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Man opts for deal in killing of teenager

Gets 14-15-year term in 2007 murder case

By John R. Ellement
Globe Staff / May 17, 2011

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The grief came in waves so strong yesterday that sometimes Wendy Jiminian could only shudder in anguish when she tried to talk about her 13-year-old son, Luis Gerena Jr., who was killed in Jamaica Plain by gang members who wrongly assumed he was a rival.

Sitting in Suffolk Superior Court, a few feet from the accused, 20-year-old Darrell Rodrigues, Jiminian clutched a photograph of her boy and wept. Showing no emotion, Rodrigues had just admitted he and another reputed gang member, Nurubeen Alabi, had cornered Gerena outside a T station Jan. 12, 2007, and shot him to death.

“He was only 13,’’ Jiminian told Suffolk Superior Court Judge Judith Fabricant. “He didn’t deserve to die. . . . I miss him so much.’’

With longing in her eyes, Jiminian looked at the framed photograph of her oldest child and gently ran her hand across the picture frame. Fabricant stood up and asked Jiminian to see the photograph. “He looks like a very nice boy,’’ the judge told her. .

Rodrigues, originally charged with murder, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 14 to 15 years in prison for a crime the judge called incomprehensible.

Addressing the judge, the boy’s mother tried to compose herself, but, after speaking in halting sentences, was unable to read the typewritten statement she had prepared. Jiminian told Fabricant that she did not support a plea deal that meant Rodrigues avoids a life sentence, but nevertheless said she would not object.

“I’m not happy,’’ she said. “But what can I do? It won’t bring Luis back.’’

Jiminian then added: “All I can do is cry. I have a hole in my heart.’’

Rodrigues did not pull the trigger, said Assistant Suffolk District Attorney Mark Hallal. That action was committed by Alabi, the prosecutor said.

Each of the assailants had been charged with murder under a Massachusetts law that holds all participants of a crime equally culpable. Rodrigues abruptly agreed to admit to the lesser charge of manslaughter just a few hours into his first-degree murder trial, pleading to the lesser charge.

Hallal said that Rodrigues and Alabi were members of the Academy Homes gang and had plotted to go to Jamaica Plain’s Bromley Heath housing development and shoot the first teenager they saw whom they believed to be a member of a rival gang at the development.

“They made decisions, conscious and deliberate, planning to head up to the Heath Street area to rob and shoot the first kid they saw that resembled, in any way, a Heath Street kid,’’ Hallal said.

On the day he died, Gerena had attended the Clarence R. Edwards Middle School in Charlestown and visited his girlfriend in Charlestown, Hallal said. He had come home on the Orange Line, on his way to his grandmother’s house in Jamaica Plain. As he walked onto the basketball courts near the Jackson Square subway station, Rodrigues and Alabi waylaid him. After a brief conversation, Hallal said, Alabi fired five times with a .32 caliber semiautomatic pistol.

The boy was an innocent who had nothing to do with gangs that had been warring for years, Hallal said.

Speaking in Spanish in court yesterday, Gerena’s grandmother, Gloria Perez, said that she forgave Rodrigues for his crime and said she hoped he would try to help teenagers when he is released from prison. The grandmother said the loss of her first grandchild has devastated her and her extended family.

“I’m hurting,’’ the grandmother said. “He was a good kid, very respectful.’’

Before she imposed the sentence, Fabricant directed some comments toward Rodrigues, a slightly built man who turns 21 next week.

“It’s incomprehensible to me how and why you have done this,’’ Fabricant told him. “It’s really incomprehensible that you would have so randomly killed a 13-year-old.’’

Except for answering the judge’s questions in a barely audible voice, Rodrigues did not show any obvious emotion.

Fabricant also sentenced Rodrigues on convictions of charges of assault and battery and unlawful possession of a firearm. Those sentences will run concurrently with his manslaughter sentence. She also ordered Rodrigues to serve five years of probation for another conviction on a charge of witness intimidation.

John Ellement can be reached at ellement@globe.com.