Investigators search Queens basement for remains in Kristine Kupka case

Investigators hope they are tantalizingly close to solving the decade-long disappearance of a pregnant Baruch College student - but two days of searching a Queens basement has yielded nothing.

Kristine Kupka, 28, vanished in October 1998, but her body has never been found. While suspicion has long centered on the married professor whose child she was carrying, he has not been charged.

Cold case detectives dug up the basement of a Liberty Ave. plumbing supply store Thursday, a day after a cadaver dog indicated a corpse was buried in the concrete.

While the excavation has not yet turned up Kupka's remains, her long-suffering sister refused to give up hope that her beloved sibling would be found.

"It's been horrible and I can't even describe it," said Kathy Kupka. "In my mind, I know she was killed in that [store]."

Darshanand (Rudy) Persaud, Kristine Kupka's boyfriend and chemistry instructor, has "certainly" remained the prime suspect over the years, a high-ranking NYPD source said Thursday.

The missing woman's sister, who has spent 12 years keeping her sibling's case from being forgotten, believes Persaud - the last person seen with Kristine Kupka - is guilty.

"I want to know what happened," said an enraged Kathy Kupka. "I want closure."

"She was afraid of him," said Kathy Kupka, remembering that her sister once told her, "'If anything happens to me, it's Rudy.'"

Persaud, now a dentist living in Florida, has never cooperated with investigators, police sources said.

His cousin, Khemraj Maraj, was the former owner of the Jamaica store that entered cops' cross hairs in 2000 when they received an anonymous tip that the five-months pregnant Kristine Kupka was buried in its basement.

Maraj refused to let cops search the store, which used to be an auto-supply shop, and investigators did not have enough evidence to obtain a warrant, the sources said.

Every six months for the last decade, cops would visit the store, and each time Maraj would deny them entrance, the sources said. But in January, the cold case detectives learned the store had been sold - and the new owner granted them permission to search the basement.

"We've been waiting all these years to search this place," said Gil Alba, a private investigator hired by Kupka's family.

"It was a stumbling block," Alba said. "Why wouldn't they allow us inside?"

Investigators have focused on a six-inch slab of concrete that appears shoddily installed on the basement floor, sources said.

A dog signaled a "hit" under the slab Wednesday but cops did not locate any remains, leading investigators to fear that it was a false positive, the sources said.

The investigators will resume the search early Friday after the dust from the latest round of digging settles, clearing the air for the dogs, police said.

Khemraj Maraj, who has moved to Florida, could not be reached for comment Thursday. Investigators have suspected that he and another cousin may have helped Persaud dispose of Kupka, the NYPD sources said.

A woman who answered the phone at Persaud's office declined to comment Thursday and neighbors in his suburban Tampa neighborhood said he had not been around for days.

Kathy Kupka said her sister, who lived in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, was not aware Persaud was married when they began their affair and that he pressured her to have an abortion.

When she refused, their romantic relationship cooled but they still spent time together - including Oct. 24, 1998, when Persaud said he wanted to show her his new apartment.

That was last time Kristine Kupka was seen alive, police confirmed.

Cops and private investigators searched hospitals, warehouses and the coastline but never located Kupka, and there was no evidence that her baby was ever delivered.

"She was fabulous, funny and smart," said Kathy Kupka. "She was great, incredibly funny, and just so strong."


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