Neighbors held a candlelight vigil on the one-year anniversary of a teen's death in a drive-by shooting.
Alleged shooters await trial
The family of Veronica Rios and others touched by last year's drive-by shooting have yet to see justice meted out in the case.
However, the three suspects are awaiting a March 2003, trial for murder and related offenses. One of the men -- Felix Summers, 22, from the 1700 block of South Fourth Street -- was on the FBI's Most Wanted List at the time of his capture last December. Fareeq Smith, 24, of Spring Garden, and Steve Henden, 23, of the 1800 block of McClellan Street, were arrested shortly after the shooting.
A witness told police that he saw two men wearing ski masks who matched the build of Summers and Smith jump out of a car, allegedly driven by Henden, and open fire on Rios and five of her friends, authorities said.
In an irony not lost on her mother Valencia, the suspects knew Veronica and her friends. "They all grew up in the same neighborhood and went to the same schools," she said. "It isn't that they didn't know the kids out there. They just had no remorse."
Summers is also charged with the March 1999 shooting death of 39-year-old Charlotte Presley, an eyewitness against him in the January 1999 slaying of 19-year-old James Niles, said officials. With Presley out of the picture, Summers was acquitted of Niles' murder. Another victim, 22-year-old Diana Meirino, was gunned down on Sept. 24, 2000, allegedly because she witnessed Presley's murder, authorities said.
Police arrested Summers' cousin, Alvin Lawrence, 23, for shooting Meirino, but a judge dismissed the charges against him last March. Summers, however, is charged in the case and will be tried in March 2003. The murder victim had a violent past of her own. At the time of her death, Meirino faced charges of attempted murder and other offenses in relation to a shooting at Fifth and Pierce streets in November 2000, according to the District Attorney's Office.
Among the 60 attendees at Friday's vigil for Veronica Rios were Meirino's mother Janet and aunt Grace Meirino. Grace recalled her niece was shot as she sat in front of her house on the 1800 block of South Fifth Street at 3 a.m.
"I will never forget that day when I came down the steps and saw my niece murdered before my very eyes. Never, ever will I forget that, and as God is my witness, justice will be served," Grace screamed before breaking down in sobs.
Standing beside her was Diana's mother, holding the children her daughter left behind -- Tyanna, 4; Shyanna, 2; and Tyron, 13 months.
--by Lorraine Gennaro