Bad heroin tied to 6 deaths
Police taking aim at downtown scourge
BY ALISON GENDAR, RICH SCHAPIRO and ROBERT F. MOORE
DAILY NEWS WRITERS
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly
A deadly batch of heroin may have killed six people over five days in downtown Manhattan - including two college coeds found with fresh needle marks on their arms, police and health officials warned yesterday.
The tainted smack could be fatally pure or altered with a poisonous additive.
"We are taking steps to locate and isolate the source and arrest whoever might be behind it," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.
Alarmed by the number of deaths and the discovery that the fatalities were in such a narrow swath of Manhattan - below 14th St. - police urged expedited toxicology tests on the victims, including the 18-year-old students Maria Pesantez and Mellie Carballo.
"If I can save one life from the hands of these criminals who are doing this to young girls, my daughter did not die in vain," Mariel Carballo said just hours after burying her daughter.
Carballo raged at Roberto Martinez, 41, and Alfredo Morales, 33, the ex-cons who cops say were with her daughter and Pesantez when they overdosed Friday inside Morales' apartment at 484 E. Houston St.
Law enforcement sources revealed yesterday that Martinez was busted in the late 1990s for being a member of a notorious heroin gang the Cut Throat Crew, which earned $150,000 a week by selling drugs on the lower East Side.
"If these men were my daughter's and Maria's friends, why didn't they come to the funeral?" asked Mariel Carballo, 41, outside her West Side apartment.
"If they were my daughter's friends, I'd expect them to look me in my eyes like all of the rest of my daughter's friends."
Martinez was hit with a parole violation last night and was in police custody, according to sources, who said his urine had tested positive for drugs.
The first victim of the deadly heroin may have been Kristopher Korkowski, 24, a hairdresser from Minnesota. He was found dead Aug. 10 in an apartment at 223 Avenue B.
Two days later, Ivan Rivera, 24, overdosed in a hallway of 238 E. Seventh St. Carballo and Pesantez also overdosed that night. Carballo, a Hunter College freshman, died shortly after cops found her. Pesantez, a sophomore at New York University from Queens, died Sunday.
Cops grew concerned about a potential bad batch of heroin after the teens' deaths and the discovery Saturday of 37-year-old Charles Sicker, who overdosed in a portable toilet near W. 13th St.
"A detective called me Saturday to tell me there had been other overdoses," Korkowski's father, Pete, said from his home in Circle Pines, Minn.
But with roughly 900 drug-related deaths a year - almost twice the number of murders - police did not make the suspected connection public until Anatoli Silistovich, 42, was found dead Monday in a storage facility on Spring St.
Cops were questioning drug dealers, suspected addicts and confidential informants to track down the source of the drugs, and also were reviewing overdoses as far back as June.
Martinez and Morales have denied giving Carballo and Pesantez drugs. Martinez told cops he met Carballo, who dreamed of becoming a model or a psychologist, at the Dark Room, a club on Ludlow St.
Carballo's relatives said Martinez would sign his text messages to her with "K.C." - possibly a nod to his nickname Krazy Cat from his days with the Cut Throat Crew when he allegedly sold packets of heroin with brand names like Overtime, Raw Dog and Good News.
Residents on the lower East Side said a potent brand of heroin called Eden is popular in the area, primarily on Avenue D between E. Fourth and E. Fifth Sts. It costs about $15 a bag.
"People don't understand how dangerous heroin is," said Patti Kelly, 50, of the East Village. "This area is a playground for kids to do what they want to do. There are no boundaries."