Mark Small was arraigned Tuesday in the death of his girlfriend. Marivel Estevez was found with gunshot wounds to her head and torso in July in the luxury Mineola apartment building where she lived and worked. NewsdayTV’s Cecilia Dowd reports.  Credit: Howard Schnapp; Photo Credit: Emilio Estevez

A former restaurateur sent a text to his girlfriend days before he allegedly shot her dead in their Mineola penthouse apartment that said he couldn't live without her, a prosecutor said Tuesday.

The allegation became public as Mark Small was arraigned on a murder charge in a courthouse across the street from where authorities say, in July, he killed Marivel Estevez, 39, as she made plans to leave him.

Small, 55, pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and a felony weapon charge.

Authorities alleged he ended Estevez's life after using a key to get inside the unit she leased at the Allure apartments in Mineola and waiting for her to arrive before shooting her in the head and torso after an argument.

Estevez was an assistant property manager at the Old Country Road luxury apartment building and had been dating Small for two years. He wasn't on the lease but was living with her, authorities said Tuesday.

Law enforcement officials said they found Estevez's body in her bedroom on July 30 while doing a wellness check when she didn't show up for work. They said they also recovered a .38 caliber revolver under a cushion on her couch that they believe was used in the shooting.

Nassau's homicide squad commander said after Small's arrest that family and friends had described the relationship between Estevez and Small as "tumultuous." He said Estevez confided in loved ones shortly before her slaying that she wanted to leave Small and move back to Florida.

Prosecutor Tracy Keeton said at the Nassau County Court arraignment Tuesday that the victim made a decision in the days leading up to her slaying to start a new job and move without Small — a point of contention between the couple.

The prosecutor said evidence against Small included texts he sent Estevez on July 26, about two days before he allegedly shot her between the night of July 28 and the morning of July 29.

Keeton said one text said: "Are you sure about leaving me alone? I can't live without you." 

Another text, according to the prosecutor, said: "What am I going to do with no place to live, no family?"

 Keeton said video showed Small riding the elevator up to the apartment on July 28, before Estevez followed later that night. Video then showed Small exiting the building in the early morning of July 29 with Estevez's dog and taking her car from the garage. 

Acting State Supreme Court Justice Helene Gugerty remanded Small back to jail Tuesday to await trial.

One of Small’s attorneys, Stephen Drummond, said after court that the alleged texts didn't equate to a plan to kill Estevez.

"It's very early to start outlining what the defense is going to be … Each of us in this great country is entitled to a presumption of innocence," he added.

 JoAnn Squillace, another attorney for Small, said the defendant has family and significant ties to the community.

"He's got loved ones in his corner … We know this is a trying time for the decedent's family, but this is a trying time for Mr. Small and for all of his family as well," she added. 

Small has no criminal record, according to his lawyers. The defendant owned and operated a Caribbean-themed restaurant in Rockville Centre that recently closed, Newsday previously reported.

Authorities said Small took Estevez’s Maltese dog, Tuffy, and her car after the shooting and drove to the Long Island Expressway before fleeing westbound.

Less than 30 minutes later, Small crashed into a box van near the Willis Avenue exit and Tuffy jumped out of the car before Small gave chase and was hit by another vehicle, according to police.

Small suffered multiple fractures and was hospitalized for several days, according to authorities, who arrested him Aug. 2.

Witnesses told police Tuffy might have been hit by a vehicle and the victim's family said the dog hasn’t been found. 

The victim's sister, Angie Estevez, said after court Tuesday that her sister was "a lovely human being with a huge heart" who is "very missed" and was beloved by the apartment building's residents — some of whom attended the arraignment.

"It's a horrible thing that was done. She did not deserve that," Estevez added of her sister.

Latest videos