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Suspect in 1990 Brooklyn slaying to be tried in Europe

It was among the most gruesome killings Brooklyn has seen.

In September 1990, Mary Beal, 61, was killed by a blow to the head, her body dismembered and placed in plastic bags strewn around streets near the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Seventeen years later, after officials here are reported to have noticed similarities between Beal's slaying and some killings of women in Europe, authorities in Montenegro arrested Smajlj Tulja, now 68, Beal's reputed lover, on charges he carried out her grisly slaying.

This week, the Brooklyn district attorney's office and the U.S. attorney's office in Brooklyn will gather in a closed room and supervise up to a dozen U.S.-based witnesses as they give testimony by a special video link to a court in Montenegro, where Tulja is on trial in the Beal killing.

Jonah Bruno, a spokesman for Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes, said last week one witness is slated to testify Thursday, while others on the list, including two New York City medical examiners, will be questioned on Friday. On the witness list are legal representatives of Beal's estate, her old Bronx neighbors and others.

The court in Montenegro is handling the trial of Tulja, also known as Smajo Djurlric, because that small Balkan nation doesn't extradite its citizens.

Tulja, a former New York City cabdriver who immigrated to the U.S. in the 1960s, had a relationship with Beal and, according to news reports, became a suspect in her slaying after investigators found threatening messages on the dead woman's answering machine from his estranged wife.

Tulja left New York some time after Beal's death and returned to Montenegro. American investigators said he traveled around Europe. It was there that Tulja was reportedly being investigated for being the so-called "Butcher of Mons" responsible for the slaying and dismemberment of five women near Mons, Belgium. His Albanian wife also disappeared some years ago, according to news reports in Europe.

In January 2007 the FBI here secured an arrest warrant from a Brooklyn federal magistrate-judge after Tulja was arrested in Montenegro. Last week Brooklyn federal Judge Sandra Townes signed an order appointing Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin Lerer and Brooklyn Assistant District Attorney Jon Besender as special commissioners to supervise the electronic transmission of the testimony of the witnesses from state Supreme Court in Brooklyn.

The request for the televised testimony came from Judge Dragica Vukovic of the Montenegro court system.

Had Tulja been tried and convicted in the U.S. for murder, he could have faced 25 years to life in prison. His attorney said in 2007 that Tulja didn't kill Beal. He faces up to 20 years in prison in Montenegro if convicted.

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