Neighbors mourn slain storeowner

Posted: January 26, 2012

THEY GATHERED yesterday on Mutter Street in North Philadelphia to remember their friend Reina, whose life was ended Monday by an executioner's bullets.

There was sadness and anger, but one emotion underlay it all:

Fear.

"No photos of faces! Look what happened last time!" one neighbor scolded as news photographers crowded the scene. "They're going to keep killing people! There's no one to protect us."

Friends believe that store clerk Rosemary Fernandez Rivera, 33, better known as Reina Aguirre Alonso, was murdered because her killer thought she was a witness to an earlier homicide in the neighborhood. Police and the FBI continued their hunt for the killer yesterday.

Police said there was no doubt Rivera had been targeted: On Monday night, the ski-mask-clad killer walked into Rivera's store at Westmoreland and Mutter streets. He walked directly to Rivera. He fired four shots into her body. He left without saying a word or taking anything.

In the weeks before her death, Rivera had spoken with investigators about the Nov. 25 murder of Louis Chevere, 22, who was fatally shot on Westmoreland Street near Hancock. Police are seeking Jorge Aldea, 22, in connection with that slaying.

But Rivera didn't know anything about the crime, an angry friend said yesterday. He blamed police for her death.

"They picked her up three, four times. Everybody saw," said Luis Sanabria, who lives next door to the store. "They set her up.

"There's no one to protect us," he continued. "We've had two homicides in 2 1/2 months in a radius of 10 feet. We've got kids here. They've got to walk through this mess every day."

As the sky darkened yesterday, about 20 people gathered around an elaborate memorial of balloons, stuffed animals and dozens of candles outside the store where Rivera was slain. They prayed a rosary in Spanish, heads bowed for more than 20 minutes as they recited the prayers.

Meanwhile, other friends collected money in cardboard boxes from passing cars and passers-by.

"Please give for Reina," a ponytailed 7-year-old said as she held out her box. People gave, handing over $20 bills, handfuls of dollars, even rolls of coins.

Now, these friends said, the focus is on raising money to send Rivera's body home to Mexico, where her family awaits.

"Her mother needs her there," friend Gladys Martinez said.

Rivera, she said, had said as recently as this week that she wanted to return to Mexico to visit her mother, who is ailing.

"Now she's going home in a box."

Anyone interested in donating can give at TD Bank. The account is for the "Benefit of Reina Aguirre Alonso."

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