The murder of a young Flanders woman by an undocumented Guatemalan man has ignited heated discourse over immigration -- and what some feel is unfair backlash against the Latino community.
The focus, some believe, should remain on the crime -- not the defendant's country of origin or immigration status; others disagree.
On Wednesday, Suffolk County homicide detectives arrested Guillermo Alfonso Alvarado-Ajcuc, 21, of Riverhead for the .
Alvarado-Ajcuc, a Guatemalan resident who is in the United States without a green card, was charged with one count of murder in the second degree and rape in the first degree.
Garcia’s Riverhead Department of Motor Vehicles on May 7. The Office of the Suffolk County Medical Examiner determined the woman’s death was a homicide.
Thursday morning, assistantsaid Alvarado-Ajcuc gave a full confession stating that on the night of May 6, during the course of raping Garcia, he strangled her with a belt.
At his arraignment, Alvarado-Ajcuc said he lives with his father, a day laborer who does landscaping.
Riverhead Town Justice Allen Smith spoke to Alvarado-Ajcuc at Riverhead Town Justice court, explaining he would notify the Guatemalan embassy about the charges against him. He also gave him immigration warnings, explaining that due to the nature of the felony charge, no bail would be set, and that a conviction or a plea of guilty could result in his deportation from the United States.
In addition, Smith said, should Alvarado-Ajcuc leave the United States, the charges could prevent his return; if he should eventually apply for citizenship, the charges would result in a denial of the application.
After news spread about the arrest, Donna Monti-Hoera, whose daughter was brutally murdered by undocumented immigrant Faustino Chavez in 2004, expressed her thoughts. Hoera, who left her job at Cor-J Seafood in Westhampton to go pick up her son at daycare in Riverhead, never arrived - her body was later found in Westhampton Beach.
"It seems to me that some Latino men have little value reguarding women," Monti-Hoera wrote in an email. "The loss of Vinessa has destroyed me. And when I heard of Ms. Garcia's murder, I felt for her family's loss and relived the pain and suffering of my loss all over again."
Chavez, an undocumented immigrant, confessed to raping and murdering Hoera and accepted a plea bargain. He was sentenced to 22 years to life in prison and after he becomes eligible for parole, will most likely be deported back to his native country of Guatemala, officials say.
“I have deep sympathy for Ms. Garcia's family,” Monti-Hoera said. Monti-Hoera also cited what she believes are the high number of illegal immigrants in prison for murder and the escalating cost to keep them incarcerated.
Readers on Riverhead Patch weighed in: “When is this country going to wake up about letting illegals come to this country? See what happens? Arizona sure has the right idea,” wrote Charles Rimicci.
But others disagree. Sister Margaret Smyth of the North Fork Spanish Apostolate said the argument stirs the pot of anti-illegal immigrant sentiment.
“People who are like that are going to look for anything,” she said. “You’re not going to change them. There are plenty of Americans who do the same kinds of things.”
Monti-Hoera said she is “passionate” about illegal immigration, especially since her own grandparents were legal immigrants who endured challenges to get to the United States.
After the murder, some have called for the closure of Latino nightspots.
Isabel Sepulveda, head of HOLA, a Latino rights organization on the East End, said similar crimes happen everywhere. “Like in any community, there are good Anglo businesses and bad Anglo businesses -- the same in the black and the Latino communities. You cannot generalize.”
Concluded Toni, a Riverhead Patch reader in an online post: “Criminals are criminals. They come in all colors, sizes and races. What’s illegal is the crime he committed.”