Nassau County Police investigate the death of an woman found...

Nassau County Police investigate the death of an woman found inside a car on Merrick Road in Lynbrook. (May 1, 2011) Credit: Frank Koester

Detectives have arrested a Hempstead man in connection with the killing of a woman found shot in the head and left in a car in Lynbrook, Nassau County police said Monday.

Dung V. Tran, 38, was arrested Sunday night at his Front Street home, police said. He was charged with second-degree murder and being a fugitive from justice stemming from an open warrant in Virginia, police said.

Tran's arrest came as the family of Maria Ayala, 62, prepared Monday to bring her body back to her native El Salvador for burial, her son said.

Police did not reveal any evidence against Tran or offer any information about the warrant.

Ayala was found Sunday morning by a Lynbrook police officer in the driver's seat of a 1991 Toyota Corolla parked on Merrick Road. She was pronounced dead about 8:40 a.m.

Ayala's son, Ariel Cortez of Tampa, Fla., said Tran and his mother had been romantically involved.

Cortez said that the night before she was found dead, his mother had been taking care of her grandchildren -- an 8-year-old and a 5-year-old -- when she left the children with a neighbor so she could buy groceries. She never returned and the family called police that night, Cortez said.

In a telephone interview, Cortez said the grandchildren are the children of his sister, Vanessa, who lives in Orlando, Fla. The family is making arrangements to bring the children to Florida, Cortez said. The children are still in the care of the neighbor, he said.

"We haven't told them yet," Cortez said.

Cortez said the family is unsure what Ayala was doing in Lynbrook because it is not near her home, job or any friends.

Cortez said he and his sister had relocated to Florida from New York and had hoped their mother would be able to join them soon. Ayala was a hardworking woman who sought and received asylum in the United States to escape persecution by guerrillas in El Salvador in 1989, Cortez said.

Cortez said he had hoped to surprise his mother with a visit.

"Now I'm coming up just to bring flowers," he said.

The body will soon be flown to the Salvadoran capital of San Salvador for burial in a family plot, he said. He said he hopes the person who shot his mother to death is brought to justice.

"We have 100 percent faith in the American justice system," Cortez said.

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