TALE OF THE TAPE: New Rochelle Judge Reduces Bail in VIP Country Club Stabbing; Self-Defense Argument Emerges

Written By: Robert Cox

NEW ROCHELLE, NY — Two conflicting versions have emerged of what happened the night of April 27 at the V.I.P. County Club when New Rochelle Police responded to 600 Davenport Avenue on a report of a stabbing.

In one version, a man jumped out of a car in a parking lot and attacked another man with a knife. When a third man rushed to the victim’s aid he was also attacked with a knife by the man who was in the car who then fled in his vehicle. One of the two victims called 911. Police responded quickly and the fleeing suspect was apprehended by police on a dead-end road.

In another version, a man was sitting inside his car when four men attacked him. They pulled him out the car and beat him. The man who was in the car pulled out a camping knife his mom bought him last Christmas and used it to fight off the four attackers, brandishing the knife then stabbing two of the four men. As the two other two men fled the scene, the man who was in the car drove to the other end of the property, deliberately parked near a CCTV camera, called 911 and waited for the police to arrive.

Based on representations made by defense attorneys during an arraignment and two bail hearings in New Rochelle City Court, and an interview with the mother of the defendant on May 5, there may be CCTV video and 911 audio recordings that support the second narrative which is a far different tale than the accusatory filed by a New Rochelle Police Detective based on a deposition given by Almir Muratovic, one of the two brothers stabbed that night.

Elijah Santiago, 25, of the Manhattan, NY was charged with 2 counts of Assault in the First Degree, a 1-B Felony, and Criminal Possession of a Weapon Fourth Degree, an A Misdemeanor and arraigned in New Rochelle City Court on April 28 in front of Judge Jared R. Rice.

Two men, Santiago’s valet parking co-workers, were seriously injured during the incident. Semir Muratovic was sliced along his lower abdomen. Almir Muratovic was stabbed in the back.

At a bail hearing on April 28, ADA Philip Mellea requested a high bail: $100,000 cash bail, $250,000 bond or $500,000 partial bond. Santiago’s Legal Aid attorney asked for ROR or minimal bail: $500 cash, $1,000 bond or $5,000 partial bond.

Judge Rice set bail at $25,000 cash, $100,000 bond and $150,000 partial bond.

Judge Rice held a second bail hearing on May 5. Told by Santiago’s lawyer that his family had raised $5,000, Judge Rice set bail at $10,000 cash, $75,000 bond and $100,000 partial bond.

After the hearing, Lena Perez, Elijah Santiago’s mother, spoke with Talk of the Sound.

Perez said her son often complained that during club events the two brothers would sit in their car, smoke marijuana and not work, but when an event ended they would rush to collect tips they had not earned. If there was $400 in tips, the brothers would take it, then give her son $50.

She says the incident on April 27 was triggered by Santiago complaining again that night to his boss about Semir and Almir Muratovic stealing his tips.

She says that after her son complained, two men known to the Muratovic brothers arrived at the club parking lot. The four men approached Santiago, who was on break, sitting in his personal vehicle.

She said her son was badly injured with a knife wound in his head when gang members attempted to rob him in a 2016 felony gang assault. He still suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

When the four men approached his vehicle in a threatening manner — jumping up on the hood of his car, attempting to put their foot through the windshield, trying to pull him out of the car, Santiago panicked. She says her son was badly beaten that night and only used the knife in self-defense.

Asked about the “red folding knife” described in the accusatory filed by New Rochelle Police, she said it was a camping knife with a compass (similar to the multipurpose “Swiss Army” knife pictured above). She bought the knife at Target last Christmas as a gift for her son.

She says after her son fought off the Muratovic brothers, their two friends fled the scene.

She says her son did not leave the VIP Country Club property after the incident. As a conscientious employee, her son was familiar with the location of security cameras at the club. He knew a CCTV camera covered the area where the attack took place. He drove to the other end of the property and deliberately parked near a CCTV camera. He called 911 and waited for the police to arrive.

Her story is consistent with what Santiago’s lawyer told the court on the day of his arraignment.

Gary Kronkowski said there was “a long-simmering beef”’ between Santiago and the Muratovic brothers because the brothers had not been doing their jobs. He said Samir Muratovic instigated the confrontation, that he was preventing Santiago from getting out of his car, and trying to slam the car door on Santiago as he attempted to defend himself.

Kronkowski told Judge Rice that his client told him there was CCTV video at the VIP Country Club and asked ADA Mellea to take steps to preserve the video. ADA Mellea agreed to do so. A similar preservation request was made again on May 5.

Santiago is due back in New Rochelle City Court on May 19.


Two People Stabbed at VIP Country Club in New Rochelle, One Victim Critical, Arrest Made

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