By Christina Santucci
Authorities were looking for a 26-year-old man in connection with the death of a Richmond Hill resident who was shot to death in a South Jamaica house during the city’s first murder of the year, police said.
Officers responded to a house on 113th Avenue between Sutphin Boulevard and 155th Street early New Year’s Day and found Julio Mora, 22, who had been in a physical altercation 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.
On Thursday afternoon, police said 26-year-old Sheldon Smith was being sought by the NYPD in connection with Mora’s death. A spokeswoman for the NYPD would not specify if he was a suspect in the murder.
Relatives said Mora lost his life exactly 19 years after his mother died unexpectedly.
“It was the same day – January 1st,” said Mora’s grandfather, Carmelo Sanchez, who raised Mora and his older sister with his wife in Richmond Hill. “It hit home hard.”
Sanchez said Mora’s mother, Rosalina LaSalle, died of a heart attack at age 24.
Mora’s sister, Natasha 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 8 and 6, 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.
Gibson said the family spent Christmas together with their grandparents.
“[Mora] was laughing and just joking around and just being himself,” she said.
She spoke to him the following day, Dec. 26, and found out later that Mora had attended a house party at the South Jamaica house 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 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 said the family was still making funeral arrangements Thursday morning, but the cemetery had already been decided.
“He will be buried in New Jersey with my mother,” she said.
Reach managing editor Christina Santucci by e-mail at [email protected] by phone at 718-260-4589.