THE BRONX — The Bronx District Attorney has charged two reputed gang members for the murder of a college-bound man — a year after dismissing charges against a man wrongfully arrested for his murder.
Jose Rodriguez, 24, and Jesus Reyes, 26, were both indicted on Tuesday for the 2012 murder of Hansel Arias, 22, who was stabbed to death in the parking lot of the McDonald's near Webster Avenue and E. 173rd Street.
Police had arrested Javier Enger for the murder shortly after it occurred, but Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark announced in February 2016 that she was moving to dismiss all charges against Enger after several eyewitnesses came forward in November 2015 with information that contradicted earlier accounts of the crime.
Bronx prosecutors began investigating the crime again, reexamining evidence and re-interviewing witnesses before concluding that they would prosecute Reyes and Rodriguez, Clark said.
"We needed to make sure that we could bring justice and a semblance of closure to Hansel Arias’ family," she said. "Now, two men will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for this brutal crime.”
The Bronx DA's office now believes that Reyes and Rodriguez, members of the Trinitarios gang, were part of a large group that had gathered at 1645 Webster Ave. on Aug. 19, 2012 around 2:15 a.m. to confront Arias about his membership rival gang DDP.
He was then attacked by several people, including Rodriguez, who allegedly grabbed a knife from Reyes and fatally stabbed Arias in the chest.
Although Clark said in a statement that her office "would not be pressured or hurried to a conclusion" during their reinvestigation of the case, Manuel Gomez, a private investigator hired by Enger's family, sharply criticized the office for waiting so long before moving to indict Reyes and Rodriguez.
Gomez said he had been asking the DA's Office for years to prosecute the two men in the case and had brought them video evidence and witnesses to support his claims.
He was thrilled that the case against Reyes and Rodriguez was moving forward but said he did not understand what took so long.
'They didn’t even want to arrest anybody," he said. "I put so much pressure on this building that they had no choice."
Lynn Calvacca, the defense attorney for Rodriguez, maintained that the DA's Office had waited on the evidence because they did not think they had enough of it to move forward and was skeptical about the quality of their case, especially given the prior arrest of Enger.
"They really screwed up the first time," she said of the DA's Office.
Mitchell Golub, the attorney for Reyes, echoed her concerns, arguing that the DA's office should not have very much credibility this time around based on what happened last time.
Reyes and Rodriguez were both ordered held without bail and are due back in court on Sept. 5.