How a mild-mannered man that kept to himself was found dead, with his throat slashed, is still a mystery to many who lived in the same building as Cesar Mercado.
The chief Nicaraguan consul in the States, Mercado, 34, was found dead in his sixth-floor apartment at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, September 24, by a driver that had come to pick him up for the United Nations general assembly. Mercado never made it there.
The driver told police that the door to Mercado’s apartment was closed, but unlocked.
Inside, two knives were found: a large 12-inch steak knife beside a bathroom sink filled with blood, and a 6-inch paring knife in the same sink.
At first guess, the death looked like an obvious homicide and the NYPD was looking for suspects, but it has since come out that due to small pricks on his neck that could be “hesitation wounds,” police believe the death may have been a suicide. They do not know for sure, but friends have told police that the diplomat recently learned he was HIV positive, and was extremely dismayed.
“The medical examiner has not determined whether or not this was a homicide,” said Police Commissioner Ray Kelly in a press conference.
“If in fact there is a wound from an assailant, it is generally more direct and in one motion.”
Bloody fingerprints found all over the apartment would lend strength to the idea of a suicide, because they have been determined to be Mercado’s own prints.
However, human hairs found in Mercado’s hands — ten in his right hand and five in his left — suggest otherwise. While they could be his own hairs, pulled out in distress, they also could reflect a struggle with an attacker.
Residents were puzzled and frightened as they lingered outside the building on the morning that Augusta Arms, at 2070 Grand Concourse, became a crime scene.
“I had seen him a couple of times but he never talked to anybody,” said Maeva Mejia, a third-floor resident of Mercado’s building.
Mejia said that Mercado, who lived on the sixth floor, was “always very professional,” and that she was unaware of his job.
“I never knew there was a diplomat living here,” said Cece, a resident unwilling to give her last name. “That’s something I would think would be very noticeable. And with his own driver, no less.”
Though it will be a few more days at least before the NYPD rules it a suicide or homicide, Bronxites could agree on one thing: the circumstances of his death were horrifying.
“It’s so scary to think of,” said Mejia.