In November 2015, the Capital Region was shook by the disappearance of 21-year-old Noel Alkaramla. One month after she went missing from her last-known whereabouts on 3rd Street in Troy, her body was found inside a suitcase in the Hudson River near Albany.
Today, her 40-year-old stepfather Johnny Oquendo stands trial for her murder, and the bizarre nature of the case has drawn a lot of media attention. The case has surfaced information alleging the victim and the accused had a consensual sexual relationship, and that Alkaramla might have been involved in drugs and prostitution.
Witnesses have taken the stand claiming they heard an argument from Oquendo’s apartment on the evening in question, and later described the sounds of him dragging a suitcase down the stairs, breaking the banister and claiming everything was “fine” when confronted.
But as the case progresses and many more witnesses contribute various details that support or defend the suspect’s guilt, one particular witness, Amanda Whitman, is throwing this entire case for a loop by bringing some heavy, heavy baggage into the courtroom.
Whitman, 37, is Oquendo’s ex-girlfriend who was brought in to do one very specific thing: confirm that the suitcase recovered from the river belonged to her former boyfriend Oquendo. That was it.
“Is it his suitcase? Yes? Ok cool, take a hike,” was probably how they expected that to go. But, apparently, by bringing in Whitman, they opened the floodgates to a whole mess of what we call, ‘Troy Crazy.’
It’s been hard to follow all of the craziness that has come out of Whitman’s testimony. There’s no video recording allowed in the courtroom, so we’ve been scrolling endlessly to uncover the details in the Twitter feeds from local reporters offering a play-by-play on Whitman’s time on the stand (shoutout to Geoff Redick, whose feed has been an exceptional resource).
If you’re wondering what’s been going on and don’t have the thumb muscles to scroll any further, here’s a brief recap of the continuing drama Whitman’s introduction to the case has uncovered.
Whitman, the star witness, had sexual relations with that…dog.
While the assistant public defender cross-examined Whitman to try and prove she’s not a credible source, she was repeatedly questioned about visiting hundreds of beastiality sites on her phone, as well as recording videos of herself performing sexual acts with animals. Therefore, if she’s up to some super weird, dark stuff like that, can the jury really trust her to deliver solid information about her ex? Fair point.
She sent some very nasty breakup texts
It turns out the breakup between Whitman and Oquendo might’ve happened just days before Alkaramla disappeared on November 22, 2015. Information about the breakup was revealed by Whitman’s cell phone records, where she allegedly texted Oquendo messages like, “I hope you die of AIDS,” or, “Slip on a knife.”
Her mental health status held up the case
After alluding to the fact she’s had a drug problem since her early teens, the case was put on a brief pause to further investigate Whitman’s medical records and mental health status. She claims she’s abused drugs like heroin and cocaine and refused to take proper medicine to help her mental illness throughout the years.
And, she speaks to the dead
So after days of back and forth, taking the focus of the case off of the victim and her grieving family, and forgetting momentarily about Oquendo’s fate, Whitman retakes the stand and says she can communicate with the deceased. Whitman told the courtroom that she had visions of the victim screaming, begging for help, right around the time she disappeared.
While Whitman’s involvement in the trial has no doubt been surprising and undeniably interesting, it’s taken valuable time away from the actual case, causing mega-distraction as the trial attempts to come to a close.
This is a terribly sad story, a bizarre criminal act in all of our backyards. For the defense to bring in someone who has enough emotional issues and instability for her own 8-part television series, it seems unfair to place the focus on someone so out-of-touch with what can be done to bring justice to the victim and the family involved.
I’m no expert on the legal system but have been following this case as it unfolds, and I do understand the defense’s strategy to pose as many questions and loopholes as possible when it comes to Amanda Whitman. But, at the same time, come on. We get it! This chick is whacky and she’s throwing everyone off their game by killing time, scratching heads and distracting the jury from doing their one clear job.
And it doesn’t look like I’m the only one who feels this way.
As reported by the Albany Times Union:
State Supreme Court Justice Andrew Ceresia told Botts the prosecutor’s office would have to take the time to provide access to the records to the defense, but added, “Frankly it’s a burden your office caused.”
The judge added that he has grown tired of prosecution-related delays in the case that could have been avoided.
As for the rest of the case, closing arguments are expected today and the jury would then begin to deliberate on the fate of Oquendo, who if found guilty, faces 25 years to life in prison. PS: Shout out to all of the local media outlets for outstanding coverage and professionalism in covering the case. Sources: Albany Times Union, WNYT, Spectrum News Albany.
Two Buttons Deep is a news & entertainment website based in upstate New York.
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