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Ridgewood man found dead in Queens Village basement

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Lorna Laidlaw, 42, of 94-14 212th St. was charged with killing Jose Hernandez, 58, sometime between 10:30 a.m. on March 16 and 11:59 p.m. on March 17, then leaving his bullet-ridden body in the basement of her house, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.

"The defendant is alleged to have concealed the victim's body for over two months in the basement of her residence," Brown said.

Eventually, Laidlaw contacted her lawyer, Bert Nisonoff , who called the DA's office about Hernandez, a police source said. The DA alerted the 105th Police Precinct, and when officers arrived at Laidlaw's home May 18, they discovered that she had apparently tried to commit suicide, the source said.

Officers then found Hernandez's body hidden in a black garbage bag wrapped in tape in a basement storage compartment, the DA said. Hernandez had sustained a number of gunshot wounds to his head, left arm and right cheek, the medical examiner reported to the DA.

Laidlaw was charged with murder and tampering with physical evidence and was arraigned Friday in State Supreme Court in Kew Gardens, with bail set at $500,000, the DA said. Laidlaw is due back in court on June 18 and faces up to 25 years to life in prison if convicted, the DA said.

Laidlaw worked with Hernandez at the city's Human Resources Administration, the DA said. Hernandez was reported missing on March 17 and was last seen near his home on 1670 Norman Ave. in Ridgewood, police said.

Neither Laidlaw's lawyer nor the Human Resources Administration returned calls seeking comment, but the Daily News reported Laidlaw has been suspended without pay by the agency, where she has worked since 1989.

The Daily News also reported that Hernandez became engaged in February to a woman named Ana Campoverde, 39, who until recently worked with both Hernandez and Laidlaw in the same office.

Hernandez's family declined to comment, and it could not be determined when he and Laidlaw had dated or how serious their relationship was.

City records indicated Laidlaw held the lease to the Queens Village house, a 2-1/2-story red house with a gray stone facade. After police arrived and removed Hernandez's body, neighbors said they did not know Laidlaw very well and were still trying to figure out why police were on their block.

"Nobody really knows anything," said a 24-year-old man who declined to be named. "We're just as lost as anybody."

When residents eventually heard the news of the crime, they were surprised.

"I couldn't sleep because of next door," said a female neighbor who asked not to be identified. "It's a shock to hear something like that."

Reach reporter Michael Morton by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by calling 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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