Just before a Brooklyn woman was sentenced Thursday to 25 years to life in prison for killing and dismembering a neighbor in the summer of 2014, the victim’s husband told her he no longer feels anger toward her.
“I forgive you, Leah,” said the victim’s husband, Dale Browne, who came from his home of Guyana to attend Leah Cuevas’ sentencing in Riverhead. “May the Lord Jesus Christ forgive you.”
A jury in December convicted Cuevas, 44, of second-degree murder in the death of Browne’s wife, Chinelle Latoya Thompson Browne, 28, in a case that the judge and lead prosecutor said was one of the most gruesome crimes they had encountered in their careers.
“In nearly 30 years, I’ve never seen a more horrific act,” Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Robert Biancavilla told Suffolk County Court Judge John J. Toomey Jr. before sentencing. The judge granted Biancavilla’s request to impose the maximum punishment.
During the weekslong trial, Biancavilla told jurors that Cuevas and Chinelle Latoya Thompson Browne, who lived upstairs from Cuevas, had fought over whether Cuevas was truly the landlord of their building and over whether either or both were cheating on their husbands.
Prosecutors said the argument ended when Cuevas stabbed Chinelle Latoya Thompson Browne 39 times in Cuevas’ Bedford-Stuyvesant apartment on July 5, 2014, then cut her into pieces and dumped her body parts in Bay Shore and in Hempstead.
Chinelle Latoya Thompson Browne’s legs were found near her torso lying in high grass off a parking lot in Bay Shore. Her head and arms were found days later in three different locations in Hempstead. Police and forensic scientists identified Chinelle Latoya Thompson Browne through tattoos and DNA.
Forensic scientists found a portion of the carpet in Cuevas’ apartment was so soaked in blood it had dripped through the carpet padding to the wood floor below.
Despite her conviction, a defiant Cuevas, who spoke publicly for the first time Thursday since her arrest, told Toomey she did not kill her upstairs neighbor and friend.
“I am not a murderer,” Cuevas said in court when she was given the chance to speak before her sentencing.
As Chinelle Latoya Thompson Browne’s husband, relatives and friends sat in the courtroom, Cuevas spoke for about 20 minutes, ticking off a litany of explanations that she said point to her innocence.
“I never took her life,” Cuevas said in her speech.
In an interview outside the courthouse after the sentencing, Dale Browne said Cuevas’ rant has not changed his feeling toward her.
“I believe she’s been feeding herself lies and those lies have become so enveloping in her being that she has become those lies,” he said. “She is still in denial. It’s a state of deception that’s going on in her head. She has totally lost it. It was obvious in there.”
As for him, Dale Browne said justice was served and he must tend to the welfare of his four young children who have lost their mother.
“I pray that she [Cuevas] repents for her own sake and her children’s sake,” he said. “I have to learn to live with this, and I am learning to live with it.”
Two of Dale Browne’s children, Jonathan, 7, and Gabrielle, 8, wrote letters, which he read in court.
“I felt sad because she was the most amazing mother,” Gabrielle said in her letter, as the little girl asked the judge to send Cuevas away to prison for the rest of her life.