2006_10_faiello.jpgOver three years after Maria Cruz's death, Dean Faiello finally pleaded guilty to first-degree assault in her death. Faiello had posed as a doctor and was removing a growth from Cruz's tongue in April 2003. It's hard to decide what's more reprehensible: That Faiello was on cocaine while performing surgery or that after he realized Cruz had a reaction to lidocaine, he deliberately didn't take her to the hospital because he was already being investigated for practicing medicine without a license. Faiello had even called a doctor friend who said he should take Cruz to the hospital. Cruz died, and Faiello buried her body in the concrete floor basement of his basement in Newark.

Faiello had already fled to Costa Rica when the body was uncovered in 2004, and the NYPD dispatched detectives to find him. Then it took another year to extradite him (during his indictment last year, Faiello was holding a Harry Potter book). Faiello's doctor friend David Goldschmitt told the Post last year, "I could have saved her, somebody could have saved her, if Dean had just called an ambulance."

With the guilty plea to first-degree assault, Faiello avoided the possibility of a murder sentence (25 years to life). Cruz's family tells the Daily News they are satisfied, because they will not have to deal with a trial. Faiello will be sentenced next month.