Justice delayed as 2-year anniversary of Junior’s murder approaches

Saturday marks the two years since Lesandro “Junior” Guzman-Feliz was killed by a gang in the Bronx.

News 12 Staff

Jun 18, 2020, 9:08 PM

Updated 1,436 days ago

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Saturday marks the two years since Lesandro “Junior” Guzman-Feliz was killed by a gang in the Bronx. 
This time last year there was a celebration outside Bronx Supreme Court after five members of the Trinitarios gang were found guilty of murder in the first-degree--almost a year to the day Junior was stabbed to death. 
Prosecutors say the then-15-year-old was mistaken for a rival gang member. 
Those five men, all infamously captured on video attacking Junior with a machete and knives, were tried first and received life sentences. But eight more defendants are facing second-degree murder and other charges, and are still waiting for their day in court. 
They’re accused of being present for the plan and or taking part in the chase that led to Junior’s killing. 
The Bronx District Attorney’s Office says there will be no trials for the foreseeable future because of the coronavirus. 
Although Leandra Feliz understands, she says she is patiently waiting for total closure over the death of her son and that she’s not going to miss it. 
In the meantime, she says the Bronx DA’s Crime Victim’s Assistance Unit has been supporting her. 
Christina Fragola, the deputy director, says her unit created a homicide support group on Zoom video conferencing to continue to connect with victims’ families, even during the pandemic. 
"It's different now because there hasn't been any court hearings but for a lot of homicide survivors -- that was one way they felt connected to their loved ones --they go to court and we are there with them too,” said Fragola. 
Diego Suero and Frederick Then, the suspected gang leaders, were set to be tried next--together. 
Jury selection, originally slated for January, was delayed until August because Suero’s lawyer died, and then the coronavirus pandemic happened. 
As for the last six defendants, their lawyers are unsure when to expect a trial. 
Defense Attorney Matt Kliger represents Ronald Urena, the 13th suspect arrested in Junior’s murder, who is being held in prison without bail. 
 "To just have someone sitting there who hasn't been proven guilty of anything month after month after month is just very frustrating for the family...I think at this point there really needs to be a re-examination of the bail status of some of these defendants,’ said Kliger. 
Danilo Payamps Pacheco is the only remaining defendant to have bail set at $500,000. 
Daniel Fernandez, who police say is seen in a green do-rag helping drag Junior out of the bodega, is also waiting to be tried. 
As is Jose Tavarez, who was captured on store surveillance locating Junior, who was trying to hide behind the counter. 
If convicted of the top charge, they can face up to 25 years to life. Leandra Feliz believes they are just as guilty as the five gang members who have already been sentenced. 
 "For me, it's the same because they were all together at the same time -- it wasn't one by one -- they were all together,” says Leandra Feliz. 
Supporters of Junior’s family who have regularly attended court proceedings now keep his spirit alive in any way that they can. 
"We have to hang on to that hope and faith because that's all we have left,” says supporter Nikki Olderon. 
There are two hearings planned for July 8 and July 15 for all parties to regroup in the COVID era. 
The defense lawyers who spoke with News 12 say they are preparing to go to trial and are not expecting to move forward with a plea deal at this time.


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