Looks can be deceiving. Any cop working in New York knows that.
That's why Steve Di Schiavi, a homicide detective with the New York Police Department, is suspicious of the clean-cut guy in the expensive blue suit who could have a motive in the stabbing incident he's investigating.
According to what an Emergency Service Unit worker believes he heard the victim say, police think he could be the one who plunged a knife into her chest, just inside the entryway to his upscale apartment building on East 13th Street in Manhattan. As the victim, 26-year-old Shawna Kunkel, was rushed into surgery, her former boyfriend sits distraught in the front passenger seat of Di Schiavi's black Chevy Malibu.
But he adamantly denies he was there at the time of the attack.
In the interrogation room at the 9th Precinct, the man tells detectives he and Kunkel were supposed to meet at 9 p.m. at a local movie theater, but she never arrived.
Frustrated, he returned to his apartment, where he was stunned to find the police knocking on his neighbors' doors, searching for clues as to who assaulted his ex-girlfriend.
As Di Schiavi starts talking to the former boyfriend, he realizes the man's clothes are too clean. There was blood all over the hallway, yet none on his suit. He couldn't have stabbed Kunkel.
Drawing on his 20 years of experience as a cop, Di Schiavi hypothesizes to the shaken man sitting across the table that it could just have been a robbery gone badly.
"You know, we see a lot of crazy s--t in this city," he says.
As the man is cleared, Di Schiavi knows it's not going to be easy to catch the assailant. It never is.
Meanwhile, Kunkel clings to life in Bellevue's Intensive Care Unit with a collapsed lung. Di Schiavi, a father of a teenage girl, isn't looking forward to calling the victim's mother with news of the attack.
"Imagine having your daughter 1,500 miles away being stabbed in the chest by some animal," he tells ABC News. "And we don't have answers for her like, 'Yeah, we got the guy.' "
But there was something he did know for sure. "One way or another we'll get him."
The Cops Hit the Streets for Leads
Witnesses in the building that night saw a Hispanic male running from the lobby, clutching a bag. Earlier that day, several of the witnesses saw the same man sitting on the couch in the building's lobby. If the man on the run had attacked and robbed Kunkel, her cell phone could lead the police straight to him. A cell phone carrier can pinpoint exactly where a person uses a phone.
The next day, Di Schiavi and his partner Bill McNeely discover someone was making calls with the victim's phone near an East Harlem housing project. Immediately they began casing the area.
Within a short amount of time, Di Schiavi's team gets a lucky break, overhearing a teenager tell a friend about a cell phone he'd just gotten. When confronted and questioned, the teen reveals he bought the phone from a Hispanic male.
Unfortunately, the young man is unable to identify the seller from any mugshots shown to him at the 9th Precinct; but he was able to pinpoint the guy who introduced him to the seller.
In an effort to find the middle man, Di Schiavi's team focuses on a four-block radius in East Harlem. They easily nab the man as he walks down the street and bring him to the station for more questioning.