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Pastor sentenced to 23 years in prison for brutal murder of estranged wife

Victor Mateo, Noelia Mateo
Pastor Victor Mateo, 63, (L and C) of Christian Congregation The Redemptor in Bronx, New York, and his late wife, Noelia Mateo, 58. |

A New York pastor who ran over his estranged wife with her car and then repeatedly attacked her with a machete in front of her grandchildren has been sentenced to 23 years in prison.

The pastor, 65-year-old Victor Mateo, who led Christian Congregation The Redemptor, Inc. in the Bronx, “not only took the life of a Bronx grandmother but also inflicted a possible lifetime of trauma to her grandchildren who were witnesses to this horrific crime,” Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark said as Judge Margaret Clancy of Bronx Supreme Court sentenced him to 23 years in prison and five years of post-release supervision, according to the prosecutors.

Last November, Mateo pleaded guilty before the court to one count of first-degree manslaughter for killing his estranged wife, Noelia, 58, who was found unconscious with multiple lacerations to her body on Oct. 3, 2019.

Noelia’s grandchildren were 11 and 9 years old at the time.

“I remember my grandmother’s death like it was yesterday,” the older of the two kids, aged 13, said in a statement read in Bronx Supreme Court, the Daily News reported.

“Victor Mateo stole my grandmother and my innocence,” continued the child, whose name was withheld. “I lost so much within a few hours; I had nightmares and PTSD. … She was a beautiful lady with a man who was horrendously controlling and not what he vowed to do when marrying her. His animalistic act against my grandmother was done in cold blood.”

In his statement, Noelia’s son, Kenneth Zunigia Fernandez, said Mateo allegedly demanded that his wife hand over all of her earnings from her cheesecake business and threatened violence when she decided to leave him.

“Mateo used the Bible, religion and his ‘pastor’ role to manipulate not only my mother, but his church members,” he was quoted as saying.

According to the investigation, on the morning of Oct. 3, 2019, Mateo parked his vehicle near Noelia’s home, and as she left her house to drive her grandchildren to school, he struck her with his vehicle. The victim hid beneath her car, and Mateo got into her vehicle and ran her over with it. He then hacked her with a machete.

A neighbor, Victor DiChristina, 78, said at the time: “I was screaming at him to distract him from beating on her. And then after he took off with the car, I called 911 and I screamed at the operator, asking them, ‘Where the hell is that ambulance? Where’s the police?’”

Another neighbor, Dave Colon, said he ran out onto the street to find Noelia covered in blood. He said she had crawled from the street to a small patch of grass on the curb, while her grandson and granddaughter stood across the street in shock.

“It was a terrible sight,” he said.

Kathy Bellwood, whose husband owned the white van the pastor crashed into during the attack, said at the time that Noelia was crying or praying as she died. “She was suffering because she was crying or praying in Spanish,” she said, noting how the pastor’s wife was bleeding profusely.

Noelia was pronounced dead at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx.

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