A Connecticut train rider carrying decades of personal baggage confessed to a Metro-North conductor that he pulled the trigger in a 1978 Manhattan murder over a drug deal gone bad, authorities said Thursday.
Confessed killer Leandro Teissonniere, 64, waived extradition and was held on $500,000 bond in New Haven after his Wednesday arraignment on fugitive from justice charges in the ice-cold case from a previous century. Once returned to New York City next week, he will face murder charges in the fatal shooting of Esteban (Chino) Vega, 20, at a Spanish Harlem restaurant on Dec. 11, 1978, authorities said.
It was unclear what caused the scot-free suspect to come clean about the killing over a soured marijuana deal made during the administrations of Ed Koch in City Hall and Jimmy Carter in the White House.
The long-delayed mea culpa occurred May 15 after Teissonniere boarded a Metro-North in New Haven en route to Grand Central Terminal. When the train reached the Milford station minutes later, the passenger approached the conductor to spill his guts and ask for help in surrendering, cops said.
The stunned conductor notified MTA police, who took Teissonniere into custody and reached out to the NYPD. The admitted murderer couldn’t recall the date of the killing, but provided police with the details — including the victim’s nickname.
“I shot this guy called Chino,” he told detectives from the 23rd Precinct, police said.
The New Haven man was released after the sit-down five months ago as police used his account to locate the moldering case file and relaunch their investigation. Teissonniere, just 22 at the time of the killing, was arrested without incident at 6 a.m. Wednesday in the New Haven home shared by the suspect and his 84-year-old mother.
“I have been crying all night and have just been able to drink some coffee because I am such a wreck,” his mom Rosa Rojas, told the Daily News Thursday, adding that her son had a history of mental health problems. “God is the only one allowed to take a life, and I know my son did not not do that.”
According to Rojas, her son was released from a hospital just two weeks ago and would randomly tell stories that left her head spinning.
“It’s a lie,” she said of the confession from her son, known to family members as Tito. “He says things that he doesn’t mean, and I have to wonder like ‘Where does this come from?’ Tito does not have a normal mind. He is not sound of mind.”
The murder suspect, who came to the United States from Puerto Rico at age 9, used drugs in his younger days before moving into her Connecticut home 19 years ago, according to his mother.
“He won’t even kill a cockroach … no one has any problems with him,” she continued. “It’s just not true. He did not kill anyone. Tito doesn’t have that kind of personality. He just watches TV and sits on the sofa.”
Teissonniere, who has a history of depression, has a number of previous arrests for marijuana and narcotics, sources said.