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Leah Cuevas jailed without bail in killing of Chinelle Browne, dismembered mom

Leah Cuevas, 42, right, has been arrested in

Leah Cuevas, 42, right, has been arrested in the death of Chinelle Latoya Thompson Browne, left, whose body parts were found in Bay Shore and Hempstead in the past several weeks, police said. Credit: Facebook, SCPD

Before a Brooklyn mother of four was cut into pieces that were dumped in Bay Shore and Hempstead, she was stabbed more than 40 times in the chest during an attack that left her blood splashed in her killer's apartment, a Suffolk prosecutor said Thursday.

Assistant District Attorney Robert Biancavilla described the killing of Chinelle Latoya Thompson Browne, 27, at the arraignment of her downstairs neighbor, Leah Cuevas, 42.

Cuevas pleaded not guilty to an indictment charging her with second-degree murder.

Biancavilla said Browne, a Guyanese immigrant, was last seen alive entering her Bedford-Stuyvesant apartment building on July 5, the day after witnesses and police broke up a heated argument between the women about Browne's payment of rent and whether Cuevas was the rightful landlord.

Witnesses said they heard another loud argument that day, ending with Browne screaming, "No, Leah. No, Leah. What you doing? Oh no. Oh no. I'm sorry. I'm sorry."

Biancavilla said, "This is the last time the victim was heard from."

Three days later, the prosecutor said, pedestrians found Browne's torso and severed legs in Bay Shore. Her arms and head were found in three different spots in Hempstead later.

Suffolk County Court Judge John Toomey Jr. ordered Cuevas held without bail. She faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted.

Browne's husband, clutching a burgundy Bible and two of her siblings listened quietly in the courtroom.

Dale Browne said he trusts in God to deliver justice for his wife, and read from Psalm 94: "The wicked band together against the righteous and condemn the innocent to death. But the Lord . . . will repay them for their sins and destroy them for their wickedness."

Browne, who came from Guyana after his wife was killed, said he was coping "heartbeat by heartbeat."

"I have to rely on my faith to survive this," he said. "I can't do this in my flesh because it perishes. I physically feel affected severely."

Defense attorney Mary Beth Abbate said the prosecution's case doesn't add up. Biancavilla said the slaying happened July 5 in Brooklyn and he described a July 7 cab ride Cuevas took from Brooklyn to Suffolk with a heavy suitcase and a bag of clothes. Yet the indictment says the killing happened "on or about July 8, 2014, in Suffolk County."

"If it didn't happen until July 8 . . . all of those statements are unimportant because she was still alive on July 8," Abbate said.

She said Cuevas is coping with the lurid allegations against her.

"It's tough," Abbate said. "She seems to be somewhat in shock, but she's holding it together."

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