Slaying victim's kin help track down suspect

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Alejandro Rojas-Garcia, 34, was slain Jan. 24 in Feltonville. A suspect has been arrested, thanks in part to Rojas-Garcia's family's effort.

When Wilfredo Rojas' son was fatally shot in Philadelphia in January, the Gloucester County NAACP official and his family decided to take an active role in investigating who killed him.

A break came a few weeks after the Jan. 24 killing of Alejandro "Alex" Rojas-Garcia when authorities released surveillance video of the crime, and tipsters reached out to the Rojas family.

They seemed to recognize one of the men in the video.

Rojas and family members tracked down the tip on Facebook and elsewhere on the Web, where they discovered the man allegedly had ties to a Camden gang.

He said he shared the information with Philadelphia police, e-mailing them nearly every day for the last month.

On Friday, Leonaldo Rivera, 25 - the man in the video, according to Rojas - turned himself in to authorities. He was arraigned over the weekend and held without bail.

"We should serve as a model how police, media, community, and victims' families should work together on quickly resolving murders and other crimes," Rojas, a vice president in the local NAACP chapter, said Monday.

Rivera, who is being held at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Philadelphia, is charged with murder, attempted murder, aggravated assault, and weapons offenses.

Rojas-Garcia, 34, was found in the front seat of a Chevrolet Trailblazer in the Feltonville section of the city early Jan. 24. Another man, 24, was shot in his left arm.

Rojas-Garcia was taken to Temple University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead from gunshot wounds to his face and torso.

Police have not released a motive.

Rojas-Garcia, who had worked at the former Wachovia Bank and Alliance One Inc., was enrolled at Temple University majoring in advertising at the time of the shooting. He had planned on pursuing a master's degree in marketing, according to his father. Rojas-Garcia was himself a father of two - a daughter, 16, and a son, 14.

"He had a passion for life and fellow human beings," Rojas said.

Rojas said he, his other children, and his grandchildren could not rest until the police had apprehended their son's killer.

He said what they found on Facebook was shocking.

"They have their own little corrupt society," Rojas said of the photos of gang life he discovered online. "I worked in corrections 25 years [and] I said, 'My God, that's right there in Camden and Philadelphia.' "

Rojas said he discovered on Facebook that Rivera allegedly had a firearms offense in his past.

Loretta Winters, president of the Gloucester County branch of the NAACP, said that recent weeks had been a "nightmare" for Rojas-Garcia's family, but that Friday's arrest was a turning point.

"At least we can get to the bottom of this and have some closure," Winters said.

Winters said Rojas chairs several NAACP committees and has been active in the organization's membership division as well as community outreach.

Rojas said he and his family plan on attending the March 18 preliminary hearing because he wants Rivera to see their faces.

"We want to serve as an example that you cannot get away with murder," Rojas said. "Our family is not going to go away."

 


kflynn@philly.com

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