Diego Pillco, the construction worker who confessed to killing actress Adrienne Shelly last week during a noise dispute, was arraigned in Criminal Court and held without bail yesterday. Pillco, a 19 year old illegal immigrant from Ecuador, told the police that he had punched Shelly and, fearing she was dead, staged a suicide scene by hanging her from a shower rod. The Manhattan assistant district attorney Marit DeLozier said that Shelly died from "compression to the neck," not the punch, meaning she was probably just unconscious when she was hanged. Pillco did not enter a plea and was placed under suicide watch when remanded.
One of the more confounding things about the murder is how a complaint about construction noise could have become violent. NY Times and NY Post both have more detailed descriptions of how the fight may have started. Here's the Post's explanation:
The actress told Pillco - who speaks little English - to be quiet by putting a finger to her mouth and saying, "Shhhh," a source said.
Pillco yelled at her in Spanish to get out, descended from the ladder, picked up a hammer and pounded the floor with it before again ordering her to leave.
Pillco, who is at most an inch taller than the 5-foot-2 Shelly, then shoved her out of the apartment and closed the door. But Shelly reopened the door and slapped his face before heading back upstairs, sources said.
Pillco followed Shelly upstairs into her apartment, where she yelled at him to leave, and called him a "son of a bitch."
He responded by punching Shelly, knocking her to the ground, sources said. Law-enforcement sources said he may have hit her several times, and that she became unconscious.
It seems like there was a constant fear of being deported in Pillco's mind. A police source told the Times, "[Pillco] to stage this thing because he is trying to make it go away." Another investigator told the Post that Shelly "didn't go easily" during the fight, leaving scratches on Pillco's face (Pillco explained the scratches to the other construction workers by saying he got into a fight with movers.)
A friend tells the Daily News that Shelly's husband, Andrew Ostroy, who discovered her body and was insistent that she did not commit suicide, "is still in shock. I don't know if he'll ever get over this." Newsday reports that the contractor who hired Pillco expressed condolences to Ostroy and added about Pillco, "He just seemed to be another hard worker immigrant. We cannot comprehend how a regular working day turned into a crime scene."
The ME's office is still doing more tests to understand the cause of death.