Police in India arrest suspect in 2012 murder of South Tampa designer

A man from India had been sought since Wendy Albano was killed in 2012 in Thailand.
Tampa interior designer Wendy Albano met with the suspect while trying to set up an import business.
Tampa interior designer Wendy Albano met with the suspect while trying to set up an import business.
Published September 30 2014
Updated October 1 2014

TAMPA — Mumbai police arrested a 26-year-old man wanted in the murder of South Tampa interior designer Wendy Albano in an overseas hotel room two years ago, newspapers in India report.

Albano, 51, a socialite who decorated homes for the rich and famous, was slain in her room at a chic hotel in Bangkok, Thailand, in February 2012.

Authorities began looking for an Indian man they suspected had stabbed her to death.

According to a report Tuesday in the Indian Express, police arrested Ritesh Singhvi, who authorities said had left the country for India hours after Albano's body was discovered.

"I think that there was a huge concern that he would just disappear, and that there wouldn't ever be any justice for her," said friend Maxine Stull of Tampa.

Singhvi had grown a beard and was living under an assumed name in a rented house when authorities caught up with him, the Indian Express reported, quoting a law enforcement official.

Singhvi had befriended Albano in 2010 through Facebook and she had gone to India to meet him twice between 2010 and 2012, the newspaper stated.

The two have been described as business partners. She had met Singhvi's family on a trip to India while trying to launch a design and fashion-import business.

Singhvi will be extradited to Bangkok, according to the Times of India newspaper.

At the time of her death, Albano had been living in a condo off Bayshore Boulevard with her six cats: Bobo, Bebe, Lily, Rudy, Philly and Nelson.

She had been married and divorced twice — first to Bob Albano, whom she met before graduating from the University of Florida in the early 1980s, and then to Brian Stein, an artist.

She had two daughters, Jenny and Lauren, now adults.

In Tampa, she owned Wendy Albano Interiors and had undertaken many high-profile projects. Friends say she did Derek Jeter's $20 million apartment in Manhattan.

She and her friend Stull met while in college and the two kept in touch on and off over the years while raising their children.

Albano loved to travel and went to New York often for business, Stull said. She also loved nature, returning each summer to help out at a camp she'd once attended in North Carolina, she said.

"She really was kind of fearless," Stull said. "I never thought about anything happening to her. She just kind of always moved forward."

In March 2012, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson urged Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to get the governments of India and Thailand to work together to solve the case. In a letter, Nelson had said authorities suspected a man believed to be hiding in India

"As you can imagine, this delay is causing Wendy's family even greater distress," Nelson wrote at the time. "They have asked me to request your assistance in this matter so that the suspect can be brought to justice quickly."

Times staff writer Amy Scherzer and news researcher John Martin contributed to this report.