Jax. Hts. man’s death still a mystery: Police

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Police in the 115th Precinct have turned to the public for help finding information on the fatal beating of a well-liked Jackson Heights building worker last week.

Detectives had few leads in the death of Rafael Rodriguez, 53, who was assaulted somewhere in the neighborhood Aug. 17, between 4 a.m. and 9 a.m., a police source said.

Rodriguez, who worked as a superinten­dent’s assistant in a building on 82nd Street, was severely beaten about the head and body, the source said. But he refused medical attention when his boss noticed his injuries around 9 a.m., saying he just wanted to sleep, the police source said.

The superintendent next found Rodriguez lying on the floor of the lobby at 5 p.m., unconscious and unresponsive, the source said.

Rodriguez was taken to Elmhurst Hospital Center with head trauma, police said. He was pronounced dead on arrival, police said.

Police are asking anyone with information in the case to call the Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS.

Police said Rodriguez was not in a gang, but had been having a hard time since the death of his wife a few months ago.

Residents of the building had nothing but kind words about Rodriguez, who they said emigrated from Cuba during the Mariel boatlift of 1980 to join his father-in-law, who was living in the apartment Rodriguez later inherited in the building.

Carmen Vargas, 62, said Rodriguez was a quiet, responsible man who watched a generation of children grow up in the building.

“All the kids, they used to love him,” she said, noting Rodriguez also regularly brought meals to his mother-in-law in a nursing home. “He was a beautiful person.”

Alex Valencia, 13, remembered Rodriguez fondly.

“We used to laugh sometimes when I used to see him,” he said. “It was very sad when I found out he died.”

Rodriguez’s death is the third homicide in the 115th Precinct in 2009. There had been two homicides in the precinct during the same stretch of 2008.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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