Reyna Angelica Marroquin was a 27-year-old Salvadorian immigrant living in the United States. She had arrived in Miami in 1966 and immediately moved to New York. She lived in the Jeanne d’Arc Residence for Women which was a nun-led Catholic home located on 24th Street in Manhattan.
In her free time, she attended classes to learn English and job skills so that she could become a productive citizen. In 1969, however, Reyna inexplicably vanished and it would take three decades before what happened to her finally came to the surface.
On 2 September, 1999, a 55-gallon barrel was discovered in the crawl space of a home located in Jericho, Nassau County, New York. Inside the barrel was the skeletal remains of a pregnant woman. She was fully dressed, wearing a cardigan and a waist-length imitation leopard skin coat. She was folded into a fetal position inside the barrel and her body had shriveled to just 57 pounds.1
Inside the barrel, a 3-inch book was also discovered, soaked through by body fluids. As one of the investigators said: “The pages were like pulp, stuck together and saturated.” The book was taken to the documents unit at police headquarters where they had the tedious task of trying to make it eligible. They were able to decipher one name: Howard Elkins. It would be discovered that Howard had once owned the home where the barrel was found; Howard was also Reyna’s former employer.
Howard and his wife had moved from New York to Florida in 1972 and it was the new owners of the home who made the grisly discovery.2 Howard was tracked down in Florida and was brought in for questioning. He claimed he had no knowledge of the barrel found in the crawl space of his home. However, it was evident that this was false considering his name and phone number was written inside the book.3
When Howard went home following the interview, he shot himself in the head, ending his life. His body would be found inside a car parked inside his friend’s garage. A newly-purchased shotgun rested between his legs. Towards the end of the month, the woman in the barrel would be identified as Reyna when her social security number was deciphered in the book.
A medical examination determined that she had been killed by blows to the head. The reason it took so long for Reyna to be identified was because no missing persons report had ever been filed. One day, she just seemingly vanished without a trace; when the remains were discovered and reported in the media, nobody contacted police to inquire as to whether they belonged to Reyna.
Thirty years earlier, Reyna had worked for Howard at his flower business in New York. While investigating the relationship between Reyna and Howard, investigators had found that the book found with her body contained a name and phone number of another woman.
Investigators were able to track the woman down. She was a former volunteer at the Jeanne d’Arc Residence for Women. When Reyna first moved to the United States in 1966, she lived here for a while and built up a relationship with this woman.
The woman informed investigators that in early 1969, she had received a frantic phone call from Reyna, exclaiming that she had made a “big mistake.” Reyna informed the woman that she had an affair with Howard and was now pregnant with his child. “She told her confident either that she was afraid he was now going to kill her, or that he had actually threatened to kill her,” said Nassau County Police Detective Sgt. Robert Edwards.
According to the woman, several days later, Reyna had told her that she was “very frightened” and asked her to come to a home in New Jersey where Howard had put her up.4 When the unnamed woman arrived, the front door was wide open and there was a warm meal on the table. However, Reyna was not there. The woman waited for an hour but Reyna never appeared. She then went to police to report what she had found but was told that only family members could file a missing persons report.
In January of the following year, DNA tests would confirm that Howard was the father of the fetus found with Reyna. When he ended his life, he knew all too well that the DNA tests would link him to the murder of Reyna. With this new evidence, investigators announced that there was “no doubt” that Howard had murdered Reyna. Investigation would reveal that shortly before her disappearance, Reyna had informed Howard’s wife that she was pregnant with his child.5
Howard Elkins he is sadly beyond the reach of justice. Before ending his life, he managed to live to the ripe old age of 71 and essentially, he got away with murder.
- The Jersey Journal, 30 September, 1999 – “Dead Woman in Drum Identified”
- Associated Press, 30 September, 1999 – “Body Found in Steel Drum After 30 Years Identified”
- New York Daily News, 30 September, 1999 – “Woman in Barrel”
- Syosset-Jericho Tribune, 8 October, 1999 – “Police Determine Mystery Victim’s ID”
- The Sun Sentinel, 22 January, 2000 – “DNA Links Suicide to Killing”