City man murdered in stairwell

A memorial sits outside the entrance of 51 Winthrop Ave., the public housing building where New Rochelle resident Keita Speed was stabbed to death. Photo/Katie Hoos

A memorial sits outside the entrance of 51 Winthrop Ave., the public housing building where New Rochelle resident Keita Speed was stabbed to death. Photo/Katie Hoos

Police are investigating the murder of 45-year old Keita Speed, a New Rochelle resident who was found dead in the stairwell of a public-housing apartment building Friday night, Jan. 10.

Speed was found by a building resident around 8 p.m. on the second-floor landing of the stairwell at 51 Winthrop Ave. with several stab wounds to his upper left shoulder and neck.

Capt. Joseph Schaller of the New Rochelle Police Department said when first responders arrived on the scene, the victim was unconscious and not breathing. After several attempts to revive him, Speed was taken to Montefiore Sound Shore Hospital where he was pronounced dead, Schaller said.

Schaller said Speed had an acquaintance that lived in the apartment building, but could not confirm who the acquaintance was.

Police are still investigating the homicide and, as of press time—no suspects have been named—but Schaller said police believe the victim and his assailants knew each other.

“We believe the incident developed as a result of ongoing personal differences,” Schaller said.

The murder took place inside the Hartley Houses, the city’s largest public housing complex comprised of five mid-rise buildings along Winthrop and Horton avenues. While specific data regarding criminal activity levels at the Hartley Houses could not be obtained by the City Review, the complex has had a reputation of crime.

Democratic City Councilman Jared Rice, District 3, which includes the Hartley Houses where the murder took place, said, “There are higher than average numbers of arrests being made in those complexes due to police activity and higher crime rates.”

In total, one murder took place in New Rochelle in 2012 and two in 2011. The police department’s annual report with data from 2013 has not yet been released.

Some residents of the Hartley Houses who feel unsafe after Speed’s murder, met with the New Rochelle Municipal Housing Authority on Monday to discuss their concerns.

Executive director of the New Rochelle Municipal Housing Authority, Steven Horton, said the residents’ requests included improved lighting, stricter lease enforcement and adding security personnel.

While the housing authority is not planning on hiring security guards, Horton said they are currently doing a survey of the lighting and are looking at each household within the complex to make sure the residents are in compliance with their lease.

The buildings, two of which are currently vacant, are scheduled to be demolished in 2016 and 2017 to make way for a new affordable public housing complex, Heritage Homes. Phase 1 of the Heritage Homes construction at the corner of Winthrop Avenue and Brook Street is complete.

Rice said he believes the newly constructed Heritage Homes open the door for a safer and more open environment for the city’s public housing residents. As part of the construction of the Heritage Homes, Winthrop Avenue will be opened up to through traffic; currently the road is only accessible to the Hartley Houses and does not allow for vehicles to travel completely through.

“Safety of the residents is the primary concern,” he said.

Both in the stairwell and outside the apartment building where Speed was found, neighbors and loved ones lit candles and left notes, memorializing a life lost to violence. Allegedly, Speed, who had struggled with a crack cocaine addiction, intended to enter a drug treatment program in the Bronx the day he was murdered.

Councilman Rice said, “Moving forward, I hope we can get an arrest out of this tragedy and create a safer New Rochelle.”

The victim’s mother and New Rochelle resident, Louise Speed, could not be reached for comment.