New details in death of NYC woman, 92, allegedly killed by much-younger roommate

NEW YORK -- Disturbing new details are emerging about the 92-year-old woman allegedly choked and smothered by her much younger roommate in New York City's SoHo. Friends and family told CBS New York they believed the fun-loving Veronica Ivins was preyed upon for her finances and then allegedly killed by the roommate.

Police say Enrique Leyva, 47, choked her and used a pillow to smother her. He was arrested Thursday on murder charges. 

"This was extremely avoidable. We all saw a bad thing coming, we tried to prevent it for two years," said Brooklyn Lastra, a neighbor.

Ivins often sang at Our Lady of Pompeii Senior Center in the West Village.

Neighbors say the suspect moved in with Ivins a few years ago. They said he had dated another tenant in the building and got to know Ivins. Her nephew told CBS New York he tried to warn her that the roommate and his friend were after her money, but she thought they could be trusted, and that he was helping her.

"Three years ago, I saw her daughter passed away, and she was in a vulnerable position," said neighbor Meghan Loveland.

That's when Leyva moved in, and a man named Christopher, who is allegedly the suspect's boyfriend.

Neighbors say her behavior changed drastically.

"She would go out and make sure she looked nice, make sure she looked put together. We realized she was starting to walk around in raggedy shirts and sometimes with feces or dirt on them," Lastra said. "There's roaches, mice, she hasn't had working gas in over two years. No stove. She doesn't use her tub because the ceiling is collapsing."

Clothes could be seen on top of the stove inside the apartment.

Neighbors say fighting could be heard through the walls between the two men.

"And things were being heard that were violent," Lastra said. "Furniture breaking, glass breaking."

Neighbors told CBS New York Ivins lived there for roughly 50 years, and her so-called roommates may have been trying to inherit her rent-controlled apartment.

"They used to come over for dinner parties with what I thought was her adopted son, Enrique," one neighbor said.

Neighbors said they called authorities to come in multiple times.