Bedford-Stuyvesant man sentenced to 25 years-to-life for cold-blooded murder and corpse desecration of romantic rival

August 18, 2023 Rob Abruzzese
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A Bedford-Stuyvesant man was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for the cold-blooded murder of a Mount Vernon man and his gruesome attempt to conceal the crime by setting the victim’s body on fire.

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez announced the sentencing of Derek Whitaker, 58, of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, for the murder of 55-year-old Jonathan Blake, a man from Mount Vernon. Whitaker was found guilty on June 16, 2023, of second-degree murder, second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, fourth-degree arson, tampering with physical evidence and concealment of a human corpse following a jury trial.

“The depravity of the defendant’s actions cannot be overstated, and the lengthy prison term to which he has been sentenced holds him accountable for killing an innocent man in cold blood and desecrating his remains,” said District Attorney Gonzalez.

According to the evidence presented at the trial, Whitaker ambushed Blake in the early morning hours of March 13, 2020, on North Broadway in Yonkers, shooting him in the head and killing him. Whitaker then transported the victim’s body to the basement of a building at 494 Jefferson Ave. in Bedford-Stuyvesant, where he worked as a superintendent and where his mother lived.

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In an attempt to cover up the killing, Whitaker set fire to the victim’s corpse using gasoline three days after the murder. A resident of the building smelled smoke and discovered the defendant standing over a metal barrel with the victim’s two legs sticking out.

The building manager was immediately alerted, and 911 was called. Members of the New York City Fire Department and the New York City Police Department arrived at the scene, and Whitaker was arrested shortly thereafter.

Investigators later revealed that the two men were romantic rivals, and that Whitaker had been stalking Blake for four to six months before the murder. In a chilling revelation, the evidence showed that Whitaker had attended a church service in Westchester County, where the victim and his family worshiped, in the time between the murder and the burning of the corpse. The defendant sat in the victim’s empty seat and even embraced the victim’s brother.

The case was prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Matthew M. Midey of the District Attorney’s Homicide Bureau and Senior Assistant District Attorney Patrick O’Donnell of the District Attorney’s Grey Zone, under the supervision of Leila Rosini. Homicide Paralegal Amanda Connolly and Digital Evidence Lab Intelligence Analyst Lexie Giardina were also thanked for their assistance in the case.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “While nothing can return Jonathan Blake to his loved ones, I hope this sentence provides them with some measure of solace.”


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