Peter Zisopoulous: Suspect in Alison Russo-Elling murder pleads not guilty from psych ward
Warning: This content contains a recollection of crime and can be triggering to some, readers' discretion is advised.
ASTORIA, QUEENS: Peter Zisopoulous, 34, the main suspect in the murder of Alison Russo-Elling, pleaded not guilty to the charges against him on Thursday, October 6. Zisopoulous appeared in court via a video call from the Bellevue Hospital psych ward.
According to CBS News, the suspect is charged with second-degree murder and criminal possession of a weapon in the brutal murder of EMS captain Russo-Elling, 61, in broad daylight of September 29 in Astoria, Queens.
Peter will now proceed with a psychiatric evaluation. Many of the FDNY workers who were Alison's colleagues were present to witness the indictment. He also mentioned that he did not consent to a video link arraignment as well. Peter said, “I do not consent,” when Queens Judge Ushir Pandit-Durant checked with him to understand if he is fine with arraignment being done remotely. Further, Peter's defense lawyer Wilson Antonio Lafaurie, asked, "do you hear me?” asked. To which he responded, “Yes, I can hear you." Further, the lawyer questioned, “Who am I?" “You’re my lawyer. Wilfred?” the defendant answered.
According to New York Post, Lafaurie asked her client, “Wilson. You came close, so you’re not in court because you’re at the hospital. I told you that we were going to plead not guilty. Do you want to do that?". To which Peter said, "Yes." The defendant's lawyer further claimed, “My client has a past psychiatric history going back to 2018. He’s been at Bellevue Hospital for around seven days at this point. We believe that he doesn’t understand the charges against him. We are asking for an exam….” Watch the video here.
EMS officers, however, don't buy the suspect's mental health issue. Vincent Variale, president of the Uniformed EMS Officers Union said after the indictment, “He should have been here today. Obviously he’s playing this mental defect issue to prolong justice being provided, but that’s ok because we’re going to play that game too,and we’re going to be here every day to make sure he knows we’re watching him. And we’re watching this whole process take place, and we’re going to see this until the end until justice is done." He also added, “I believe he may have had a history or some mental illness, but if you watch that horrible video that’s been out there, clearly you see that the killed her, murdered her, knew what he was doing was wrong and ran away."
However, as per DailyMail, a statement was released by Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz that noted, "This is a tragic case and a devastating loss for the family as well as our City. FDNY EMS Captain Alison Russo-Elling spent her 25-year career helping others in their time of need." It further added, "Now, her family mourns her passing because, as alleged, the defendant brutally stabbed Ms. Russo-Elling to death near her workstation in Astoria. Our condolences go out to the family, friends, and colleagues that she leaves behind."
The statement concluded by saying, "The defendant has been indicted on murder charges and faces justice in our courts." Oren Barzilay, President, FDNY EMS Local 2507 said, "The death of EMT Lt. Russo-Elling is a devastating loss for her family, each member of the FDNY EMS, and the city of New York. "
Oren added, "Her commitment and sacrifice to the citizens of this city over an incredible 25-year career is an inspiration to us all. Our members do this work because they love helping others, but the thought that now comes to mind is whether they are going to go home that night. With this tragic loss and increasing assaults, the job has become more and more worrisome for EMTs." However, the judge agreed to the psychological examination and adjourned the case until November 29.