Guilty verdict in killing of boy who saved sister

Dominick Andujar was killed at his Camden home.
Dominick Andujar was killed at his Camden home.
Posted: July 13, 2014

A Camden jury on Friday found Osvaldo Rivera - accused of the 2012 killing of 6-year-old Dominick Andujar as the boy rushed to aid his sister - guilty of all the charges he faced, including murder, attempted murder, and aggravated sexual assault.

He was also found guilty of weapons and burglary charges.

It took the jury about 21/2 hours to convict Rivera, 33, on 11 counts in a case that aroused national outrage.

Rivera, a neighbor of the family who is said to have played ball with local children and given them haircuts, slashed the throats of both children.

Just after midnight Sept. 2, 2012, Rivera, also known by the nickname "Popeye," broke into the family's Ware Street home and attacked Andujar's sister, Amber, as she was sleeping on a couch. Two other sisters were also home.

Dominick, awakened by Amber's screams, rushed to help her. The boy was able to put up enough of a fight that his sister, bleeding from her injuries, could escape and run to a neighbor for help.

Dominick, his throat and hands cut, died in the house. He was hailed as a hero by family and authorities.

"He gave his life for his family," his mother, Debbie Burgos, said after the verdict. On her right forearm is a tattoo with his likeness, his name, and the words "Missing my nene," a term for "little boy."

Surrounded by family and supporters, Amber, now 13 and a rising eighth grader, declined to comment to reporters outside the courthouse after the verdict. The scars still visible on her throat did the talking.

Burgos said the girl was "doing great. She's a survivor."

The mother praised the jury and the verdict.

As for Rivera, she said, "He will pay for the rest of his life."

Dominick, she said, "will always be around him, and he's always going to remind him. . . . He's not going to be able to sleep," as she said she hasn't been able to sleep the last two years.

Rivera's attorney, Marcia Soast, could not be reached for comment.

County Assistant Prosecutor Christine Shah said her office would "absolutely" seek a life sentence for Rivera.

His next court date is set for Oct. 23. At the time of his arrest, there was speculation that Rivera was high on "wet," a super-potent form of the drug PCP, during the attack. That has never been confirmed, authorities said.

Rivera also has charges pending in the alleged molestation of a 2-year-old boy in August 2012 in the same South Camden neighborhood. He will be tried separately for that.

His crimes were part of a particularly violent year in a city plagued by violence - 2012 saw Camden break its record for homicides.

Amber's testimony was seen as key to justice for Dominick and was a crucial part of the case against Rivera, according to prosecutors. Shah said the child more than lived up to the grueling task put before her.

"It's further evidence of what a survivor she is," she said, "at her age, that she could walk into a courtroom full of people, most of which were strangers, and [recount] the most terrible things that could happen to a person, let alone a child.

"She is an incredibly courageous girl," Shah said. "I think she did it for her brother."

Later Friday afternoon, the family went to Calvary Cemetery in Cherry Hill, where Dominick is buried, said Sister Helen Cole, a family supporter. The family members left him balloons, but before they did, they said a prayer.


rgiordano@phillynews.com

856-779-3893 @ritagiordano

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