By Christina Santucci
A 22-year-old man killed in the city’s first murder of the year was buried Tuesday with his mother, who died New Year’s Day 19 years earlier.
“He died the same day as my mother. She died in 1995,” said Julio Mora’s heartbroken sister, Natasha Gibson. Mora’s funeral was held Sunday and Monday in Richmond Hill followed by his burial in New Jersey alongside his late mother.
Mora, of Richmond Hill was shot to death in a South Jamaica house early New Year’s Day, and authorities were looking for 26-year-old Sheldon Smith in connection with his death, police said. A spokeswoman for the NYPD would not specify if he was a suspect in the murder.
Officers responded to a house on 113th Avenue between Sutphin Boulevard and 155th Street Jan. 1 and found the wounded 22-year-old, who had been in a physical confrontation and was shot, a spokeswoman for the NYPD said. Emergency responders were called at about 1:15 a.m. and pronounced Mora dead at the scene.
Police initially said Mora had been stabbed, but the city’s medical examiner determined the 22-year-old’s cause of death was a gunshot wound, according to cops.
Relatives said they were shocked by Mora’s death after the family spent Christmas together.
“He was laughing and just joking around and just being himself,” Gibson said.
Gibson and Mora were raised by their grandparents after their mother, Rosalina LaSalle, died of a heart attack at age 24.
“It hit home hard,” said Mora’s grandfather, Carmelo Sanchez, of the loss.
Gibson said that after their mother’s death she and her brother became very close, and he was living with her, her husband and her two sons, ages 6 and 8, at the time he was killed.
“He went to school. He did his thing, and he was a pretty good boy,” Sanchez said.
Mora graduated from John Bowne High School several years ago and had been doing odd jobs, but most recently worked as a promoter for Smoke Liqueur, a pre-made cocktail made with vodka, his sister said.
“He was always joking around. He always had a smile on his face,” she said. “He was kind of like a big kid.”
Gibson last spoke to her brother Dec. 26, and found out later that Mora had attended a house party at the South Jamaica house on New Year’s Eve.
“A lot of people were at this party,” she said. “He had gotten into an altercation with an older man who left, and supposedly he came back.”
One neighbor on 113th Avenue, who said young men often hung out in front of the home, said he was home early New Year’s Day when the murder took place.
“I heard something before I went to bed, but I thought it was fireworks,” he said, while sweeping snow from his driveway last Thursday morning.
Gibson said her family is looking for more answers about how Mora died.
“We want [a suspect] to be caught, but more so we want to know what happened,” she said.
Gibson emphasized that her brother was not in a gang or involved in illicit activities even though he had been released from Sing Sing Prison in August after serving two years on robbery and criminal possession of a forged instrument convictions. The family hopes to keep Mora’s memory alive as police search for whoever killed him.
“We don’t want this to be rolled under the carpet,” she said.
Reach managing editor Christina Santucci by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org by phone at 718-260-4589.