Cinematic history is full of people whose lives were cut tragically short just before they made it big. Some of these, like Adrienne Shelly, were already successful and well-known within their own circles and were just a few steps away from taking their fame to a higher level.
A native New Yorker, Shelly found success in indie films and off-Broadway productions. Eventually, she pushed her limits further behind the cameras, and she became equally as successful as both a writer and director. Off the set, Shelly met and married Andy Ostroy, a marketing executive. They had a strong and loving relationship, and the couple had a daughter in 2003.
All of that came to sudden and horrific end when she was found hanging in the Greenwich Village apartment she used as an office on November 1, 2006. Police initially thought she had committed suicide, but family and friends didn't believe it. Crime scene evidence also didn't support the suicide theory. To some, it felt like an unsolved Hollywood murder - why would anyone kill the successful indie multi-hyphenate?
By all appearances, it seemed Shelly had taken her own life. However, there was other evidence at the scene that raised a few unanswered questions. Muddy footprints left by a Reebok shoe found on the toilet lid and on the edge of the bathtub had authorities wondering if there was something more to this case.
An autopsy of Shelly’s body revealed she had been killed by neck compression, which was consistent with the apparent self-hanging. Police still had their reasonable doubt, however.
Andy Ostroy never believed his wife had committed suicide. She was excitedly waiting to hear whether or not her latest movie, Waitress, had been accepted to the prestigious 2007 Sundance Film Festival. Not only that, Shelly absolutely adored her young daughter. Family and friends also maintained that Shelly would never have killed herself. Ostroy begged police to investigate further.
The muddy footprints were a standout item at the crime scene. Police determined the mud had come from gypsum dust, which most likely would have come from a construction area. Shelly’s clothes were completely clean. This lessened the chance it was Shelly who had left them, which meant someone else could have been in the apartment. Authorities began searching for construction sites in the area and quickly found one in an apartment directly below Shelly’s. There, they found clear shoe imprints that matched the ones at the crime scene perfectly.
Once they had found the footprints in the construction zone that matched the crime scene, police immediately began to search for the a matching suspect. They discovered the work being done there was overseen by a contractor named Louis Hernandez.
When questioned, Hernandez said one of his workers had recently been wearing Reebok-brand shoes to the job. His name was Diego Pillco, a 19-year-old from Ecuador who had entered the country a few months prior and couldn’t speak any English. When police went to his Brooklyn apartment and questioned him, he immediately confessed to Shelly's murder.