Reyna Marroquin and her married lover, Howard Elkins, will be the main story on ID’s Grave Secrets documentary this week. Reyna Marroquin was a pregnant immigrant woman from El Salvador who vanished in the 1960s in New York. Her mummified body was found in a barrel 30 years later inside a Jericho, New York home. New York detectives cracked the case in 1999. Howard Elkins, a retired businessman who police say killed the woman, took his own life when he was confronted with the crime. The Grave Secrets episode title is “Beneath the Stairs.”
Grave Secrets episode “Beneath the Stairs”
When a mummy with a fetus inside is found in a barrel in a New York home, detectives uncover the identity of a beautiful immigrant who vanished three decades before.
Reyna Marroquin: The Body In The Barrel
The case of Reyna Marroquin broke in 1999 after a black and white photo of the dead immigrant was plastered all over New York newspapers. It was a fascinating but eerie story that began in 1966 when Reyna Marroquin arrived in New York from El Salvador.
Reyna Marroquin hoped to find the American dream. However, an affair with Howard Elkins, her married boss, left Reyna Marroquin folded inside a barrel for more than three decades. Howard Elkins would have committed the perfect murder had Reyna Marroquin’s body not been found.
According to police, trash collectors refused to pick up the steel drum due to its weight, leaving the new homeowner no choice but to open the barrel to see what was inside. To his horror, he found the decomposed body of a woman. What was visible immediately was her mummified hand and a shoe.
The barrel was transported to the local morgue for an autopsy. The other contents were examined forensically. Medical examiners confirmed the dead woman was pregnant with a nearly full-term baby. The manner of death was determined to be a homicide after multiple lacerations to the head indicated she had died of blunt force trauma. At the time, no one knew the woman was Reyna Marroquin.
A cryptic note was also found inside the purse. It read this way.
“Don’t be mad. I told the truth.”
— RebeccaR (@RebeccaR224) February 27, 2017
A match to an immigrant identification number later found inside her address book allowed to detectives to finally give the corpse a name. Inside the barrel, examiners found plastic pellets, a green flower stem, a pocketbook or purse, a thick green and brown liquid, and an address book. Detectives traced the drum back to a plastics factory that was in operation in the 1960s. The co-owner of Melrose Plastics was a man named Howard Elkins. His old partner, who was still living, told detectives that Howard Elkins had an affair with a pretty Hispanic girl with long black hair.
The address book found in the barrel was almost completely destroyed by the strange liquid. And most of the phone numbers no longer worked. However, detectives located a woman named Kathy Andrade, who told detectives that she had been looking for her friend, Reyna Marroquin, for 30 years.
Kathy Andrade said Reyna Marroquin came to America from El Salvador to study fashion and was living at a Catholic home that housed single women. Reyna told her she was involved with a married man and that she was pregnant with his child.
Reyna Marroquin shared one more disturbing detail with Kathy Andrade. She had called her lover’s wife and told her about the affair and the baby. Reyna also said her boyfriend was furious when he called her back and threatened to kill her. According to Kathy, Reyna never revealed the man’s identity. However, she remembered that Reyna was absolutely terrified and realized immediately that calling his wife was a deadly mistake.
Worried her friend was in trouble, Kathy went to Reyna Marroquin’s apartment and found it empty. Hours later, she contacted police. She was unable to find Reyna Marroquin’s family or any other information about her. The case went cold until police finally made the grisly discovery.
By the time the secret murder was exposed, Howard Elkins was retired and living in Boca Raton, Florida. He was still married to his wife. When confronted with the evidence, Howard Elkins denied knowing what happened to Reyna Marroquin. He admitted having an affair with the Spanish-speaking immigrant but said he didn’t remember her name or any details about her.
New York detectives believe Howard Elkins somehow lured Reyna Marroquin to the plastics factory, where he killed her. He then transported the body to his home and stuffed it in the barrel. His goal was most likely to carry the barrel aboard his boat, so he could throw it out to sea. However, Howard Elkins underestimated how heavy the barrel would be once he weighted it down to make the barrel sink.
Unable to move it, Howard Elkins, shoved the barrel containing his ex-lover, Reyna Marroquin, and his baby in a crawlspace, where it stayed while Elkins raised his children and carried on with family life.
The Jericho, New York house was sold two more times before the terrible discovery was made. Keep Her Contained, a book by Newsday writer Oscar Corral, details Reyna Marroquin’s journey to America. According to the book, Reyna Marroquin left El Salvador deeply hurt after discovering her husband had impregnated his lover.
Crime and Punishment – The Murder of Reyna MarroquinIn 1999, the new owner of a house in Long Island discovered that…
Reyna Marroquin’s mother, who Oscar found still alive in El Salvador, had recurring nightmares that her daughter was inside a barrel. Her mother hoped she would live long enough to find out what happened to Reyna. When Oscar showed the woman a 30-year-old photo of Reyna Marroquin, she wept bitterly and died not long after finding out her daughter’s fate.
Several documentaries have been made about the case. Grave Secrets will tell the story of Reyna Marroquin and Howard Elkins this Tuesday, November 14, at 9 p.m. on Investigation Discovery channel.
[Main Image via Police File Photo]