"Anything you would have needed, she would have given it to you," friend Elizabeth Cruz told WCBS-TV.
McLean had a history of psychiatric problems and animus toward his mother, relatives told local media.
"He did destructive things," his father, James McLean, told the Daily News. "He set fires. Nobody could control him."
While the case and its discovery were particularly gruesome, there have been similar episodes in the city in recent years.
In one bizarre case, a passer-by found a woman's body in a suitcase while rummaging through trash in East Harlem in December 2010. Police, after releasing surveillance video of a man wheeling the suitcase down a sidewalk in the area, arrested Hassan Malik.
He ultimately told detectives he got into an argument with the woman, Betty Williams, choked her with an electric cord, packed her in the luggage and abandoned it in a street, according to a court document.
Malik, 57, is serving a 20-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to manslaughter.
In another case, a teenage girl's body was found wrapped in garbage bags in a Bronx alley in September 2009. The girl, Jamia Hazel, had been stabbed to death.
A man, Darrell Spencer, is awaiting trial on murder and other charges in her death. He has pleaded not guilty.
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