NOTE: This story was originally published on April 5, 2013, and is from our news archive.
A 2-year-old girl's brave actions were what allowed her mother to emerge from days of rape and torture, and may have even prevented her mom's death, according to prosecutors. The toddler told a neighbor about the deadly abuse, and the neighbor called the police.
That neighbor, and the little girl's family, spoke exclusively with PIX11 News about the girl's heroics.
"She said, 'My daddy tied my mommy's feet, and she had ketchup everywhere on her body and he pulled her by her hair," neighbor Lisa Zayas said. She called police after the little girl gave a chilling description of what had gone on in her Bedford-Stuyvesant apartment over the first three weekdays of this week.
"She said, 'I was saying, 'Daddy, don't do that. That's not nice, don't do that to my mommy." The girl's father, Alex Anselmo, 29, violated a protective order, prosecutors said, by going into the public housing building on Monday where his ex-girlfriend lives with their two daughters, 6 and 2.
According to prosecutors, Anselmo stood outside of his ex-girlfriend's apartment door, and when she was making a routine exit, he forced his way in. That began the three-day ordeal of torture.
According to the criminal complaint against him, Anselmo handcuffed his former girlfriend to her bed and raped her repeatedly. He then cut tendons in her feet to prevent her from being able to escape, gagged her, and then over the next three days, while she was handcuffed to a radiator and a bathroom sink, as well as the bed, he raped her again and again, and at one point used electric clippers to cut off all of her hair. He also used a knife to slash parts of her body, and on the third day, he pointed a gun at her, asking, "Which leg do you want to be shot in?"
The couple's daughters Anselmo kept in the apartment all three days, until on Wednesday morning he contacted the girls' grandmother. He told her that she needed to pick up the girls because their mother had gone for good. When the grandmother showed up, neighbor Lisa Zayas said, "He just opened the door and slid [the girls] out of the door, a crack."
Zayas told PIX11 News that she'd opened her door, and saw the girls and their grandmother in the hallway. The girls had on no outerwear. Zayas gave them hats and scarves, and they went off to school with their grandmother, after the toddler expressed her fear.
"She goes, 'My mommy is gonna sleep forever,'" said Zayas, who added that she first had to think about whether or not the little girl was imagining things, or if she was giving an accurate account. Zayas said that a carpenter who'd been working in her apartment when the girls had been at the door told her that she should call police.
Also, Zayas said, the girls' grandmother had confided in her that she was fearful because Anselmo had beaten the grandmother in the past. "I had the courage," Zayas told PIX11 News, to call police.
Emergency Services Unit cops burst down the door Wednesday evening, when nobody would open up. The scene they found was bloody, and intense.
"They said, 'Get down, get down!'" Zayas said. "[The woman] was in there. I couldn't believe it. The little girl knew what she was saying. She's 2 years old!"
Friday afternoon, the victim's sisters and other family members returned to the apartment to collect their relative's things. They said they were concerned at how long it took for Zayas to make the 911 call, but didn't realize that their loved one had been gagged and immobilized the entire time.
The family members ended up embracing Zayas, in appreciation of her doing the right thing. "Thank you so much," one close relative, Kirk Wesley, told Zayas in the hallway outside of the scene of the crime.
"Would I call the two year-old girl a hero?" asked Wesley. "Absolutely. Obviously, she was raised right." Wesley does not have the same last name as the victim, and PIX11, as a policy, does not identify victims of sex crimes.
Anselmo made his first court appearance Friday morning, and the judge ordered him to remain in jail without bail. His former girlfriend, according to her family, is in rough shape, but is expected to make a full recovery.
Anselmo may also be in the country illegally, according to the court proceedings. It is possible that he will be deported as a criminal, but for now he remains behind bars with virtually no possibility of release until his trial.