The man accused of killing a homeless woman last month at a Riverside motel told police he caused her death by suffocating her with a pillow as he performed oral sex on her, a prosecutor said during the man’s arraignment in county court Wednesday morning.
Wearing black jeans, black sneakers and a short-sleeved shirt, Douglas Rico, 44, who is also homeless, pleaded not guilty to first-degree manslaughter in the death of his girlfriend, 53-year-old Henrietta Sholl. He was originally charged with second-degree manslaughter.
Assistant District Attorney Todd Pettigrew said Mr. Rico and Ms. Sholl were staying together in room 360 at the Budget Host Inn in Riverside. The couple entered the room about 11:30 a.m. on May 4 and Mr. Rico was observed leaving the room on surveillance camera the same day about 1:30 p.m.
Cleaning staff discovered the lifeless body of Ms. Sholl — a woman said to live a life marred by drugs and alcohol — on a bed May 5 at the trouble-plagued motel. The Suffolk County Medical Examiner’s office soon ruled the death a homicide. Two days later, Suffolk Police arrested Mr. Rico at police headquarters in Yaphank and charged him with second-degree manslaughter in connection with the death.
Mr. Pettigrew said the cause of death was a compressed neck.
Mr. Rico’s court-appointed attorney, Dan Russo of Westhampton Beach, said Ms. Sholl was drunk and high during the ordeal and suffered a heart attack.
“The victim in this case was his girlfriend and lover,” Mr. Russo told Judge Robert Doyle. “They were celebrating her release from [jail]. She had a heart attack and died.”
Mr. Russo asked Judge Doyle to set bail in the case. The judge denied that request.
Mr. Rico has been in county jail since his arrest May 7.
According to Mr. Rico’s statement to police, he told police he caused Ms. Sholl’s death when he placed a pillow over her head while the pair was having sex.
“I had sex with Henrietta and put a pillow over her head,” the statement reads. “I must’ve made her stop breathing. I am sorry.”
The arrest was not Mr. Rico’s first run-in with the law. Court records show he had been arrested on drug charges in Brooklyn in December.
Mr. Rico is due back in court July 27.