At first, NYPD investigators suspected that the murder, decapitation and dismemberment of 33-year-old Fahim Saleh in his Manhattan condo was a professional hit. To their trained eyes, it seemed obvious. The electric saw was still plugged into the wall, and his head, arms and legs had all been neatly stuffed into trash bags. The rate of coagulation of the blood around Saleh’s limbless torso told the police that his body had been sawed apart just a few hours before they arrived. Which was also just a few hours before Saleh’s sister discovered his body.
But within a few days, that theory was proven wrong. The killer was no professional at all. On Friday, 21-year-old Tyrese Devon Haspil was arrested on suspicion of murder. He was the chief of staff of Adventure Capital, Saleh’s venture capital firm. This title was more honorific than descriptive; apparently, Haspil functioned primarily as a personal assistant. And according to the New York Times, his motive for murdering his former boss was money. In particular, Saleh had discovered that nearly $90,000 had been stolen from Adventure Capital, and the culprit was Haspil. Rather than involve the authorities — and rather than allow the business press and his investors to learn that his assistant/chief-of-staff was stealing from him — Saleh arranged a payment plan for Haspil to return the stolen money.
Haspil, however, apparently had other plans.
It was early Monday afternoon around 1:40 p.m. when Saleh stepped into the elevator of his upscale Lower East Side building, followed by a man in a well-cut black suit, gloves and what was later described as a ninja-like hood and mask. He also carried a duffel bag, which investigators presume contained the electric saw. (Again, authorities believe the masked man was Haspil.) Saleh had purchased the condo for $2.25 million back in December. It covered the entirety of the seventh floor, which meant the elevator opened directly into his home. Surveillance camera footage from inside the elevator shows that Saleh asked the masked man something. A brief exchange followed and ended with a perplexed look from Saleh.
When the elevator arrived at Saleh’s floor, the doors slid open and Saleh stepped into his home. That’s when he was attacked by the masked man. The surveillance camera footage shows Saleh fell forward out of the elevator after he was stunned with a Taser. Investigators think this was when Haspil stabbed Saleh multiple times in the torso and neck. (The surveillance footage stopped once the elevator doors closed.)
Next, Haspil allegedly used Saleh’s credit card to order a car service to take him to Home Depot to buy cleaning supplies. Surveillance camera footage from the elevator shows the suspected killer returned on Tuesday and was recorded using a rechargeable portable vacuum to remove evidence. It was sometime around mid-day Tuesday that police think Haspil used the electric saw to decapitate Saleh and remove his arms and legs below the knees. It seems, though, that he got spooked mid-cleanup by Saleh’s sister.
When she arrived at the building to check on her brother — she had asked the NYPD to perform a welfare check, but beat them to it — she was let in by the virtual doorman. It also alerted her brother’s killer that someone was coming up to the condo. Surveillance camera footage recorded a person believed to be Haspil using the back stairs of the building to flee at the same time Saleh’s sister arrived. She immediately called 9-1-1.
A local resident in the neighborhood witnessed Saleh’s sister come downstairs to the lobby. He was drawn to the scene by all the police action in his quiet neighborhood. He told the New York Post, “She was really upset. Crying. Shaking. She was just sitting there, but you can tell her legs were shaking. She’s nervous. She was crying, like, you know, wiping her eyes.”
A police source told the New York Daily News that the suspected killer “clearly knew what he was doing. We think his intent was to get rid of the body parts and go back and clean it up and make it look like nothing happened. He left before he finished the job.”
As for the victim, Salem was the son of Bangladeshi parents, Saudi-born but raised in Rochester, New York. He was rise-and-grind hustle culture incarnate. He started out in business at 16, founding WizTeen, a social media network for teens. Next came PrankDial, a prank phone call app that would later play a key role in an illegal wiretapping case that saw a New Jersey prison boss incarcerated and Saleh named as a defendant in a lawsuit. (It reportedly earned $2 million in annual revenue.)
After that, he founded and successfully exited Pathao, a start-up in Bangladesh that’s typically billed in the business press as a motorbike, bicycle and car transportation company. Most recently, in 2018, he co-founded Gokada, a Nigerian ride-share app built on a fleet of green motorcycles and drivers who provide customers with rides on demand.
Like for pretty much everyone else, business had been tough lately for Saleh. In February, the Lagos State government banned the operation of commercial motorcycles due to the number of accidents they were involved in, devastating Gokada’s business. Then, of course, the coronavirus turned socially dependent businesses like Gokada into very shaky investments.
But Saleh refused to give up — or give in. He transitioned Gokada into a delivery service while his Nigerian customers stayed home in quarantine, and he took to social media to plead his case to the Nigerian government. He vowed that he would continue to fight for innovation, because first and foremost, he claimed that he was an entrepreneur who wanted to help Nigerians. (Admittedly, though, the way he spoke about his dreams of more expansive enterprise in Nigeria also made him sound like a colonizer of a different color.)
In a YouTube video, Saleh opined, “As an entrepreneur, I’m never going to give up. Because that’s the true attribute of an entrepreneur: never giving up. But this has definitely been a blow. Um…” An edit allowed him to collect his thoughts before he continued: “Entrepreneurs are the ones that really change countries, that really change cities. They’re the ones who bring the vision. They’re the ones who bring the passion. They’re the ones who bring people together to make amazing things happen.”
After he finished, he stared at the camera. There was a long pause. He sounded like a man trying to convince a stranger of something he didn’t fully believe himself.
However, on Valentine’s Day, he was feeling entirely optimistic again:
A friend of Saleh’s recalled, “He never said he was scared. He was always very happy-go-lucky.” Another friend told the Post, “We used to call him the Elon Musk of the developing world. He was like the Energizer Bunny.”
That bright, seemingly unstoppable energy, though, was ultimately no match for the rise-and-grind gospel’s ultimate master: money.