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Stranger punches girl at NYC Grand Central Station days after release in similar attack

In World
April 14, 2024

A homeless man freed without bail after randomly breaking a woman’s nose went on to sucker-punch a 9-year-old girl in the face in Grand Central Station, MTA officials said.

Jean Carlos Zarzuela, 30, was busted after he allegedly socked the youngster as she stood next to her stunned mom in the station’s dining concourse at about 11:50 a.m. Saturday, MTA police said. Medics took the girl to NYU Langone’s Tisch Hospital for treatment.

Zarzuela was caught on video inside the transit hub, and the MTA released his name and photos to the media shortly after the Saturday attack.

MTA cops knew Zarzuela’s last known address was a homeless shelter on E. 125th St, so they headed to the E. 125th St. subway station on Lexington Ave. Saturday evening and asked a pair of NYPD transit cops for help, according to law enforcement sources.

Sure enough, the NYPD cops recognized his photo and said they had seen him about 10 minutes earlier. NYPD transit cops found Zarzuela and took him to the MTA police officers, who made the arrest at about 10:20 p.m.

Zarzuela is also accused of punching a 56-year-old woman in Grand Central Station on April 4. MTA cops initially charged him with felony assault, but prosecutors in Manhattan dropped that down to a misdemeanor.

Sources familiar with the case said the decision came after police and prosecutors did not receive a supporting deposition from the victim in the case, which is required by law within five days if there’s bail set.

Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Pamela Goldsmith ordered him held on $2,500 cash bail or $10,000 bond. Records show he had a bench warrant out for assault cases in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

On Tuesday, he appeared before Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Laurie Peterson, according to the court system’s online docket. She released him without bail just four days before the attack on the young girl.

“It doesn’t make any sense that this guy — who recently was released after being charged with randomly punching someone else and breaking that victim’s nose — should be back in a public space where he can attack others, especially children,” MTA Communications Director Tim Minton said.

“The people responsible for the criminal justice system need to learn from this episode before more innocent people become victims.”

Zarzuela was awaiting arraignment in Manhattan Criminal Court on Sunday evening. His lawyer declined to comment.

The attack comes less than four months after another recidivist criminal was accused of stabbing two teen sisters visiting New York from Paraguay at Grand Central on Christmas morning.

Steve Hutcherson, 36, who also uses the name Esteban Esono-Asue, allegedly stabbed a 16-year-old girl in the back and her 14-year-old sister in the thigh in an unprovoked attack. He’s also accused of slashing another Rikers Island inmate as he was held without bail in the attack.

In an interview with the Daily News, Hutcherson’s ex-girlfriend said his mental health began deteriorating in June 2021, when he told her he suffered from paranoia, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

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