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Pair indicted in strangling

A suspected prostitute from Harlem and a Jersey City man were indicted last week in connection with the fatal strangling of a Flushing man found dead Jan. 25 in an Atlantic City motel, according to the Atlantic County prosecutor.

A grand jury indicted Ericka Pugh, 26, and Anwar Belton, 29, Sept. 30 on charges of murder, conspiracy, theft and endangering an injured person for allegedly beating and strangling Victor Castillo, of Flushing, Prosecutor Theodore House’s office said. Pugh was also indicted on a count of prosecution.

Pugh allegedly met Castillo in an Atlantic City Casino during the early hours of Jan. 25, then accompanied him to the Rodeway Inn motel at 3601 Pacific Ave. in Atlantic City, N.J., the prosecutor’s office said. Pugh allegedly stole his money at the motel, and when he tried to get it back, Pugh brought in Belton, who was in a nearby room, and Castillo “was beaten and strangled to death,” according to Assistant Prosecutor William Merz, who presented the case to the grand jury.

The motel’s manager told My Fox New York that the room, No. 206, was registered to a woman from Brooklyn. He also said he gave footage from the motel’s security cameras to police.

Belton is accused of “gripping [Castillo] by the neck and compressing,” Superior Court Judge Michael Donio said during a February hearing.

The two defendants were originally arrested on lesser charges, but the prosecutor’s office upgraded the charges once the medical examiner ruled the death a homicide by strangulation, said the Atlantic County prosecutor’s office spokeswoman Madelaine Vitale.

“The prosecutor upgraded the charges after the autopsy results showed that Mr. Castillo died of asphyxiation,” Vitale said.

Pugh was arrested Feb. 4 at 115th Street and Lenox Avenue in Harlem, and Belton was arrested Feb. 14 in Mahwah, N.J., during a traffic stop when he allegedly provided false information to police, according to the prosecutor’s office.

If convicted of murder, the co-defendants each face life in prison and $200,000 in fines.

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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