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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Senseless Killing of Nina Ubiera


The Naugatuck River flows alongside Route 8 in Connecticut.
Between the years of 1985 and 1994, there were nineteen unsolved homicides in the state of Connecticut. Five of those murders involved the disposal of women along a twelve-mile stretch of roads running adjacent to Route 8. Several of the bodies were found in the vicinity of the Naugatuck River.

On November 1, 1994, a few factory workers were driving to work along Route 262 in Thomaston and saw a naked body in the bushes at the edge of a gravel pit, about twelve feet from the shoulder of the road. The location was just one mile away from the site where another victim, Mary Jo Markiewicz, was discovered, dead from multiple stab wounds, the year before.

Markiewicz, like Everett, Alvarado, and Bettencourt, was a Waterbury prostitute. State police wondered if the unidentified naked body discovered on November 1, 1994, was also a local prostitute and somehow related to the cluster of prior killings. The body had not been there for very long, maybe just a day or two, according to Sgt. Scott O’Mara of the Connecticut state police. The woman was Hispanic, with long wavy hair. She looked to be in her early thirties.
Ubiera was different from other Route 8 victims

Unlike the other Route 8 victims, this woman had been mutilated. One of her breasts was cut off.  Apparently, the killer wanted to keep a physical reminder of the crime for himself, and mutilating his victim likely gave him a sense of ownership and control. In quick time, the twenty detectives assigned to the case unveiled additional differences between the latest victim and the other women dumped near Route 8 in recent years.

The exact cause of death was not apparent. An autopsy later revealed that the cause of death had not been strangulation, shooting, or stabbing. Rather, Ubiera was hit by a car and likely died from the initial impact. Following the accident, her body had been moved to the remote locale where the undressing and mutilation probably took place post-mortem. 

The other Route 8 victims were prostitutes with substance abuse problems. The current victim, however, was not a prostitute or a drug addict. Her name was Olga Maria Cornieles-Ubiera; to her friends, she was “Nina.” Ubiera was among the growing population of Dominicans who had come to Connecticut in search of the American dream. As with most immigrants, job opportunities did not abound for Ubiera. She struggled with the language and could not read English. At the time of her death, Ubiera was between jobs. She lived in a humble third floor tenement in a section of Waterbury’s inner city that was crammed with similarly unattractive and outdated apartment buildings.

Ubiera made the most of a difficult situation. She had loving relationships with her Dominican relatives living in Bridgeport and New York. The two women living in the apartment below her said that she would often stop by for coffee and conversation. Ubiera also had a boyfriend, Michael Knox, who worked as a computer programmer. The two had met in a former workplace; others may have thought Uberia to be somewhat ordinary in looks, but Knox thought that she was beautiful.

Knox was interviewed at length following the murder and police ruled him out as a suspect based on a solid alibi. He was at a Halloween party on the night of Uberia’s death and witnesses could vouch for it. Knox was obviously torn to pieces about his girlfriend’s gruesome demise. It gave him chills, thinking that he must have driven past her defiled corpse on the way to work at a Waterville metals firm in the hours before her lifeless body was discovered.

In an article in the Hartford Courant dated December 29, 1994, Knox described Ubiera as “proper.” The two did not even kiss until a few months into the relationship. Like many women from the Dominican Republic, Ubiera “had a taste for good clothes and fine food.” Police divers explored the frigid waters and banks of the nearby Naugatuck River, located across the road from the location where the body was found.  Any nice clothing that Ubiera wore on the night that she was killed was never found. 
Police searched the snowy shoreline of the Naugatuck River

Ironically, the only personal item found next to Ubiera’s body was a black beeper with a broken clip. It was given to her by Knox so they could stay in touch.

Postscript: Today's blog post concerns one of the unsolved Route 8 Murders. I will return to writing about the serial murders in New Britain, Connecticut, in the near future. 

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