The Tragic Story Of Reyna Marroquin's Murder

On September 2, 1999, a man named Ronald Cohen had just sold his house in Long Island to Hamid Tafaghodi, who requested to have the property cleared of debris before he moved in. The sanitation department that picked up items left a 55-gallon drum, as its 345-pound weight was too heavy for them to move (via The Criminal Journal). The content piqued Cohen's curiosity, and as he opened the barrel, he was surprised to see what looked like a human hand and a woman's shoe.

Cohen called authorities to his home to investigate the barrel, and they discovered the mummified body of a pregnant woman. Inside the barrel were also plastic pellets that were commonly used in packaging, an address book, makeup, a plastic stem, and green liquid, as reported by The Criminal Journal. Authorities didn't know it yet, but they had just found Reyna Marroquin, a woman who went missing in 1969.

Cohen was questioned about the barrel, and he explained that it had been in the home since he moved in. Per Medium, investigators found out that the house was constructed in 1957, and there were only four homeowners before Cohen. When questioned, the second owner of the home discovered the barrel when he had an addition built to the house, but he just set it aside and forgot about it.

The clues found in the barrel

An autopsy revealed that the body in the barrel was a petite woman with black hair. Further investigation showed that she was pregnant with a baby boy that was nearly full-term. The woman suffered from blunt-force trauma to the head, and the medical examiner reported finding 10 lacerations to the back of the head and multiple fractures to the skull (via Forensic Files). The autopsy also determined that the woman was Hispanic and was between the ages of 20 and 30 at the time of her death. The unique dental procedure on her teeth led the examiner to believe that she was from a South American country.

Detectives traced the origin of the barrel, and they confirmed that it came from Melrose Plastics, a company in Manhattan that specialized in artificial flowers in the 1960s, as reported by the New York Daily News. That also explained the presence of the plastic stem inside the barrel.

The address book and a note found inside the barrel were damaged but fortunately, forensic technicians were able to find a way to see the writing via a video spectral comparitor, according to CBS News. The note read, "Don't be mad I told the truth" and "Marroquin" was written on the address book, along with an immigrant visa number, which led detectives to the name Reyna Marroquin. Another name on the address book, Katy Andrade, was also found, and she still resided at the address that was indicated.

Who was Reyna Marroquin?

Detectives questioned Katy Andrade about Reyna Marroquin. She said they were best friends, but she had no idea what happened to her; she just disappeared. Andrade also stated that she feared her friend met with foul play, per Forensic Files.

Reyna Angelica Marroquin was born in El Salvador in 1941. She immigrated to the U.S. in 1966 to seek a better life after the end of her marriage. The young woman took English classes where she met Andrade, and she was able to secure a job at the factory of Melrose Plastics painting artificial flowers. According to Andrade, as reported by New York Daily News, Marroquin was a sweet girl who had dreams of making it in the fashion industry, and she studied fashion at the High School of Fashion Industries.

Marroquin was ecstatic about chasing her dreams in the U.S. and was fascinated by the culture. She regularly sent letters to her family in El Salvador and updated them about her life. However, the letters stopped coming in 1969.

The affair

Katy Andrade was able to provide pertinent information about Reyna Marroquin that gave detectives a clearer picture of what happened to her. In the months leading to her disappearance, Andrade said that her friend had been acting strange, as reported by Medium. When she asked Marroquin what was wrong, she confided in her that she was pregnant but she didn't name the father of the child. The only information she provided was that her boyfriend was married and had three children.

Marroquin resided at a shelter run by nuns when she arrived in the U.S. However, her boyfriend rented an apartment for her in New Jersey upon learning that she was pregnant. He also paid for a doctor to oversee Marroquin's pregnancy, according to the New York Post. Marroquin said that the man was willing to leave his wife and have a family with her, and he took very good care of her during her pregnancy.

What happened to Reyna Marroquin?

As the months went by and Reyna Marroquin grew closer to her due date, it became evident to her that the father of her child wasn't going to leave his wife. According to the New York Post, Marroquin called Katy Andrade in a panic one day and told her that she did something terribly wrong; she called her boyfriend's wife and told her about the affair, as well as the upcoming birth of their child, which in turn angered the man. Marroquin told Andrade that she feared he was going to kill her.

Andrade headed to Marroquin's apartment to check on her friend, but when she got there, Marroquin was nowhere to be found. The door was unlocked and she waited for a few hours, hoping that Marroquin would soon return. Three hours went by, and that's when Andrade decided to go to the police station to report her friend missing. As she told Forensic Files, the police seemed to brush off her report and said that Marroquin might have just left with her boyfriend and to come back the following week if she was still missing. She was also told that she couldn't file a report anyway, as she wasn't a relative of the missing person. Furthermore, she didn't know the identity of Marroquin's boyfriend. It wasn't until decades years later that she learned what happened to her friend.

Who was the father of her baby?

As more details emerged, detectives were able to piece together the puzzle. Through interviews and thorough investigation, they were able to determine the identity of Reyna Marroquin's boyfriend: Howard Elkins. Elkins was a co-owner of Melrose Plastics, and he was also the original owner of the house where the barrel containing Marroquin's remains was found, as reported by Sun Sentinel. Detectives located 70-year-old Elkins in Florida and questioned him about Marroquin. He denied knowing her and told authorities that he had no idea about the drum found in his former home. He refused to give a DNA sample, and detectives told him they would be back with a court order.

The following day, detectives were alerted that Elkins was found dead of a shotgun wound to the head. He died by suicide, and although he wasn't charged before his death, authorities said that the act was an admission of guilt. Investigators think that Elkins killed Marroquin in a fit of rage after she revealed their affair to his wife. DNA was acquired from Elkins' body, and it confirmed that he was the father of Marroquin's unborn child. According to Medium, Marroquin's body was flown back to El Salvador. Her 95-year-old mother buried her before she passed away just a month later.