Nightmare Murder In Big Apple

This photo provided by the Harrington Park, N.J. Police shows Jennifer Moore in an undated photo. AP/THE BERGEN RECORD

A suburban teenager described by her father as "bright and funny" was found dead in a trash bin in New Jersey after a night out clubbing, and police later arrested a drifter accused of strangling her in a nearby motel, authorities said.

The body of 18-year-old Jennifer Moore, of Harrington Park, N.J., was discovered at about 4:30 a.m. Thursday, about 48 hours after she disappeared from Manhattan's West Side Highway.

Witnesses said the recent high school graduate was last seen walking uptown in a black halter top and a white miniskirt.

A New Jersey judge signed an arrest warrant Thursday charging Draymond Coleman, 35, of New York City, with the slaying. New York police officers had taken Coleman — who has an extensive arrest record and no permanent address — into custody earlier in the day at a dive hotel in Manhattan.

Speaking to reporters Thursday outside their home, the victim's father, Hugh Moore, said, "I think you all know by now we've learned the worst possible news. Jennifer's been taken from us."

A law enforcement official told The Associated Press that New York police believe Moore was lured or forced into a yellow cab. Her killer then took her to a motel across the Hudson River in Weehawken, N.J., where she was strangled, said the official. Her body was found in nearby West New York, N.J.

Officials said surveillance video from the motel showed Coleman entering the building with Moore early Tuesday, according to published reports Friday.

The Hudson County medical examiner ruled the teen's death a homicide and said the cause was blunt force trauma to the head and strangulation.

Moore's death followed a night of partying with a friend that ended at the Guest House, a nightclub in Manhattan's trendy Chelsea neighborhood. When they left the club early Tuesday, they discovered the friend's red Dodge sedan had been towed, police said.

The pair tried to retrieve the car at a tow pound on the West Side Highway. But Moore's friend passed out there and had to be taken by ambulance to the hospital. Moore stayed behind — and wandered away.

The New York Post reported Thursday that Moore called her boyfriend at about 5 a.m. to say she was lost. He told her to call a taxi. But when the boyfriend tried to call her back a short time later, there was no answer, the newspaper said.

Earlier Thursday, before the identification of Moore's body had been confirmed, her father told reporters, "No one should have to lose a child. You can imagine, it's devastating. All the friends, everyone feels they could have done something that could have made a difference.

"She was someone who was smart and bright and funny," he said. "Wrong place, wrong time. It could happen to anybody."

Moore graduated from Saddle River Day School in May and was enrolled at the University of Hartford for the fall, her father said. Her hometown of Harrington Park is a quiet suburban town of 4,740 people in northern New Jersey.

The suspect has done time on a drug charge, and police said he has prior arrests for robbery and assault. It was not known if he had a lawyer.
  • Dan Collins

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