Family Mourns Slain 19-Year-Old Inwood Woman at Wake

By Nigel Chiwaya on January 4, 2013 7:39pm 

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — Dozens of mourners gathered Friday at a wake for the 19-year-old Inwood woman who was murdered on New Year's Eve.

Family, friends and former teachers poured into the R.G. Ortiz Funeral Home to grieve over Edith Rojas, a Bronx Community College student who was fatally stabbed by her ex-boyfriend in front of her apartment.

Relatives said they were struggling to cope with Rojas' sudden and violent death.

"It hurts," said Jose Mercedes, the victim's father.

Ronny Peralta, Rojas' older brother, said his mother is "devastated."

"She at times comes down and sees everything in the house," Peralta said, "she looks at things and asks herself, 'What am I going to do now?'"

Police arrested Jonathan Pena-Castillo, 21, Rojas' ex-boyfriend, and charged him with her murder. Pena-Castillo is accused of stabbing Rojas outside of 75 Thayer St. on New Year's Eve and then fleeing to Fort Tryon Park, where he turned the weapon on himself before police arrived, authorities said.

Pena-Castillo is being treated at St. Luke's Hospital. 

Peralta, 27, described Pena-Castillo as a controlling boyfriend but said he had not physically abused Rojas previously.

"She felt overly pressured by him," Peralta said. "He was always calling, like, 'What are you doing? Let me see who you're with. You can't travel. I'm always going to call you.'"

Friday's wake also drew uptown elected officials, including City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez and newly elected Assemblywoman Gabriela Rosa, who came to support the family.

Rodriguez said he hoped Pena-Castillo would be held accountable for the attack.

"We lost a young life that could have been a doctor," Rodriguez said. "We expect to see justice."

Peralta said he was grateful for the outpouring of support from the elected officials and others in the community, who have stopped him the street to offer condolences.

"The support you get makes you stronger by the day to deal with the situation," Peralta said.

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