A Bronx landlord was found partially liable yesterday for the 1993 slayings known as the St. Valentine’s Day massacre and was ordered to pay the victims’ families a chunk of a $16.4 million judgment.
A Bronx Supreme Court jury agreed that the five murders might not have happened if Dearborne Management and Prospect Union Associates had provided better security at its Mott Haven apartment building.
The landlords were ordered to fork over $6.23 million – 38% of the megabucks judgment – while the five men serving life sentences for the killings must pay the rest.
“This was justice,” said Howard Frederick, lawyer representing one of the victims’ families. “The jury did a good analysis of a complicated case.”
On Valentine’s Day eve 1993, killers looking to settle a drug related dispute with tenant Edwin Santiago entered the Prospect Ave. building through a broken door.
No guard was on duty to stop them from killing Santiago Christopher Hernandez, Annette Medina and Julia and Maria Santana. Julia Santana was Maria’s and Santiago’s mother.
During the two-week trial, one killer testified that he and the other gunmen wouldn’t have carried out the executions had the building’s guard been on duty.
The guard, Auturo Rosa, testified during the trial that he was two hours late for work on the day of the murders. He also testified that the front door lock was “weak” and tenants could get in without using a key.
Lawyers for the landlord said a new $3,000 security system had been installed and argued that Auturo could not have prevented the murders had he been on the job.
Officials at Dearborne Management and Prospect Union Associates declined to comment on the judgment yesterday. Their lawyers also declined to comment.
Anthony Casellas, Luis Ramos, Eliot Lopez, Luis Romero and Edgardo Rosado were convicted of the murders and sentenced to life in prison.
While the families likely will not collect any cash from the killers, they hope to split the money Dearborne Management and Prospect Union Associates was ordered to pay.
Denise Dunleavy—lawyer for Olga Santana, whose mother, brother and sister were murdered in the massacre—said the case should have been settled long ago.
Wanted to settle
“We offered settlement negotiations all throughout the case, but the building operators refused,” Dunleavy said. “The families wanted to settle. They didn’t want to listen again to how their relatives were murdered.”
Days after the murders, Casellas’ wife, Lourdes, was gunned down on the steps of the Bronx Supreme Court in revenge for the executions.