LOWER MANHATTAN (PIX11) — The widow of an Argentine bicyclist who was killed in the Halloween 2017 truck attack testified Monday that her husband, Hernan Mendoza, called her on Wi-Fi from New York City’s Meatpacking District 30 minutes before he was mowed down by a 6,000-pound truck.
Her appearance came during the death penalty phase of a federal trial, just over two weeks after Uzbek immigrant Sayfullo Saipov was convicted of killing eight people and injuring 18 others, when he sped down West Street in a rented Home Depot truck from New Jersey.
Ana Evans was the first relative to testify Monday afternoon, telling the jury her husband was a doting father of three who was sending lots of photos from his New York City trip during a high school reunion with friends.
“He attached a video of the market,” Ana Evans, the widow, testified.
Prosecutors then played a recording of Hernan Mendoza talking to his wife enthusiastically about the well-known Manhattan spot on the West Side.
“Meat Packaging is the name of the district,” Mendoza said in Spanish on the call. “There’s Wi-Fi in this place.”
Just about a half-hour later, Mendoza and four fellow Argentines were killed on their bicycles as they rode on the West Street bike path, along with a Belgian mom who was cycling and two pedestrians: Nicholas Cleves of New York and Darren Drake of New Jersey.
The court day began with a federal prosecutor calling on the jury to sentence Saipov to death instead of life without parole.
“He is proud of what he has done,” the prosecutor said. “He crushed a crowd of innocent people.”
Saipov was convicted of killing in the name of the ISIS terror organization, and the prosecutor said he has taunted corrections officers that he would slit their throats if given the chance.
“The evidence shows he is dangerous, even in prison,” the prosecutor added. “The United States is seeking the death sentence.”
The request for death came even as President Joe Biden issued a moratorium on federal executions when he took office in 2021. There has not been an execution in a federal case in New York state since 1954.
One of Saipov’s defense attorneys asked the jury to choose life without parole, arguing, “The cycle of death has to stop somewhere.”
The defense said Saipov had a close, loving family who didn’t recognize the radicalized version of their firstborn, an only son.
“Maybe someday he will wake up and say what I did was wrong,” the defense attorney said.
The defense said it hoped justice would prevail over barbarism.
Many Argentine relatives arrived at court Monday in NYPD vehicles along with relatives of Belgian victims.
One survivor who suffered a horrific injury, Marion Van Reeth, arrived in a wheelchair. Van Reeth, now 58, lost both legs after the attack.
Van Reeth came to court with her husband and son, who both suffered skull fractures in the terror attack.
Prosecutors told the jury the stories of victims’ families will be difficult to hear.
The government noted the mother of Nicholas Cleves, the 23-year-old New Yorker who was killed, still has her son’s pajamas hanging in his bedroom closet — the way he left them on the day he was murdered.