her mother's NYU owned apartment in Greenwich Village. Cordero was angry that his victim threw a bash inside the apartment without inviting him, and choked her to death so hard that her nose bled. After the slaying, Cordero wrapped a bloody towel around her head and wrapped it in bedsheets, which he stuffed between the bed and the wall of the apartment. On Sunday, August 5, tenants who sublet the apartment from the victim's parents found "Tumi's" rotting body and called police.

Justice Bonnie G. Wittner of State Supreme Court in Manhattan had said that she would not have accepted the plea deal without the parents’ consent. Ms. McCallum’s parents, Teboho Moja and Robert McCallum, did accept the deal, but they still had words that were both touching and harsh.

The victim's father said, "You made the relationship about power and domination, rather than about love and compassion. That is why Tumi was trying to move away from you. Tumi was scared of you. I tried as much as I could to protect her, but you did everything behind my back and that of our family to get to her one final time.”

The victim's mother also had a statement read for her by Manhattan Assistant District attorney Martha Bashford. “You barehandedly killed my child. Your hands are stained forever with her blood.”

"Michael Cordero added insult to injury by making us bury our loved one in unrecognizable image. Her decomposed body is buried and memories of her charming smile live in our hearts. Her infectious laughter and her voice calling out ‘mummy’ still rings in my ears.”

[Neighbors knew] McCallum as the bubbly daughter of the two professors. Her mother, Teboho Moja, is a professor at NYU's Steinhardt School of Education.

Moja was part of the board of UNESCO's Institute for International Education Planning, appointed by then-South African President Nelson Mandela to draw up higher education reforms for the country.

The slain woman's father, Robert McCallum, is an adjunct professor in art education at NYU. "She was a regular girl, a pretty girl, a typical college student," said Dan Lee, a filmmaker who lived down the hall. "She wasn't edgy. She's not the type of girl who would get into trouble."

McCallum graduated from the Beacon School, a selective public school in Manhattan, in 2005 and attended Mills College in Oakland, Calif., for two semesters. But she had not returned to the college since finishing spring semester in 2006.

A native of South Africa, she moved to the city with her parents as a young child and while in high school worked for two years at the American Museum of Natural History learning how to isolate, amplify, sequence and edit DNA.

"She didn't have a green card and neither did I. We bonded over that in the lab," said her pal Bernard Laszczower, 19.

Cordero, in court, said that "Just living without her is a fate worse than death - or imprisonment," he said. "I know what I did was wrong. ... It was just something that happened." However, the victim's parents said his "apology" statement was just another self serving ploy designed to shift blame and minimize the impact of his crime.  McCallum said that "In the time that I've known him, he's always had an excuse for his behavior. One wants to be compassionate, but I'm sorry I couldn't be."

Moja said, He said, 'I'll die from loneliness.' We're all going to miss her. What about us? We weren't a part of his equation. If he can't have her, nobody else should have her - not another guy, not his family. I feel like I've seen him for the last time, and I want to keep it that way. Looking in the face of a killer is something that I cannot explain."

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