Tyrese Haspil, 21, entered his not guilty plea via Skype before a state court judge in Manhattan after a grand jury indicted him on upgraded charges of first- and second-degree murder, second-degree grand larceny, second-degree burglary, concealment of a human corpse and tampering with physical evidence, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
Saleh “was a witness to a crime committed on a prior occasion and the death was caused for the purpose of preventing the intended victim’s testimony in any criminal action or proceeding whether or not such action or proceeding had been commenced,” according to the indictment.
The indictment charges Haspil with three grand larceny counts for allegedly stealing tens of thousands of dollars from Saleh through PayPal and Intuit transfers.
Court documents said a Makita saw, scissors, a knife, gloves and a mask were found in Saleh’s apartment, along with bags containing a head and limbs.
“We’re contesting everything here, including the circumstances of the death and whether or not they can prove that this young man had anything at all to do with it,” said Neville Mitchell, an attorney with the Legal Aid Society’s Homicide Defense Task Force, who’s representing Haspil.
“This is going to be a vigorous defense for this young man. There are a lot of things that we’re investigating that you know we’re not prepared to offer at this time in terms of the defense, but there will be a vigorous defense.”
Haspil is being held at Rikers Island, according to Mitchell.
The case was adjourned until January 11.
Saleh was found dead the day after he was killed in the living room of his condo on the Lower East Side, police said. His cousin had gone to check on him. His head and limbs were severed.
Haspil allegedly assaulted Saleh with a Taser before killing him, police said at the time. Saleh had just stepped out of an elevator that went straight to his seventh-floor apartment.
Saleh was last seen in surveillance video getting into the elevator with a masked man dressed in all black, according to the law enforcement official.
An autopsy showed Saleh died from five stab wounds to the neck and torso, according to the criminal complaint.
Saleh was CEO of Gokada, Nigeria’s motorcycle ride-hail company, which launched in 2018.
Surveillance video from a Manhattan hardware store on the morning after Saleh was killed captured Haspil purchasing an electric saw and cleaning supplies, which were later discovered near Saleh’s dismembered and decapitated torso, according to the complaint.
When Saleh’s cousin buzzed his condo later the morning of July 14, the assistant was allegedly dismembering Saleh’s body with the saw and fled, according to the law enforcement official. Haspil was arrested in Manhattan days later.
CNN’s Sonia Moghe contributed to this report.