Tanya Rush's brutal 2008 slaying remains mystery for daughter, police

New York State police continue to investigate the New York State police continue to investigate the murder case of Tanya Rush, whose body was found in a suitcase on the Newbridge Road exit on the westbound Southern State Parkway in North Bellmore on June 27, 2008. Photo Credit: New York State police

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When she was 15, in 2008, Tamela Turner tried to file a missing-person report on her mother, but not even her family took her seriously -- until a suitcase with a body was found on the Southern State Parkway.

Who dismembered Tanya Rush of Brooklyn and dumped her in North Bellmore remains a mystery. Police are offering as much as $2,500 for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the death of Rush, 39.

"There's not one day since her death that I have not thought about her," said Turner, 21, of Brooklyn. "I dream about her. For a while . . . I would always say, 'Ma, do you know people keep telling me you're dead?' Now, when I dream about her, she'll die again, but not the way she was found. I'm always at a funeral or I find her sick and ailing."

If not for a state road-cleaning crew, the body of Rush might not have been found on June 27, inside a black canvas suitcase in plain sight by the Newbridge Road ramp onto the westbound parkway.

"It was a particularly brutal murder," said State Police investigator Michael O'Sullivan. "There was a lot of rage in this."

Back then, O'Sullivan was pulled off the narcotics team to work the case on the Brooklyn side, helping to figure out the last days of Rush's life.

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She lived at the Van Dyke Houses, a Brownsville public housing complex, and was a drug addict and prostitute, police said. Surveillance cameras showed her leaving her building about 3 a.m. on June 23, walking on Livonia Avenue toward the subway station.

State investigators tracked down drug dealers, prostitutes and their customers, sometimes with just slivers of clues, such as people's nicknames.

"We handed out thousands of fliers," O'Sullivan said. "Do you know we never got one phone call? Not one. . . . Either it says the community doesn't care or the community doesn't know."

More recently, police have checked into body-in-suitcase discoveries in Wisconsin, the torso found in Bay Shore this month and the Gilgo Beach remains.

It's one of the toughest types of homicides to crack, the detective said. Not only was Rush killed in one place and dumped in another, her "high-risk lifestyle" opens up "so many possible scenarios" in her slaying.

"We're turning stones right now," O'Sullivan said.

Investigators believe time is on their side. Perhaps a prostitute who feared being beaten by a pimp for talking will come forward because the pimp is dead, they said. Or maybe guilt will lead to a tip, they said.

Toward the end, Rush was in and out of her girls' lives, police said.

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Until Rush's body was found, the adults in Turner's family would tell her, "I just spoke to her," the daughter recalled. But Turner remembers her mother called daily, which is how she knew something bad had happened when her mother failed to call for days.

Turner said Rush was the "life of the party," a Salvation Army volunteer who was in telemarketing and cared about people.

Now, the daughter has her memories, of how her mother always told her she was pretty, smart and to be a "classy lady."

She said her mother also taught her to cook, keep house and take care of her little sister.

"If I could switch places with her, I would, for my little sister's sake," Turner said. "I would give anything, anything literally to just hear her voice for one second.

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"Nothing will stop my love for her. . . . I won't stop pursuing her case until I'm cold and stiff myself."

Anyone with tips may call Crime Stoppers at 866-313-8477 or police at 631-756-3300.

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