By EMILY VASQUEZ
Published: November 26, 2006
As a girl, Priscilla Pimentel filled her family’s home with laughter in Bethlehem, Pa., with her endless jokes and witty impersonations. But as she grew older, she feared she might instead become a source of disappointment for them and made the decision to move out.
Still, when Ms. Pimentel, 24, moved to Queens four years ago and began working as a bartender, her bonds with her family remained strong. So when she did not come home for Thanksgiving on Thursday, her family became alarmed.
Still unable to reach her by telephone on Friday, members of her family drove to New York, only to confirm the worst of their fears.
The bedroom walls of her Richmond Hill apartment were streaked with blood, and they found her body in the bathtub, her hands bound behind her back, the police said. Her Jack Russell terrier, Gucci, was dead at her side, and her body was smeared with mint green paint, which she had recently used to brighten the walls of her apartment.
The police said Ms. Pimentel had been stabbed repeatedly in the arms and the left side of her chest. It did not appear that the apartment, where she lived alone, had been entered by force or that anything had been taken, they said, and it was still unclear yesterday how long her body had been there.
At their home in Pennsylvania yesterday, her stepfather, Raoul Laracuente, said Ms. Pimentel had moved away from her family to avoid hurting them because she was gay.
“I truly believe in my heart that she moved away just so she wouldn’t hurt her mother’s feelings,” said Mr. Laracuente. “This is a small town, everybody knows your business,” he said. “She said she’d go to New York so that her mother wouldn’t be hurt.”
Yesterday, her mother, Nancy, cried inconsolably at her home in Bethlehem. “She’s out of control,” said Benita Costa, 49, a neighbor who sat with the family as they mourned. “They are crying, holding one another. She was the one to bring happiness to the family.”
Mr. Laracuente said his wife had tried to persuade Ms. Pimentel to move back home.
“She was worried about her, people she hung out with, the bar scene,” he said, adding that Ms. Pimentel was born in the Bronx and that her mother had moved the family to Bethlehem to escape crime in the city.
But Ms. Pimentel, whom everyone called Peaches, seemed to be building a life in Queens. For nearly two years, she had been involved with a woman, whom she twice brought home to meet her family, though they broke up months ago.
She had an adventurous streak and went sky diving last summer, said a friend, Liz Shadeck, 34, who lived across the street. Recently, she dyed her hair a flaming red.
But until this Thanksgiving, she had returned home without fail for holidays and birthdays.
On Friday, when relatives arrived at her apartment to check on her, they found dishes unwashed by the kitchen sink, and her bed, a mattress on the floor, unmade.
A gay pride flag was spread across her bedroom floor, below the blood-streaked walls.
Kate Hammer contributed reporting.