Cops nab suspect in Howard Beach brush fire deaths

Photo by Christina Santucci
By Karen Frantz

Police charged a Brooklyn man with murder in connection with the deaths of two men who had been shot and beaten and whose bodies were stuffed inside plastic bags and set on fire in an undeveloped section of Howard Beach, police and the Queens district attorney said.

“The defendant is accused of participating in the brutal murder of two men whose bodies were dumped and intentionally set on fire in an attempt to cover up the alleged crime,” said DA Richard Brown.

Rogelio Rodriguez, 34, was arrested and slapped with the murder charge as well as charges of criminal possession of a weapon and criminal tampering, police said. He was arraigned in Queens Criminal Court Wednesday and held without bail and faces 25 years to life in prison, the Queens DA’s office said.

Brown said Rodriguez, along with at least three other people, allegedly attacked the victims, Rudy Superville, 22, and Gary Lopez, 25, both of Brooklyn, inside Rodriguez’s home last Tuesday morning.

Rodriguez allegedly punched and kicked Lopez and hit him with a gun and chair and allegedly kicked and pistol-whipped Superville, Brown said. The other unapprehended individuals are also suspected of shooting and wounding the men, he said.

The medical examiner’s investigation found Lopez sustained gunshots to his chest, abdomen and forearm and blunt force trauma to his forehead and right cheek, and Superville sustained gunshots to his neck and elbow, stab wounds in his back and neck and blunt force trauma to his eye and head, Brown said.

The DA also accused Rodriguez of going to Newton Creek in Maspeth in the early morning March 7 and dumping seven firearms involved in the murders of Lopez and Superville in the water.

The New York Post and other outlets reported Superville and Lopez may have been killed after a group of drug dealers learned the two men were planning on robbing them, but neither the DA’s office or police would confirm that account.

Authorities found the bodies of the men in Spring Creek Park near the corner of 157th Avenue and 83rd Street after putting out a massive fire that started there around 4:30 a.m. March 6.

A spokeswoman for the medical examiner’s office said the bodies were badly burned in the fire and were identified by their fingerprints.

The NYPD also recently released surveillance photos of three vehicles seen at 157th Avenue and 83rd Street, a few blocks away from where the bodies were found, and said the occupants were wanted for questioning in connection with the deaths.

Police described the first vehicle as a two-tone, dark-colored custom van, the second as a four-door, light-colored sedan and the third as a four-door, dark-colored sedan.

Residents who live in the area said the park is a common dumping ground because it is out of the way. Spring Creek is a marshy, undeveloped area that borders the western and southern parts of Howard Beach and extends to Jamaica Bay.

Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at kfrantz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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