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Beaten, strangled, burned and dumped in vacant lot, ‘Girl with the Scorpion Tattoo’ finally identified 32 years later

Christine Belusko, left, and daughter Christa Nichol, in an age-progressed image. (Richmond County District Attorney's Office)

Christine Belusko, left, and daughter Christa Nichol, in an age-progressed image. (Richmond County District Attorney’s Office)

More than three decades after the handcuffed, partially clothed, beaten, strangled and burned body of the “Girl with the Scorpion Tattoo” was found in a vacant lot in Staten Island, authorities have a name, thanks to forensic genealogy.

Christine Belusko was identified as the victim of a brutal murder. Her remains were found in September 1991 in a vacant lot. She was wearing a dress and sneakers, two gold chains, and a watch. She also had a scorpion tattoo on her right buttocks.

A hammer was recovered at the scene. No suspects were identified.

The case has long troubled law enforcement in Staten Island and was followed with great sorrow and public intrigue across the borough and beyond. At the time, she had a 2-year-old daughter, Christa Nicole.

Now authorities are trying to track down Belusko’s killer and her daughter.

“This is a story about a brutal and depraved murder, depraved acts of violence that killed this young girl in her prime and the dumping of her body in a lonely and desolate field,” Richmond County District Attorney Michael McMahon said in a news conference. “She became known as the ‘Girl with the Scorpion Tattoo.'”

McMahon credited forensic genealogy technology unavailable in 1991 to identify her but called on the public for help to find her killer and locate her daughter after investigators exhausted all leads.

“Since uncovering these facts, my team has worked diligently and has followed leads across state lines to attempt to identify Christine’s killer,” he said. “We have already notified her family of her death, and we continue to make all efforts to also locate Christa Nicole so we can let her know about who her mother was and what has been done to bring justice to this case.”

David Nilsen, the chief investigator for the Richmond County District Attorney’s Office, laid out the timeline from Sept. 30, 1991, when her body was found. Her fingerprints were entered into state and local databases, sketches of the victim were released, and photos of the tattoo and jewelry were disseminated to the public.

Despite this, she remained unidentified.

In 2008, the DA’s office revisited Belusko’s homicide and submitted her DNA to a database, and her dental records were submitted to the FBI.

But no new leads surfaced, and the case went cold.

The breakthrough came after McMahon pursued genealogy research in 2019.

In June 2021, Belusko’s brother was interviewed and informed of his sister’s death. During the interview, detectives learned she had a daughter, born on Aug. 1, 1989. Authorities created an age-progressed photo of Christa Nicole, who would be 33 today.

“We have pretty much run down all the leads we can in trying to locate individuals who would know Christa Nicole and any other leads that may help us in solving the underlying crime,” McMahon said. “And so we issue this cry for help and hope that the information will help us come in so that we together, the community of Staten Island, can once and for all bring closure and justice to the story of the case of the ‘Girl with the Scorpion Tattoo.'”

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