A homeless woman who was found dead in a Riverside motel last Thursday morning, May 5, might have died during a bout of rough sex, according to a statement from the man charged with killing her.
Douglas Rico, 44, who is also homeless, was arrested by Suffolk County Police on Saturday and charged with manslaughter in the second degree, a felony. According to a sworn statement he made to Suffolk County Police detectives, Mr. Rico said that he accidentally killed Henrietta Sholl, 53, at the Budget Host East End motel by holding a pillow over her face during sex.
Mr. Rico said in the statement that he had known Ms. Sholl for about three years and that the two had stayed at the motel up until May 4.
“I had sex with Henrietta and put a pillow over her head,” he said in the statement. “I must have made her stop breathing. I am sorry.”
According to a press release issued by Suffolk County Police on Friday, Ms. Sholl’s body was found on a bed at the motel on Lake Avenue near the Riverside traffic circle. Her body was found at 11:56 a.m. after Southampton Town Police responded to a call for an ambulance at the motel.
The signed statement by Mr. Rico was released to members of the media by the Southampton Town Justice Court following Mr. Rico’s arraignment on Saturday. He pleaded not guilty to the charge and was remanded to the Suffolk County Jail without the possibility of bail in connection with the homicide.
Suffolk County Homicide Detective Lieutenant Gerard Pelkofsky said on Wednesday morning that police are working with the medical examiner’s office and district attorney’s office to investigate whether Mr. Rico’s claims of accidental death are true. He said that drugs were not involved in the death and that Mr. Rico was the only suspect in the case.
Det. Lt. Pelkofsky said that Ms. Sholl has been “homeless for a number of years,” adding that she has had multiple addresses throughout Suffolk County. He could not confirm whether Ms. Sholl had been living in Riverside for an extended period of time before her death, but he did say that she was “in and out” of the Riverside motel.
Ms. Sholl was estimated to be have been dead for about 12 hours when employees of the motel’s cleaning staff found her in a room and called police, according to Det. Lt. Pelkofsky.
Henry Karim, a desk clerk at the hotel, said that Ms. Sholl had been staying in the hotel for “a couple of nights” and that he noticed “nothing weird” about her demeanor.
“She was not a frequent guest,” Mr. Karim said, adding that the motel often plays host to homeless guests. “A lot of homeless people do stay here due to inadequate housing arrangements from the town.” A room during the off season will cost a guest $77 per night.
Mr. Karim said he could not comment on specifics of the incident, citing the ongoing police investigation. He did say that the victim was not someone he had seen before and he could not confirm where she was from.
“People seem so shocked, but Riverhead is not safe,” Mr. Karim said of the crime. “This is downtown Riverhead. Walk through town—it’s not safe.”
Dave Doughterty, the owner of the Cycle Beer and Soda Corp. beverage store located just across the street from the hotel, said police activity is something he is accustomed to seeing there.
“There’s police in and out of there all the time,” Mr. Doughterty said on Friday. The store owner said that although he didn’t see the police respond on Friday, a number of his customers have asked him about the homicide.
“I’ve not a clue,” he said, noting that he did not know Ms. Sholl while acknowledging that a number of homeless people frequent the area. “They’re usually just out of jail and have nowhere to go.”
Authorities are asking anyone with information about the incident to call the Suffolk County Homicide Squad at 852-6394 or Suffolk County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS. Calls will be kept confidential, police said.