Two years after her son was beaten and stabbed to death in the basement apartment of a Woodhaven home, Christina Bernal is still searching for answers.
On Efrain Vargas’ birthday, Dec. 27, 2018, Bernal simply grieved for her son with the people who knew and loved him with a vigil in front of the house he was found in days after his death. He would have been 26 in 2018.
Vargas was found dead on Jan. 29, 2017, and those closest to him said he was just beginning to straighten out his life after getting involved with drugs, his mother said.
“They didn’t resolve any problems by killing my son and I’m not going to stop until I get these people in jail,” Bernal said between sobs, then spoke of her son. “I would have given everything to make you happy, because I know you were not too happy in this world. That’s all I want from God is to make you rest in peace… knowing that we love you.”
Bernal denies that her son was robbed because she found his money in the room where he died and friends claim it is misinformation that he was a drug dealer.
Those at the vigil lit candles around a shrine, released balloons and played some of Vargas’ favorite songs on portable Bluetooth speakers.
“Honestly, this was the last person I would have expected this to happen to. I mean, he could piss you off… [but] he always managed to keep a smile on everybody’s faces,” Stephen Llorente, a life-long friend of Vargas, said. “He came from a struggle. He didn’t have a bed, he slept on a mattress. For him to have something, that’s just what he wanted. He wanted to be somebody… We’d all hang out, I’d have a problem with somebody and within like two minutes he had me smiling.”
At an early point in the vigil, the owner of the house that Vargas was renting from came out and tried to disperse the gathering claiming her late tenant “was a drug dealer.”
But at around 9:30 p.m., a transformer explosion at the Con Edison facility in Astoria occurred and lit up the sky varying shades of blue and red, catching the attention of the Woodhaven gathering.