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Mom seeks answers in Elmhurst murder

The same device that keeps Lopez in touch with the world also offers the Ridgefield Park, N.J., mother a heartfelt connection to her slain son: the cell phone he carried until his death."His voice mail," Lopez said. "I kept it. I can't disconnect that number at all. It just gives me a little bit of the feeling that he's still around."Lopez's son, Michael Barrios, was stabbed to death during the early-morning hours of Dec. 12 in an alleyway adjacent to 80-37 47th Ave.after leaving an Elmhurst bowling alley he went to with his girlfriend of more than a year.Police have yet to charge anyone in connection with the attack that left the promising 22-year-old Bergen County Community College senior and part-time physical trainer lying in a pool of blood, said 110th Precinct Detective Eddy Romero. "As of this point there have been a couple phone calls here and there but nothing solid," Romero said. He urged anyone with information to call Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS or the precinct at 718-476-9323.Meanwhile, Lopez has issued a desperate plea for the public's help in tracking down the group of as many as seven men who killed the son she said "any mother would have been proud to have.""The police, every time I call them they say, 'Oh, I have nothing,'" Lopez said. "I know they're working, but they need the public."The night of the attack, Barrios was recovering from a cold and argued with his girlfriend who told him to put on her jacket, Lopez said. Frustrated, Barrios' girlfriend walked away before Barrios apparently got into an argument with two men who tried to steal the Santa hat he had worn to a Christmas party earlier that night, Lopez said. Barrios took the hat back, but a short time later, after his girlfriend and her brother-in-law decided to return, witnesses saw a group of five apparently South American men chasing after Barrios with bats and knives, Lopez said."I know the police think that those two that took his hat went and got three more," Lopez said. "They chased him and they stabbed him to death."Barrios was taken to Elmhurst Hospital Medical Center with stab wounds in his neck, kidney and spleen, Lopez said. He died a short while later. "I need witnesses, I need somebody to have something because if they know something and they're not saying, they're guilty as the individuals," Lopez said. "Give me closure. That's the least that they can do for such a senseless crime is give me some closure." Lopez urged anyone with information to call the city's anonymous Crime Stoppers tip line at 1-800-577-TIPS. The family has offered $8,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction. Crime Stoppers is offering $2,000 and the mayor's office recently sweetened the pot with an additional $10,000, Lopez said."I can't stop till I find out who did this because it was senseless," Lopez said. "It was something that happened in a matter of five minutes. An empire that I built for 23 years, including my pregnancy, is taken away by some punks on the street." Reach reporter James DeWeese by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

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