Reyna Marroquin was 27 years old and pregnant when she was murdered. Her body was found three decades later, inside a barrel that was hidden in the crawl space of a home in Nassau County, New York.
Authorities believe the person responsible for her death was her employer, Howard Elkins, who committed suicide before he could be brought to justice.
In August 1966, Marroquin left El Salvador after an unsuccessful marriage and went to New York to live the American dream.
She would often tell her mother that she was “going to be somebody. I’m going to be somebody someday,” CBS News reported.
Once she made it to America, she took English and job training classes and eventually landed a job as a factory worker at a plastic company that made flowers.
It was owned by Elkins.
While in the United States, Marroquin wrote letters to her family back home to keep them updated on how she was doing.
But when those letters stopped in 1969, her relatives feared that something may have happened to her, so they reported Marroquin missing.
Her sister, Dora Marroquin, explained that they “put announcements in the paper in El Salvador: ‘Young Salvadoran woman, missing in New York.’”
“Not knowing about someone you love is so difficult.” Despite their efforts, Marroquin remained a missing person for three decades.
It wasn’t until the fall of 1999 that her case was reopened.
When a man named Hamid Tafaghodi purchased the house at 67 Forest Drive in Jericho, New York, he found a 55-gallon drum in the crawl space.
It weighed 345 pounds, and he asked the previous owner, Ronald Cohen, to have it removed.
When Cohen received a note from the sanitation department explaining that they were unable to pick up the drum because of its weight, he tried to move it himself.
That’s when he opened the lid and discovered a hand and a shoe.
Law enforcement officers were immediately called to the scene.
Upon arrival, they found the body of a mummified pregnant woman inside. An autopsy determined that she died from several blows to the back of her head.
Officials stated that they also found makeup, the stem of a plastic flower, and a damp address book.
The ink inside the address book had disappeared; therefore, investigators had to use a high-tech machine to decipher the writing. It was then that they could see the name and phone number of Katy Andrade, according to the Sun-Sentinel.
When detectives called Andrade, who had kept the same number throughout the years, she identified the woman in the drum as Marroquin by using an old immigration photo.
Andrade told detectives that she and Marroquin became friends after meeting at a shelter called the Joan of Arc Home in Manhattan, New York, which is where Marroquin worked at a plastic factory.
When Marroquin became pregnant, she moved out of the shelter and into her own apartment in New Jersey.
Marroquin said the child’s father helped with the apartment, but she never told her his name. But she did state that he was married and that she was expecting him to leave his wife and marry her.
When that didn’t happen, Marroquin called his wife and told her about their affair.
Afterward, Marroquin began to panic, and she called Andrade and said, “He’s going to kill me.”
Andrade tried to calm her down, but she was certain that the father of her unborn child was going to kill her for what she had done.
That’s when Andrade decided to go to her apartment, but when she got there, Marroquin wasn’t there.
Warm food was still on the stove, and Marroquin’s belongings, including her coat, were still there.
Andrade said she waited at Marroquin’s apartment for hours in hopes that she would return, and when she didn’t, she went to the police station.
Andrade tried to file a missing persons report, but since she wasn’t a relative, she was unable to do so.
After interviewing Andrade, investigators uncovered that Elkins was the first owner of the house.
They also learned that he owned a plastic factory, which is where the stem of the plastic flower they found in the drum most likely came from.
When they spoke with him over the phone, he confirmed that he was the owner of a plastic factory and that he bought the house in 1957 when it was built.
Elkins lived there for 15 years before he sold it in 1973, and moved to Florida.
On Sept. 9, 1999, two detectives flew to his home at Crystal Lakes, a retirement community just west of Boca Raton, Florida, where he lived with his wife, Ruth, for questioning.
He was cooperative at first and admitted to having an affair with an employee at his factory, but he said he couldn’t remember her name or physical appearance.
When they questioned him about Marroquin, he said he didn’t know anything about her disappearance. He also denied knowing anything about the barrel in the crawlspace.
Sgt. Robert Edwards, a homicide detective with Nassau County police, stated that he asked Elkins several questions he knew the answers to just to see if Elkins would tell the truth, and he didn’t.
Edwards then asked Elkins for a sample of his DNA, but he refused.
When his wife called, he became nervous and asked the detectives to leave before she got home.
“He said he had a lot of things to discuss with his wife, and he didn’t want us there at the time,” Edwards said.
The NY Post reported that before detectives left, they told him that they were going to return the following day with a warrant for a sample of his DNA.
The next day, Howard Elkins committed suicide.
“He didn’t have a lot of options,” Edwards reflected. “When he was arrested, he was a man of 71 years old. What was he going to do?Sspend the rest of his life in prison for a crime that had happened 30 years before?”
“I don’t know what went through his mind, but obviously, it was something he didn’t want to face up to.”
It was reported that Elkins purchased a shotgun from Walmart and shot himself in the head. His body was found by his son in a Ford Explorer that was parked inside his neighbor’s garage.
During an autopsy, a sample of DNA was collected to determine if he was the father of Marroquin’s baby. The results revealed that there was a 99.93 percent chance that he was.
Edwards said, “We found a motive, we found a suspect, and I think the case is closed at this time. I think he comes to the apartment [in March or April 1969], takes her out of there, and I think he takes her to the factory.”
“There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s the one that killed this woman,” he added.
“I don’t think he knew what to do with her. I think he had a plan that he was going to package her up and perhaps get rid of her.”
“But once the package was completed, it was just too heavy for one person to move, and I think at that time he was stuck.”
After three decades of not knowing what happened to Marroquin, family members were elated to finally have closure and be able to bring her back to El Salvador and have her laid to rest.
Dora Marroquin said, “My sister is still alive with us; we will never forget her.”