Shafiqul Islam accused of strangling Lois Decker in her Hillsdale home
HUDSON—The man now accused of murdering a Hillsdale woman November 20, 2011 was not supposed to be in the U.S. at the time the crime took place.
Though the order was issued for his deportation three years ago, Shafiqul Islam, a convicted sex offender, and now a murder suspect, somehow slipped through the cracks. Mr. Islam, 22, has been held in the Columbia County Jail on a charge of third degree criminal possession of stolen property since Lois Decker, 73, was found strangled to death in her Cold Water Street home. But this week a sealed indictment opened in Columbia County Court Tuesday morning, February 7 before Judge Jonathan Nichols, charged Mr. Islam with second degree murder, a class A felony, for intentionally causing the death of Mrs. Decker, a Sunday School teacher and retired Roeliff Jansen School cafeteria head cook. The indictment also charges him with three counts of fourth degree criminal possession of stolen property, two of the counts relating to his possession of two stolen motor vehicles and the third for a stolen credit card, a debit card and a public benefit card.
Mr. Islam appeared in court with his attorney Michael Howard, entering pleas of not guilty on all counts.
He made no application for bail and was sent back to jail to await pre-trial hearings starting June 8 and a July 16 trial date.
Many members of Mrs. Decker’s family watched the brief proceeding from the front row in the main upstairs courtroom in the county courthouse.
Mrs. Decker was found dead in her home at 18 Cold Water Street by Sheriff’s Office Sergeant John DeRocha, who went there after being unable to contact her by phone about her car, which was involved in an accident earlier that day.
The case began to unfold when deputies were called to the scene of a one-car rollover accident on State Route 23 in Martindale, Sunday, November 20 at 6:42 p.m. Two local people came upon the accident and stopped to assist the young man involved in the crash. But when the passersby tried to help the driver, he allegedly attempted drive off with a vehicle belonging to one of them. After both people who had stopped to help prevented him from stealing the car, police say Mr. Islam man fled on foot, went to a nearby house and within a few minutes allegedly stole a 2011 Ford F-150 pickup truck from an attached garage.
The stolen truck, operated by Mr. Islam, was found by State Police Sergeant Fred Mueller at the intersection of Warren and Sixth streets in Hudson at 9:56 p.m. Mr. Islam was subsequently charged with being in possession of the stolen truck and was jailed.
Following the arraignment, District Attorney Paul Czajka conducted a press conference at his 325 Columbia Street office, which included Sheriff David Harrison, Jr., State Police Zone One Commander Captain Scott Brown of the Livingston barracks and a dozen or more members of both law enforcement agencies.
The DA recounted a 1987 murder case in which the defendant, now convicted murderer William Maxwell, who was supposed to be in jail on an attempted rape charge, was instead released after an appellate ruling that his sentence was flawed. Following his release, Mr. Maxwell “brutally murdered” Hudson resident Penny Almstead, throwing her body in the Hudson River “while she was still alive,” Mr. Czajka said. And until now, the DA said, that “was one of the most disturbing things to happen in Columbia County. Billy Maxwell should have been in jail so he couldn’t have killed her.” DA Czajka prosecuted the case after taking office in January 1988. Mr. Maxwell is currently serving a life sentence after pleading guilty to the murder.
Returning to the current case, Mr. Czajka said that in March 2008, when Mr. Islam was charged with promoting a sexual performance by a child under 17. He was subsequently convicted in September 2008 for having sexual intercourse with a 12-year-old girl in Hudson and was sentenced to three years in prison, seven years probation and to register as a sex offender.
A U.S. Immigration Court Judge ordered Mr. Islam removed from this country and sent back to his native Bangladesh December 11, 2008.
According to federal law, “the Attorney General shall provide for the initiation and… the completion of removal proceedings and any administrative appeals… in the case of any alien convicted of an aggravated felony before the alien’s release from incarceration…”
Drawing a parallel between the cases, the DA said that the order to deport Mr. Islam was issued, but he was not deported, and in November 2011 he committed a brutal murder in Hillsdale. “He should not have been in the U.S. He should have at the very least been in detention,” said Mr. Czajka.
Asked why Mr. Islam was not deported as ordered, the DA said he did not know whether it might be “a problem with the immigration office or a problem with the law.”
But “people should be disturbed that this guy was free to murder,” he said.
Sheriff Harrison said the Mr. Islam was reporting regularly to someone from the state parole office and that he had reported his recent move to Hillsdale. By one account Mr. Islam has been in the U.S. since he was eight-years-old and attended Hudson High School. He had only been out of a federal detention facility for six weeks when he allegedly murdered Mrs. Decker, said the sheriff.
Reached for comment on the case Wednesday, Stephanie Valle, a spokeswoman for Congressman Chris Gibson’s (R-20th) office, said it is the congressman’s understanding that Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an agency of the federal Department of Homeland Security, had responsibility for seeing that Mr. Islam was deported. Noting that the congressman is “deeply concerned,” Ms. Valle said it is Mr. Gibson’s view that it is completely “unacceptable” that Mr. Islam was allowed to stay in this country and going forward there should be an ongoing effort to insure the enforcement immigration laws.
A call to U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D) office on the matter was not returned by press time Wednesday.
To contact Diane Valden email .