A Brooklyn woman was convicted Tuesday of stabbing her neighbor to death, cutting her into pieces and dumping the body parts in Hempstead and Bay Shore in July 2014.
Jurors in Riverhead took a few hours to convict Leah Cuevas, 44, of second-degree murder in the death of Chinelle Latoya Thompson Browne, 28, whose body parts were found on four separate days. The two had fought over whether Cuevas, who lived downstairs from Browne, was truly the landlord of their building and over whether either or both were cheating on their husbands.
Browne’s legs were found near her torso lying in some 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 her through tattoos and DNA.
“This family is very happy for the verdict,” said one of Browne’s sisters, Suget Thompson. “But there are still four children without a mother. There’s still a husband without a wife.”
Thompson, two other sisters, an aunt and Browne’s husband, Dale Browne, wiped away tears in the courtroom as they heard the verdict. Afterward, they embraced Suffolk homicide Det. Michael Mahan and Assistant District Attorney Robert Biancavilla.
Cuevas did not react.
“I expected this verdict,” said Dale Browne, who came from his family’s home of Guyana to attend the trial. “There was no doubt in my mind, because the god I serve is a god of his word.”
He and his sisters-in-law praised Suffolk homicide detectives for a relentless investigation, and credited God as well.
“He used every vessel,” Browne said of God. “Even the carpet spoke.”
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.
Browne said that after the murder, the four children he had with his wife were anxious about Cuevas.
“They asked, ‘Daddy, will the landlady hurt us?’ ” he said. “I am pleased I can tell them she can no longer hurt anyone.”
Browne and Thompson’s family faulted Cuevas for not taking responsibility for what she did.
“During the course of this trial, I invited Leah to confess,” Browne said. “Leah’s father is a preacher. She knows what is right. It has to be that her heart is so cold and so hardened, that when the truth is presented she can’t accept it.”
Her failure to admit what she did will haunt her, said Barbara Cameron, the victim’s aunt.
“Now she has brought a curse to her family,” she said.
In addition to depriving Browne’s children of their mother, Suget Thompson said, the murder also set back the family’s plans to immigrate to the United States. But Browne said those plans — which began with his wife moving to Brooklyn to earn money — are only delayed, not destroyed.
Defense attorney Mary Elizabeth Abbate declined to comment after the verdict. Biancavilla, like Browne, credited detectives with connecting the evidence in a circumstantial evidence case.
Suffolk County Court Judge John J. Toomey Jr. will sentence Cuevas on Jan. 14. She faces a maximum of 25 years to life in prison.