Just days after his arrest, Corona residents offered mixed perceptions of David Tarloff — a man who, by several accounts, appeared “a little off” — but whom many did not believe capable of committing murder.
Psychologist Kathryn Faughey, 56, was attacked with a meat cleaver and killed at her Manhattan office on East 79th Street. Dr. Kent Shinbach, a colleague who tried to help her, was left seriously injured as a result of the Feb. 12 attack.
On Saturday, Feb. 16, police arrested Tarloff, 39, at his Corona apartment, located at 99-45 60th Ave. At a press conference held that day, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said “forensic evidence and Tarloff’s own words placed him at the scene of the crime.” Video surveillance at Faughey’s office building also showed him entering the building twice — first around 6:30 p.m., then again at 8 p.m. — and also showed him leaving about an hour after his second visit, during which time the attack allegedly took place.
Tarloff was also identified by witnesses in lineups that afternoon, Kelly said. Investigators matched his fingerprints to those at the crime scene.
Sixtieth Avenue was swarming with police activity on Saturday as Tarloff was escorted by police from his apartment to the 19th Precinct in Manhattan. Police barriers remained across the street from his apartment building this week.
Neighbor Bruce Wayne, who lives on the same floor as Tarloff, said the suspect had mental problems, and often walked up and down the hallways looking spacey.
“He was sick for years,” Wayne said. “But no one ever thought he would kill anyone.” He described Tarloff as a quiet man who often wore the same clothes. Although he was never frightened of Tarloff, Wayne said his girlfriend was afraid to take the elevator with him. Several days before the attack, she saw Tarloff pacing and mumbling to himself.
Wayne said most residents were surprised at the news that Tarloff had been arrested. Tarloff was living alone in his apartment at the time of his arrest, but Wayne noted that his mother had lived there with him until about two years ago. Following his arrest, several reports portrayed Tarloff as a man frustrated with his mother’s placement in a nursing home.
On Monday, at VIA Design Furniture on 99th Street, Khalid Messa was reviewing security footage. Tarloff had often come into his store asking to borrow money and inquiring if he could purchase furniture on credit. “He always talked about his mother,” Messa said. “He wanted to get his mom out of the nursing home.”
Messa described Tarloff as a polite man, who sometimes acted erratically and spoke incoherently, leading him to believe Tarloff might have been on drugs. “Basically he used to come here and ask for small loans,” Messa added. “He always paid me back.”
In fact, Tarloff returned to Messa’s store on Wednesday, Feb. 13, to pay him the last $10 he owed him. He came back to the store the following day to ask about furniture.
Fahad Waris, an employee at Axcess Mega Mart, a deli and grocery store on 99th Street, said Tarloff often came by to shop, sometimes picking up the paper and a sandwich. He was portrayed as quiet and kept to himself. “There was nothing extraordinary that would make us think he was abnormal.”
Reports published after Tarloff’s appearance in Manhattan Criminal Court on Sunday painted him as disturbed and confused, and seemingly under the impression that his lawyer was Al Sharpton. The presiding judge ordered Tarloff to undergo psychiatric evaluation, and he was brought to Bellevue Hospital.
According to the New York Times, Shinbach played a role in institutionalizing Tarloff 17 years ago. Investigators quoted in the same article indicated that Tarloff said he wanted to rob the doctor.
Statements from Tarloff’s family, including his father and brother, recounted a long history of mental illness and a strong connection to his mother. Kelly noted a prior arrest for assault on Feb. 1 at a hospital in Far Rockaway where his mother resided.
A group of neighborhood teenagers, who often played football with Tarloff outside his apartment building, said he would often ask them to be quiet because his mother was sleeping. Despite being a bit strange — one boy noted that Tarloff would often make odd faces as though stretching his jaw — the four boys agreed that Tarloff had always been nice to them.
Sophie Pulos, a 50-year resident at Tarloff’s apartment building, remembered him as a young boy. “He always appeared as a lonely child looking for company,” she said. “Like every child at that age.”