Woman convicted in 1993 "buried-alive" kidnapping to be paroled

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 23, 2011 3:19 PM

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A woman in prison 18 years for her role in a sensational 1993 kidnapping of a New York businessman who was buried alive for nearly two weeks has been granted parole, officials said on Wednesday.

Aurelina Leonor, 61, was convicted for making ransom calls demanding $3 million in the abduction of Harvey Weinstein, the owner of a tuxedo manufacturing company in the city's Queens borough in 1993.

Weinstein was grabbed at knifepoint outside a diner where he regularly ate breakfast and buried in an underground pit for 13 days.

After a massive manhunt, police arrested the kidnappers after they tried to collect ransom money.

They found Weinstein inside a small pit covered with a heavy steel plate weighed down by cinder blocks. It was hidden in a wooded city park along a Manhattan highway.

Leonor's boyfriend at the time was one of the kidnappers, Fermin Rodriguez, who worked in Weinstein's factory.

She was the only one of the six kidnappers to go to trial. The others pleaded guilty.

Rodriguez was sentenced to 20 years to life, while his brother Antonio served 15 years before he was released and deported to the Dominican Republic in 2008.

During her month-long trial in 1995, Leonor claimed she was coerced into making the ransom calls by the Rodriguez brothers and said she thought she would be killed if she refused.

New York State Parole Board officials said her release could come as soon as August 12.

Weinstein died in 2007 at age 82.

(Reporting by Bernd Debusmann Jr.; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Jerry Norton)