updated 8/8/2007 8:45:10 AM ET 2007-08-08T12:45:10

The former boyfriend of a woman whose decomposed body was found in a New York University apartment confessed to killing her after he tried to commit suicide Tuesday night, police said.

Police were searching for Michael Cordero, 23, to question him about the death of a professor’s daughter when he went to the roof of a Manhattan housing project and slit his wrists, police said. His relatives found him and tried to help him, but he ran to a nearby supermarket, where police held him around 8:40 p.m.

Cordero was taken immediately to a hospital for treatment of his injuries and told workers, “’I tried to kill myself because I killed my girlfriend,”’ said New York Police Department spokesman Paul Browne.

The body of Boitumelo McCallum, 20, was found wrapped in a sheet in a locked bedroom of a faculty apartment on Sunday after tenants complained of a foul smell.

South African passport
McCallum held a South African passport, and police identified her with fingerprints provided by that nation’s embassy.

The body had “a possible fractured nose,” Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said. The cause of death had not been determined. An autopsy done Monday was inconclusive.

Cordero was believed to have been at a party at the apartment that began Wednesday night and continued into Thursday, police said. They believe McCallum died Thursday.

He was being interviewed by detectives at the hospital. No telephone listing could immediately be found for his family.

McCallum was a daughter of NYU professor Teboho Moja, who has specialized in globalization and its effect on higher education. The woman’s mother also has served as a policy analyst for the South African government, according to an NYU Web site.

NYU officials said she was out of the country.

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