Police: College Student Burned Alive by Inept Abductors
Sep. 08, 1995
NEW YORK (AP) _ Kimberly Antonakos' greatest misfortune wasn't that her kidnappers were exceedingly cruel. It was that they were exceedingly inept.
After abducting the 20-year-old college student, the men somehow botched attempts to demand a ransom, apparently because one of them didn't wait for the beep on her father's answering machine, an investigator said. The kidnappers soon gave up and turned to the question of what to do with her.
Their solution: Burn her alive.
Joshua Torres, 22, the alleged ringleader, and Nicholas Libretti, 19, were charged this week in the slaying. Torres also was charged with killing a third kidnapper who he feared would turn them in.
Firefighters discovered Antonakos' charred, bound and gagged body back in March _ a chilling testament to what District Attorney Richard Brown labeled ``one of the most brutal and savage homicides that has ever occurred'' in Queens.
Thomas Antonakos, a successful computer business owner, never had a chance to save his beloved only child.
``You're talking about morons here,'' homicide Lt. Phillip Panzarella said Thursday. ``They were in way, way over their heads, and they panicked. That's the main reason this girl is dead.''
Torres, a small-time crook, hatched his most ambitious plot under the victim's own roof, investigators said.
Kimberly Antonakos, who studied business at the College of Staten Island, was friends with Torres' girlfriend. Weeks before Antonakos was kidnapped, she let the couple and their infant son stay with her in her new apartment in Brooklyn.
Her new Honda Accord, nice clothes and devoted father made Torres see dollar signs, police said.
``It was her goodness that was her weakness,'' Thomas Antonakos said.
Torres soon persuaded Libretti and Jose Negron, 26, to kidnap her and hold her for ransom, police said. Antonakos was abducted from her driveway sometime after 4 a.m. March 1 as she arrived home.
Antonakos was tied up, thrown into the trunk of her car and driven to a vacant home in Queens. She was left alone in an unheated basement, bound to a chair, while Torres sought to contact her father, police said.
Exactly what went wrong is unclear. Investigators believe Torres tried to leave two ransom demands on Thomas Antonakos' answering machine but didn't wait for the beep either time.
Unaware of the kidnapping, the father filed a missing persons report. His daughter was tied up in the cold basement for three days before all three suspects returned to the house.
By then Antonakos was unconscious _ and the abductors were desperate to cover their tracks. Possibly assuming she had frozen or starved to death, they doused her with gasoline, set her ablaze and fled, police said.
Antonakos was alive at the time, the medical examiner determined.
Sometime later, Torres became convinced Negron was about to go to the police. He walked up to Negron on the street and shot him in the head June 23, police said.
A break in the case finally came last week, when two witnesses told police they had overheard the suspects talking about the kidnapping.
One of the witnesses was lured in by a $10,000 reward for the killers _ offered by a father who never had a chance to pay a ransom.