Esta página no está disponible en español.


Ice-Cream Rivalry In Bronx: Grieving Cold-Blooded Beating

One turf war victim remains critical as family says suspects had been a problem for at least 2 years


March 31, 2004
Copyright ©2004 NEWSDAY, INC. All rights reserved.

One couple was such an established neighborhood fixture that its first customers are now grandparents, its tasty treats as popular in Harlem as many of the community's restaurants.

The other couple was striving for such popularity, the husband recently quitting his factory job to buy his first ice-cream truck.

Today, the rivalry is a legal proceeding and medical drama, the younger couple accused of badly beating its older counterparts in an effort to take over a more profitable route.

The more seriously injured victim, Juana Marrero, 64, was in critical condition and fighting for her life at Lincoln Medical Center last night with numerous skull fractures and intracranial hemorrhaging, according to authorities.

A relative who did not want to be named said she is on life support, needs a blood transfusion and cannot speak. She is conscious, however, and apparently can understand when she is spoken to, the relative said.

"We're certainly very much concerned about her well-being," Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said.

Marrero's husband, Luis, 63, was in stable condition, also with intracranial hemorrhaging. The relative said doctors have told the family he might be released in a few days.

The Marreros - proud grandparents who moved here from Puerto Rico at least 40 years ago - were attacked at a depot in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx Saturday night by Fernando Esparza, 51, and his girlfriend, Librada Veron, 49, police said.

The suspects, each in separate trucks, pinned the Marreros in, then got out of their vehicles and attacked their older counterparts, police said.

When Juana Marrero got out of her truck, Veron started yelling, then attacked, pounding Marrero in the face and head with her fists while Esparza struck Marrero about six times in the head with an orange pipe, knocking her unconscious, police said.

When Luis Marrero tried to break up the attack the suspects set their sights on him, beating him to the ground, police said. The assault continued until Dominique Donofrio, 15, the victims' granddaughter, intervened.

Veron grabbed the girl in a bear hug while Esparza swung the pipe at her, glancing her left cheekbone enough to leave a big bump, according to her stepfather, Mark Douglas.

Veron then let go and ran off, allowing Donofrio to call 911. Police responded and arrested Esparza, then later picked up Veron at the couple's home on nearby Barretto Street.

The suspects were charged with attempted murder, assault and criminal possession of a weapon and were being held without bail. Their lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.

Yesterday, Marrero's family gathered in grief at the hospital, too upset to talk at length, though they did say they were aware the couple had been having a problem with the suspects for at least two years.

"Right now, we just want to focus on my mother getting better," Dominique's mother, Diane Donofrio, said. "She's still in critical condition and we're all here at the hospital talking to the doctors."

Police said the attack was motivated purely by greed, the suspects hoping to scare the victims off their route.

The Marreros are common fixtures in Harlem, driving up and down the avenues and along the cross streets, river to river from 112th to 135th streets, their family said.

The route is not assigned, as the Marreros do not own a franchise. Instead, someone at the depot said, routes are informally carved out, factors such as seniority playing a role.

"Routes are defined by respect," said the depot worker, who identified himself only as Carmine.

"They had no respect for their elders," Carmine said of the suspects. "They've only been in the business a short time and you can tell that they were very sneaky. You can't jump in front of another truck and shout, 'I'm selling the ice cream cheaper, come on!'

"And I know for a fact they did this," he said.

Self-Determination Legislation | Puerto Rico Herald Home
Newsstand | Puerto Rico | U.S. Government | Archives
Search | Mailing List | Contact Us | Feedback