Maria Cruz’s Death: How Did She Die? Who Killed Her?

Image Credit: CBS News

Ever since its premiere back in the summer of 1978, ABC’s ’20/20′ has been chronicling one poignant true-crime tale after another to really underscore the dark, twisted side of human nature. Thus, of course, its season 45 episode 12, ‘Doctor Deceit,’ delving deep into the atrocious April 2003 disappearance and death of a legal immigrant named Maria Cruz, is absolutely no different. So if you wish to learn more about the same — with a focus on the circumstances surrounding her passing, the ensuing investigation, as well as its overall aftermath — we’ve got you covered.

How Did Maria Cruz Die?

It was back in 1992 that Maria left everything she’d ever known in the Philippines to build a better, calmer, and steadier life for herself in New York, only to actually be able to do so within years. The Maryknoll College-Manila communications graduate had managed to land a spot at the coveted private Catholic Fordham University in the City to pursue a Master’s in Business Administration. She then stepped into the American work field as an analyst before gradually evolving into a thriving investment banker, content to be a devout Catholic residing around the West Side area.

Maria was honestly quite close to her family, she was kind as well as amiable, and she was entirely dedicated to her career, which is fortunately why her vanishing did not go unnoticed for long. Her boss was the first to realize something had to be amiss since the 35-year-old did not come in on April 14, 2003, despite the fact she had a meeting she’d been vehemently preparing for. Therefore, when she didn’t respond to any texts or calls, failed to show up without explanation the next two days as well, and didn’t answer her front door either, they contacted her family in alarm.

Since some extended kins were based in New York, they quickly made their way to Maria’s apartment, only to find it completely normal yet completely empty — there were no signs of her anywhere. They then began calling local hospitals, searching nearby sites, and asking her friends for any information, but to no avail; they thus reported her missing on Friday evening, April 18, 2003. An extensive hunt for the Philippines native hence commenced, with her family also doing their best to help out by distributing flyers as well as phoning news channels to keep the case in the limelight.

Sadly, though, it wasn’t until February 18, 2004, that officials found Maria, and this too was not at all in the way her loved ones had hoped for — the young woman had died in the prime of her life. As per reports, her decomposing body was recovered from the garage of an Elwood Avenue home; she’d been stuffed inside a suitcase wrapped with trash bags before being placed in a concrete slab. It soon came to light she’d actually died during a dubious laser treatment process on Sunday, April 13, 2003, a treatment done by the “doctor” who once owned the same Newark home.

Dean Faiello Was Convicted in Maria Cruz’s Death Case

As the NYPD had started investigating Maria’s sudden disappearance, they learned she’d last been seen listening to Mass at St. Malachy’s Church on West 49th Street on the fateful Lord’s Day. The 35-year-old had then seemingly stopped by her Park Avenue office to pick up some documents for a vital meeting the following day, just to never make it back home or contact anyone again. However, it took months for them to uncover the fact she was undergoing treatment for a unique mouth condition called Black Tongue, yet she had canceled her routine appointment the Friday before.

That’s when detectives combed through every aspect of Maria’s last known day alive once more and found a credit-card receipt from a department store a block away from her specialist’s office. The name Dr. Dean Faiello thus popped up, along with the fact he’d previously been convicted of possessing forged prescriptions and was actively facing accusations of practicing without a license. He ostensibly represented himself as a dermatologist but didn’t have a medical degree or clearance, meaning he could legally only remove body hair/tattoos and not perform proper treatments.

Investigators then obviously tried to speak with Dean, just to meet a dead end as he’d vanished as well — it turned out he’d fled to Costa Rica to avoid prosecution for his heinous offenses. Hence, it took interviews with those close to him to ascertain the truth, especially as he’d spoken of rushing a patient to the hospital after she suffered seizures from a local anesthetic in April (something he never did). The fact he’d soon sold his house with the newly poured concrete slab didn’t help his case either, leading to the discovery of Maria’s remains and eventually his arrest on February 26, 2004.

Dean was initially apprehended by immigration officials for overstaying his tourist visa but was extradited to the US in May 2005 despite his best efforts to stay in the Central American region. He was then indicted on a count of second-degree murder in connection to Maria’s 2003 death, in response to which he ultimately pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of first-degree assault. He was subsequently sentenced to 20 years behind bars — it had become evident the Philippines native had died as a result of his deception and incompetency after she’d rescheduled her appointment with him for Sunday.

Read More: Where is Dean Faiello Now?