[Hpn] Paterson, NJ -- 12th teen charged in fatal beating

coh coh@sfo.com
Thu, 05 Jul 2001 12:26:00 -0700


Bergen County Record
Thursday, July 5, 2001

12th teen charged in fatal beating

Staff Writer

A 12th teenager has been arrested and charged in connection with the beating
death of a homeless man in a case that stunned residents of Paterson.

The suspect, a 17-year-old student who was arrested Tuesday, faces charges
of murder, felony murder, and robbery, said his defense attorney, Anthony J.
Fusco Jr.

The 11 other teenage suspects, all of whom face the same charges, are being
held in juvenile detention centers in Passaic and Essex counties. Most are
students at John F. Kennedy High School in Paterson.

On Wednesday, Fusco questioned whether police have a case against his
client. "I find it very odd it took so long [to charge my client]," he said
"I have my doubts. Originally, he was not listed as a suspect."

Fusco accompanied the teenager when he surrendered to police Tuesday. The
teenager was among those police initially questioned in the June 20 beating
death of the homeless man, Hector Robles, 42.

His client "freely cooperated, and gave a statement," Fusco said. "He was
allowed to leave."

On Monday, Fusco said he received a call from authorities advising him to
bring his client to police. The teenager is scheduled to be arraigned
Friday. He is being held in the Youth Detention Center in Haledon.

Robles, described by relatives as quiet and shy, was attacked on the last
day of school by a group of youths, most of whom had just been dismissed for
the summer.

Witnesses said Robles was sitting on a tire drinking a bottle of beer near
Totowa Avenue and Jasper Street, one of his favorite hangouts, when he
spotted the group coming toward him. Police said members of the group had
already attacked a teenager and a deliveryman only a short time before they
approached Robles.

Robles, witnesses said, got up and tried to walk away. "Let's get him!" one
teenager yelled, according to statements the suspects gave to police. Robles
was knocked down and repeatedly kicked and stomped, the suspects told
police. A witness said someone yelled, "Blood! Blood!"

Police said that as Robles lay bleeding, the suspects went through his

He died at St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center from multiple blunt-force
injuries to the torso, including a ruptured kidney and spleen.

At first appearance in juvenile court, two of the suspects expressed
remorse, one saying, "I'm sorry a man had to die because people wanted to
fight, but no one wanted to kill anyone."

Robles' relatives want the suspects tried as adults. Authorities have not
yet decided whether they will be tried as adults.

Robles became withdrawn more than a decade ago following the death of his
mother, relatives said. He chose a life on the street despite offers from
his family and social service agencies to help him.

Raymond Pagan, Robles' brother-in-law, said Wednesday he was happy the
17-year-old turned himself in. "That's the best thing he could have done,"
said Pagan, who owns a local construction company. "He had a good
conscience. He has a heart. I wish the rest would turn themselves in."

Pagan said police told him there may be more suspects. "Sooner or later,
they're going to find them. We've got the best cops in Paterson."

Pagan said he will present the Prosecutor's Office with a petition July 8
signed by 2,700 residents urging authorities to try the suspects as adults.

Pagan appeared before the City Council last month to urge council members to
investigate the beating and school security, which he feels might have been
able to stop the band of teenagers before it became a mob out of control.

Councilman Thomas C. Rooney Jr. said:

"We've got 35,000 children in Paterson. Eleven or 12 of them did this
shameful, evil thing. The other 35,000 did not. Most of them, by far, have
not hurt anybody and never will. This was the exception to the rule. There's
no question it [Robles' death] hurt Paterson's reputation."

Staff Writer Ashanti Alvarez also contributed to this story. Staff Writer
Justo Bautista's e-mail address is bautista@northjersey.com

Copyright  2001 North Jersey Media Group Inc.
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