An 83-year-old Brooklyn woman convicted twice of killing women she lived with was charged with murder on Thursday, after investigators found a head in her apartment that, officials said, belonged to a body discovered in a shopping cart last week.
Harvey Marcelin, who had served decades in prison for murder and manslaughter before her release in 2019, was arrested March 4 and was initially charged with concealment of human remains.
Ms. Marcelin — who was listed as male in earlier court records but now identifies as a woman, according to a law enforcement official — was indicted on second-degree murder charges on Thursday in the death of Susan Leyden, 68. She is accused of dismembering her and hiding her body parts.
The official said it was not clear how Ms. Marcelin and Ms. Leyden knew each other. A lawyer listed as Ms. Marcelin’s attorney could not immediately be reached for comment.
The police first discovered pieces of Ms. Leyden’s remains in the early hours of March 3, when a 911 caller reported that they had found body parts in a shopping cart outside a pawnshop at the corner of Atlantic and Pennsylvania Avenues in Brooklyn. Police officers arrived to find a woman’s torso inside a multicolored bag with a flower decal.
Days later, the police searched Ms. Marcelin’s building nearby, after surveillance footage showed Ms. Leyden entering the building with the same multicolored bag on Feb. 27, but not leaving. They discovered Ms. Leyden’s head inside Ms. Marcelin’s home.
Since Ms. Marcelin’s arrest, authorities have also reviewed surveillance footage showing her leaving the apartment with what investigators believe was the torso, prosecutors said during a court hearing on Thursday.
Ms. Marcelin has served decades in state prison in connection with two Manhattan homicides, in 1963 and 1984.
In October 1963, she was convicted of first-degree murder for fatally shooting her then-girlfriend in a Harlem apartment building.
The state court judge overseeing the case imposed a life sentence, after the jury was unable to decide whether to impose the death penalty, court filings show.
In May 1984, Ms. Marcelin was released from prison on lifetime parole, according to state records.
Less than a year later, after a body was found in a bag near Central Park, Manhattan prosecutors said Ms. Marcelin had stabbed to death another woman she had been living with. In 1986, she pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter and was sentenced to six to 12 years in prison, state records show.
Because of her parole status, that sentence was added to the original life term, records show. Over the next three decades, she repeatedly sought release on parole and was denied. In a 1997 appearance before the state parole board, Ms. Marcelin described the 1984 crime and said she had “problems” with women, according to a state court filing.
In 2010, the state denied another bid for parole, saying “your release at this time is incompatible with the welfare and safety of the community,” court filings show.
She was released on parole in 2019, records show.