New York Police Detective James Osorio was struck by the details of two cases mentioned at a training session he attended at FBI headquarters last year. The dismemberment killings of two women in Albania, he noted, echoed the 1990 beating and dismemberment of a Bronx widow.
Osorio's observation has now led to the arrest of a man in Montenegro who is a suspect in similar slayings throughout Europe, officials said.
The suspect, identified in Montenegro as Smail Tulja, 67, was arrested in his home in the tiny Balkan country's capital, Podgorica, on an FBI warrant, officials said. An FBI affidavit filed in the United States identified the suspect as Smajo Djurlric; the NYPD said his name was Smajo Dzurlic.
U.S. officials said Tulja was wanted in the unsolved slaying of Mary Beal, 61, of the Bronx, and may be involved in up to seven other killings of women in Belgium and Albania.
"It's gratifying that after 17 years, this guy's in custody for the terrible thing that was done to her," said Osorio, a member of the NYPD's Cold Case and Apprehension Squad.
After Tulja appeared in court in Montenegro on Thursday, his lawyer there, Dusan Luksic, told The Associated Press: "My client is not guilty of the murder of Mary Beal."
Beal's decapitated, dismembered body was found in two bags near the Brooklyn Navy Yard in the fall of 1990. Tulja, then a cab driver living in New York, had dated Beal before getting into a dispute with her over money, said Sgt. Dennis Singleton, who investigated the case.
After Beal's killing, detectives discovered bloodstains in Tulja's Bronx apartment, but he left the country before they could question him, they said.
Singleton said that in the mid-1990s, while working with Belgium authorities, investigators received information that Tulja was living in that country and was a possible suspect in killings and dismemberments of five women there. He again eluded authorities by moving to Montenegro, the sergeant said.
The Beal case regained momentum when Osorio learned about the Albanian cases last year. His squad eventually sought the assistance of federal and international authorities, providing them with Tulja's fingerprints from a prior arrest in 1974.
Court papers said that in January, Interpol notified the FBI that it had matched the 1974 fingerprints to those "of an individual who had applied for a government identification card in Montenegro" -- Tulja.
Tamara Popovic, national police spokeswoman in Montenegro, confirmed that police in Belgium and Albania investigating the killings of several women in those countries consider Tulja a suspect in the cases. Tulja, who was born in Montenegro, lived alone on the outskirts of Podgorica, where his home was searched.
"Several pieces of evidence and some documents have been seized in his home that may be connected to the alleged crimes committed in the foreign countries," Popovic said.