TROY, N.Y. — On the final night that anyone saw Noel Alkaramla alive, her accused murderer Johnny Oquendo says he was among the last people near her.
"I did see her that night," Oquendo tells police on a newly-released interrogation video.
The admission was uncovered at a pre-trial hearing in Rensselaer County Court on Tuesday, with Oquendo's attorney appealing to the judge to throw the video evidence out of his pending murder trial. Oquendo is accused of strangling Alkraramla in November 2015, before cramming her body in a suitcase and sinking it in the Hudson River.
The hour-long clip released on Tuesday begins with Oquendo joining Troy Police Detectives Patrick Bornt and Anthony Conyers inside the department. After signing a waiver of his Miranda rights, Oquendo tells the men that he has "information that may or may not help" in their investigation of Alkaramla's disappearance.
Shortly afterwards, Oquendo decides he wants a lawyer, and sits silenty for the rest of the video until public defender William Roberts arrives.
In court on Tuesday, Roberts cross-examined the two detectives about how they gathered the video evidence. Roberts' case for dismissal centers around the way Oquendo was detained on an unrelated parole matter, before being whisked away to the police department for questioning.
Tuesday's hearing featured testimony surrounding the last hours of Alkaramla's life. According to Bornt, Alkaramla's cell phone records show her last call was made to Oquendo's phone at 9:15 p.m. on November 22, 2015. A short time later, her phone was turned off. Later that night, the phone turned on again; its voicemail account was checked, then the phone was shut off for good.
A co-worker of Alkaramla's also reported dropping her off on 3rd Street that night, near Oquendo's apartment, according to Bornt. A neighbor at that same apartment was later awoken by a loud crash, and told detectives he saw Oquendo struggling with a large, heavy suitcase.
Alkaramla's body was found five weeks later at the bottom of the Hudson River near Albany, stuffed inside a large suitcase.
Alkaramla's godsister, Laurice Chapman, was in court for the hearing Tuesday, and said there is no doubt Oquendo is guilty.
"I think he did it," Chapman said of the murder. "I think he 100 percent did it.
"[I'm here because] I want to know the truth, I guess. I want to be there. And I want her to know that she still has people out here who love her."
Oquendo's trial for first-degree murder is scheduled for September. If convicted, the maximum sentence is life imprisonment.