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SoHo hotel murder suspect’s past victim talks near-fatal FL sex assault horror

The New York Daily News - 2/21/2024

A previous victim of the man accused of killing a Queens mom sex worker in a SoHo hotel believes that if authorities in Florida had heeded her warnings, the slain woman would be alive today.

Leah Palian, 26, first met Raad Almansoori last year when the two were working at an Orlando, Fla. restaurant, she told the Daily News. Months after she says he attacked her, on the day of the SoHo hotel slaying he called her, breaking an order of protection, to ask why she had treated him so badly, she says.

He would eventually commit a horrifying sexual assault against her and come close to taking her life, she said.

Almansoori, whom Palian knew as Noah, was identified by police Tuesday as a suspect in the murder of Denisse Oleas-Arancibia, 38. She was a sex worker and Queens mother who was found strangled and struck in the head with an iron inside Soho 54 hotel on Watts St. near Sixth Ave. on Feb. 8, according to police.

“Noah and I start working together and he was really odd,” Palian said late Tuesday. “He’s very socially reserved, very quiet and a lot of the other people at the restaurant didn’t like him. He has poor social skills.”

The two worked in the kitchen together and bonded as they were “isolated from the other workers in the restaurant,” Palian continued.

“He definitely gave off serial killer vibes,” she said of Almansoori. “In fact, a lot of our other co-workers said that verbatim.”

Almansoori described his upbringing in Phoenix, Ariz., as a traumatic one, claiming to Palian that his parents abused him.

“I started to get a soft spot for Noah because he’s been through so much,” she said. “He just wants somebody to care about him and he doesn’t know how to get this across.”

In April 2023, Palian noticed Almansoori rode his bike to work, a 35 minute trip by car.

“I drove him home and I guess he developed a bond or attachment to me and so I start giving him rides home from work on nights we worked together,” she said. “One day he asked, ‘Can you take me home and can you take me to the shop to get the car?’”

The woman agreed but asked Almansoori if he would sleep on her couch to avoid a long drive in the morning to his home in a neighboring city.

As the two shared a glass of wine, Almansoori “turned into this really mean, really horrendous person,” Palian recalled.

“He drank half a glass and he’s immediately incoherent,” she said. “It’s as if he’s black-out drunk.”

Palian shook off the strange encounter and headed to bed, leaving Almansoori to sleep on her couch.

“I wake up the next day and Noah is bear hugging me in my bed,” she said. “And I’m like, this is not OK. I tell him get off of me get out of my room.”

Almansoori refused to leave and the two went back and forth for about an hour before the man said he was in love with Palian, grabbed her phone and then her, she recounted.

“He used my face to unlock my phone,” Palian said. “He starts going through my phone and he had gone through and blocked men I was kind of flirting with.”

When he saw a text Palian had sent the night before to a friend recounting Almansoori’s strange behavior, he flew off the handle.

“He went over and closed my blinds,” Palian said. “It was uncomfortable but I didn’t think my life was at risk here.”

Almansoori then locked her front door and closed off any windows and doors that exposed them to anyone outside.

“He got on top of me and starts strangling me with a dead look in his eyes,” Palian said. “He said, ‘Scream and I’ll kill you.’”

She described Almansoori as a large, muscular man, adding that she could do nothing but “lay there and hope that it stopped.”

“He said, ‘I hate that I have to do this, I hate that I have to kill you,’” Palian said. “His eyes were completely black. He knew where to grab — he immediately cut off my oxygen.”

Suddenly, Almansoori let up and Palian sat up and gasped for breath.

“I said, ‘Noah, what the f–k was that?’” Palian said. “And he said, ‘You made the devil come out of my body.’”

“I said, ‘This is not normal, this is some serial killer s–t,'” she added. “I feared for my life.”

Palian tried to figure a way out of the apartment without him catching her, but she couldn’t, she said. As Almansoori held her prisoner in her home, she worked to calm him down, empathizing with his childhood trauma.

