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Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Parolee, 19, Is Held in Death of Actress During Robbery

By MICHAEL WILSON and JANON FISHER, New York Times staff

Published: February 1, 2005

A 19-year-old parolee who was prowling with childhood friends on the Lower East Side early on Thursday morning has been charged with murdering a young actress who talked back to them as they robbed her companions, the police said yesterday.

The police said that the arrest of the man, Rudy Fleming, came after detectives received tips from people who had heard that he and at least four friends were involved in the shooting.

Yesterday afternoon, Mr. Fleming was openly weeping in the back seat of an unmarked car as detectives drove him away from the offices of the Manhattan South homicide squad.

"It hurts me to know that this happened," said his godfather, Servino Simmon, at his apartment in the Baruch Houses, where Mr. Fleming had been staying near the scene of the shooting. "I feel sorry for the person. I wish that it didn't happen. It's not right."

Although Mr. Fleming was the only person charged in the killing of the actress, Nicole duFresne, 28, of Brooklyn, two of Mr. Fleming's friends were charged in an attempted robbery that took place nearby earlier that morning. Two other friends of Mr. Fleming's, brothers ages 17 and 21, were questioned in the killing but not charged after telling detectives they were shocked when Mr. Fleming pulled the trigger.

Shortly after 3 a.m. on Thursday, Ms. duFresne, who lived in Greenpoint, had just left a bar with her fiancé and another couple when they were confronted by a group of robbers on Clinton Street near Rivington Street. One of the assailants pistol-whipped her fiancé, and Ms. duFresne stepped forward and said, "What are you going to do, shoot us?" her friends said later. She was shot once in the chest and was pronounced dead later Thursday morning.

The murder suspect, Mr. Fleming, has lived in Brooklyn and Staten Island, but has lately been staying with his godfather at the Baruch Houses in Manhattan. He was on parole for a 2002 weapons conviction, when he sneaked a gun into Port Richmond High School and pointed it at a school safety officer, according to Richmond County district attorney's office.

The parole was not set to expire until June 2007. Mr. Fleming's meetings and home visits were satisfactory, and he had a job working at a restaurant, said Scott Steinhardt, a spokesman for the State Division of Parole.

His last meeting with a parole officer was an office visit on Wednesday, the day before the killing. "The office visit was unremarkable," Mr. Steinhardt said.

The police said detectives found two pieces of evidence at Mr. Simmon's apartment: a white scarf that is visible on one of the people in a security video taken near the time and place of the shooting, and what is believed to be the murder weapon, a .357 Magnum revolver.

"I was watching TV before the police came," Mr. Simmon said. "I was lying on the bed with the gun underneath. I didn't even know the gun was there."

Asked whether the police had obtained a confession in the case, Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said yesterday at a news conference, "Some statements have been made."

A police official said the crime seemed to have begun as a robbery that went bad. "They're out there and do what bad kids do when they get together," the official said. "They're looking for trouble and they find it." About the witnesses to the shooting, he added, "If you believe them, it sort of shocked everyone else." The arrests began around noon on Sunday and continuing until midnight, the police said. Mr. Fleming was the last to be arrested, at the ferry terminal on the Staten Island side. His mother lives on Staten Island, the police said.

Mr. Simmon's two sons, Servano, 17, a high school student, and Servisio, 21, were present at both crimes but have not been charged and are being treated as witnesses, the police said.

Mr. Simmon said Servano told him about the shooting. "Apparently," he said, "Rudy went to rob the lady. He pulls out a gun. No one knew he had a gun. He shoots the lady."

Posted byCOMTE on 3:02 PM

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