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By IZASKUN E. LARRAÑETA
Day Staff Writer
New London — Police continue to investigate the death of a Guatemalan man whose body was discovered Christmas Day on the bedroom floor at his Hope Street apartment.
The victim has yet to be formally identified, but at Jasmine Thai Restaurant in New London, where the man worked for the past five years as a busboy and occasional prep cook, he was known affectionately as “Amigo,” according to restaurant owner Noi Biagetti and her husband, Mark Perera. They believe it was his first job in the United States.
“He was a nice guy and he was treated here like their own family,” Perera said. “He was pleasant ... always had a smile on his face. I feel so bad. I was in shock when I first heard. I don’t know what happened.”
Biagetti said she last saw “Amigo” Tuesday evening and started to wonder if something was wrong when he did not show up for work on Thursday.
“He was a nice person and a good worker,” Biagetti said. “We all loved him here — like close family.”
An autopsy is scheduled for today to determine the cause and manner of death, said New London Deputy Chief Peter Reichard. Fingerprinting will also be done at the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and may help to positively identify the man, Reichard said.
No arrests had been made as of late Thursday.
Police said they located evidence of foul play and trauma to the man’s body and are treating the case as a homicide, which would be the third of the year.
Luis Guzman of New London, who owns 15 Hope St., where the man was found dead, and another property just a few houses down at 22 Hope St., said he did not know the young Guatemalan who died in the second-floor apartment of the multi-family home. Guzman said he was also unaware that six people were living in the apartment, as police have reported.
Guzman, who is originally from the Dominican Republic, said he rented the apartment to a man from Guatemala years ago, but that the man had returned to his homeland and left his roommate, a man he believed was named Jose, in charge of the rent.
He said whenever he or his wife went to collect the rent, he never saw more than two people there. The second-floor apartment has three bedrooms, he said.
Guzman said he has since learned from tenants and neighbors that a lot of drinking had gone on in that apartment. He said one neighbor saw men carrying beer late Tuesday night into the apartment.
He believed the men, including the victim, worked in restaurants. He was told that one of the victim’s friends found him dead after he failed to show up for work.
“I was helping a cousin in Uncasville who had locked his keys in his car when I got a call that there were police cars all around the house,” said Guzman. “I was upset. It’s sad to think that someone got killed there, especially on Christmas.”
Guzman said he asked tenants if they had heard or seen something, and they said they heard nothing.
Besides Wednesday’s death, one city homicide this year remains under investigation. Jesus Pinero, 29, died Aug. 29 after he was shot multiple times in the area of Connecticut Avenue and Prest Street. The gunman remains at large.
The Oct. 26 death of 2½-month-old Jovanni Browne was also ruled a homicide, caused by abusive head trauma. His father, Adam Browne, 24, is charged with first-degree manslaughter, first-degree assault and risk of injury to a minor for allegedly repeatedly shaking the infant. He has pleaded not guilty in the case and remains held in prison on a $1 million bond.
Staff Writer Greg Smith contributed to this report.