“He’s like, you’re going to tell people about this and I’m like no, I’m not,” Palian said. “I’m doing anything can at this point [to calm him down].”

She then noticed Almansoori had an erection and told her to move into her bedroom, where he forced her to perform oral sex on him.

“It was like he was so thrilled and so aroused he had just strangled someone almost to the point of death,” Palian said. “I kept thinking I’m going to die here in my apartment.”

Palian eventually convinced Almansoori to let her drive him to pick up his car at the mechanic, but the suspicious man kept an eye on her as he took the keys and got in the driver’s seat.

“He was, like, holding me hostage,” Palian said. “He is watching me like a hawk.”

Convinced Almansoori would kill her if she let him drive her out of Orlando, she pleaded with him to stop at a gas station so she could use the bathroom.

“I was just like, I’m a girl and it’s embarrassing to go in front of your boyfriend or something and he bought it,” Palian said. “He let me go to a 7-Eleven.”

Palian barreled into the convenience store, locked herself in the bathroom and called 911. At the same time, Almansoori was texting her repeatedly, asking what was taking so long.

“He comes in and bangs on the bathroom stall,” Palian said of Almansoori. “The banging stops and a couple minutes [later], I hear keys jingling and someone’s trying to unlock the door. Noah got the manager and told him his friend’s not responding.”

Once Almansoori gained access to the bathroom, Palian told the manager he tried to kill her and that she needed help.

Almansoori took off, stole Palian’s car and fled the 7-Eleven. The next day, police found him in her stolen car on the side of a highway two hours north or Orlando, Palian said.

“He even pawned my bike that was in the car,” she said. “I thought this would be a closed case and he would be off the street.”

Almansoori was first hit with a slew of charges including kidnapping, sexual assault, physical assault and attempted murder, Palian recalled.

“I told the state attorney’s office flat out that if you give this man a slap on the wrist, he will hurt someone else and become a serial killer,” Palian said.

No action was taken on any of the charges except grand theft of a motor vehicle, Orange County, Fla., record show, with authorities telling Palian there was not enough evidence to pursue any of the other charges.

“They didn’t even move forward with the stolen bike charge,” she scoffed. “They failed on so many levels. They let go of so many of the violent charges [against] a woman.

“Had they not failed me the first time, none of these things would have been able to happen,” Palian added.

The Florida attorney general’s office did not immediately answer a News request for comment.

In September,. Almansoori paid his own bail to get out of jail and stayed in Florida for several months before flying to New YorkJan. 26, according to police.

Between Feb. 7 and 8, he met Oleas-Arancibia in her hotel room at the SoHo 54 and killed her, cops allege.

Around 8 p.m.Feb. 8, Almansoori called Palian despite the woman having an order of protection that barred him from doing so, she said.

“All I could think to say was, why are you calling me,” Palian said. “He said, ‘I just wanted to know how you feel about what happened.’ I was like, when you tried to end my life?”

On Tuesday, detectives that handled Palian’s case in Florida called her to notify her that Almansoori is a suspect in Oleas-Arancibia’s murder.

“The first thing out of my mouth was, oh, my God, I told them this would happen,” Palian said. “I shouted that over and over.

“I was in a state of shock; I was in a state of disbelief,” she added. “I knew he was capable of doing this and no one took me seriously. It was infuriating and heartbreaking.”

Almansoori is being held in a Maricopa County, Ariz., jail after he followed a woman McDonald’s employee into a bathroom, held her against her will and stabbed her repeatedly, according to authorities. The incident happened in the town of Surprise.

Maricopa County prosecutors charged Almansoori with attempted murder, aggravated assault and theft for that stabbing, as well as robbery, assault, theft and criminal damage for a separate attack in Phoenix.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office will begin the extradition request to bring Almansoori back to New York — a lengthy process, according to police.

“I just want to emphasize how badly the state of Florida failed us as women,” Palian said. “Not only me, but allowed these atrocities to happen when they had every opportunity to prevent it.”

©2024 New York Daily News. Visit nydailynews.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.