A loose horse at a New York racetrack alerted officials to a "targeted" killing, police say.
Security officials at the Belmont Park racetrack say they saw a horse running by itself and then heard screams shortly after 6:30 a.m. on Sunday, according to CBS New York. Workers at the park subdued the horse, police say, and then found a woman in a barn who had suffered multiple stab wounds.
That woman has since been identified as 51-year-old Maria Larin, who later died at a hospital, according to The Daily Racing Forum. Larin was walking Our American Star, a horse that would come in second place during a race later that same day. The weekend before the stabbing, Justify won the Triple Crown at the same racing track.
Jose Franco-Martinez, the former boyfriend of the woman, was found outside the barn by stablehands, according to The New York Post. He was held there until police arrived and arrested him for second-degree murder.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Detective Lt. Stephen Fitzpatrick, from the Nassau County Homicide Squad, said during a press conference that police suspect Franco-Martinez targeted Larin because of their past relationship, The New York Post reported.
“We’ve come to determine that this is not a random act,” Fitzpatrick said. “This is a targeted incident.”
Workers at the racetrack mourned the death of Larin, who worked as a "hot walker," or someone who walks a horse around after a work-out, according to Newsday. Enrique Garcia said she was a kind and sociable person.
“She talked to everybody,” he told the outlet.
Lolita Shivmangal — daughter of trainer Doodnauth Shivmangal, who employed Larin — called the victim "a great human being."
"She didn’t deserve what happened to her,” Lolita told The New York Post.
It's not yet known how Franco-Martinez got onto the premises, police say, but Fitzpatrick told outlets that the suspect used to work at the racing track. According to The Daily Racing Forum, police are still looking for the weapon used to stab Larin.