September 17, 2014

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Suspect in shopkeeper’s murder arrested

LORAIN — Tips about a man heard bragging Saturday that he killed a beloved neighborhood grocer led to the arrest of a suspect in the murder of 47-year-old Jose Gonzalez Sr.

Decio G. Rodrigues, 24, of Lorain, was charged with murder and taken to the county jail without bond. Police say he shot Gonzalez multiple times Friday during a botched robbery at the Lexington Avenue grocery store Gonzalez ran for 15 years.

Rodrigues

Several people who are close to Rodrigues called police early Saturday after they heard him talking about his role in the murder, Lorain police Sgt. Mark
Carpentiere said. Based on the tipsters’ descriptions, Lorain police and deputized U.S. Marshals scoured through the city looking for a man wearing a gold, short-sleeved shirt and blue jeans.

Carpentiere said officers spotted Rodrigues about 2 p.m. on Broadway, but he ran. They followed his trail carefully, unsure whether he was armed.

“He knows we’re after him,” Carpentiere said in a press conference at 5:30 p.m. “We want him off the streets as soon as possible.”

With a search warrant in hand, police closed in on Rodrigues about an hour later and arrested him without incident.

Detectives were familiar with Rodrigues because he had been questioned Thursday as part of another robbery investigation, Carpentiere said. Records show he has prior convictions for theft and domestic violence.

Rodrigues’ mother said late Saturday that she hadn’t seen her son since Gonzalez was killed. She refused to comment on her son’s alleged involvement in the murder.

Meanwhile, mourners left dozens of flickering candles, stuffed animals, flowers, balloons, Mexican and Puerto Rican flags, and handwritten cards on the doorstep outside Gonzalez Grocery.

“God how we’ll miss you,” read one note taped to a vase of white roses. “I named my cat Jose because I love him, and I loved you as a friend.”

Kevin Marsh said a prayer over the makeshift memorial, asking for protection and comfort for Gonzalez’s widow and justice for his killer.

“He was a wonderful man, wonderful with kids,” said Marsh, who shopped at the store regularly. “If you didn’t have the right change, he’d make sure you got what you needed — he never turned you down.”

Another of Gonzalez’s faithful customers, Julie Colbert, said he’ll be remembered for his generosity.

“He gave credit to everybody. People came in and couldn’t afford food. He’d let them take it anyway,” she said.

The grocer’s colleagues were also moved. One businessman offered a $4,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of Gonzalez’s killer, said Carpentiere.

Police also put up a $2,500 reward.

Anyone with more information about the case can still call the Lorain detective bureau at 204-2105.

A prayer service will be 5 p.m. Tuesday at the grocery store, 2522 Lexington Ave. The vigil is being arranged by Interfaith Ministries Against Violence, the Task Force for Community Mobilization and Gentlemen of the Same Mind.

“It’s sad that we have to come together this way,” said one of the organizers, Ricky Smith. “We need to come together and find a way to stop all this violence.”

Contact Jason Hawk at 329-7148 or jhawk@chroniclet.com.