A homeless man faces second-degree murder charges after his former girlfriend, a Belmont Park racetrack worker, was found stabbed early Sunday in a backstretch barn, authorities said.
Police arrested Jose Franco-Martinez, 53, who has no known address, and charged him with murder. He will be arraigned Monday at First District Court, 99 Main St., Hempstead.
According to detectives, police received a 911 call about an injured female at the track after a New York Racing Association security official saw a loose horse on the grounds.
The horse was caught and the officials investigated a rear barn area, where they found the victim.
“The victim was transported by a NYRA ambulance to a local hospital and was pronounced deceased,” a Nassau police news release said.
The woman, 51, whom police have not publicly identified, worked as a hot walker, police said. Hot walkers cool down thoroughbred racehorses after exercise.
A NYRA spokesman declined to comment on Sunday evening. A Belmont Park-based representative of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, which helps mediate concerns on behalf of owners, trainers and employees who work on the backstretch, also declined to comment.
According to Nassau Homicide Chief Det. Lt. Stephen Fitzpatrick, Franco-Martinez was found during a search of the racetrack grounds.
“This is a targeted incident,” Fitzpatrick said during an afternoon news conference at the Elmont racetrack. “The person is known to her as a former boyfriend.”
Fitzpatrick said investigators continued to search for the knife they suspect was used in the fatal stabbing. He also said detectives are trying to determine how the man may have gotten into the stable area, which is surrounded by metal gates and has security checkpoints.
In recent years, mostly minor crimes and horse-related accidents have been reported at the track.
At the storied racetrack Sunday, where Justify won the Triple Crown on June 9, a full day of racing went on without interruption. Meanwhile Nassau investigators combed the grounds of the barn for additional clues.
Enrique Garcia, 40, who exercises horses at the racetrack, said the victim was well-liked.
“She talked to everybody,” Garcia said.
Her death made Garcia concerned about security at Belmont.
“Even inside it’s not safe anymore,” he said.
With Stefanie Dazio and Rachelle Blidner