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Shooting death of teen stuns neighborhood

December 12, 1998|By BRENDAN KIRBY

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - In the two hours after bullets whizzed through their normally quiet neighborhood Friday night, South Rosemont Avenue residents huddled in the cold and tried to find out what had become of the teenager who was shot.

The Martinsburg Police Department said Saturday that Jose "Joey" DeLoa, 16, died at Martinsburg City Hospital at about 11:50 p.m. of multiple gunshot wounds.

Police said they are following all leads but declined to elaborate on the investigation.

"This isn't supposed to happen to a 16-year-old kid," said Steve Marandola, 31, who knows the boy's parents.

Family members said DeLoa was returning home from a friend's house up the block when he was gunned down in front of 330 S. Rosemont Ave.

"He had a very gentle soul, a very gentle heart," said Cynthia Quinones, the boy's stepmother. "He was very good with children."

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Quinones said she and her husband had just picked DeLoa up at the bus stop on Wednesday. He was visiting his father for Christmas and was considering coming to live with him, she said.

Quinones said DeLoa moved to California with his mother about a year and a half ago. Later, they moved to Omaha, Neb., to be closer to his mother's family, she said.

"He had only been here two days," Quinones said.

Family members and neighbors described DeLoa as a fanatical basketball fan who enjoyed rap music. Tupac Shakur, the rapper who himself was shot to death two years ago, was among his favorite artists, Quinones said.

Neighbor Margaret Green said her children went to South Middle School with DeLoa.

"I liked him," she said. "He was always nice to me. He always treated me well.

"I was just talking to him the day before. I told him I was glad to see him back," she said.

Quinones said she and the boy's father, Jose Quinones, were waiting for DeLoa to come home Friday night when shots rang out up the block.

"He was a good kid," she said. "His father is just devastated."

Most of the residents of this neighborhood in the southwestern part of Martinsburg were inside when the shooting occurred.

"I heard it and said, 'Is that gunshots?'" said Marissa Marandola, 20.

Her husband assured her it was just noise from a neighbor working on his house. But when they saw the lights from the police cars and ambulance, both knew it was far more serious.

"Martinsburg is growing and growing. Any time a city grows, so does the crime," she said. "It's natural. You can't stop it."

Cindy Decker and her sister were watching television from across the street when they heard the gunfire.

Decker said she called 911.

"I would never dream something like that would happen right at our front door," she said.

Decker said the boy was lying face down when police and rescue workers converged at the house across the street. She said the street is normally quiet, but added she fears for the future.

"This place is getting as bad as D.C. and Baltimore. They were just bragging there were no murders all year," she said.

Steve Marandola, who moved to Martinsburg from Miami about two years ago, said he has noticed some disturbing incidents during the last several months. About a month and a half ago, he said a neighborhood man was beaten.

About a month ago, he said he called the police after he saw a man walking down the street carrying a shotgun.

"I lived in a rough neighborhood down there. There used to be bars on the windows," he said. "I thought it was different up here."

On Saturday, family, friends and neighbors of DeLoa placed flowers on the spot where he was shot. A chalk message summed up their feelings:

"We love you! And will miss you. Stay warm baby. We know how much you hated to be cold. Watch over your mom and your dad, Joey. Always keep their thoughts warm. Our hearts will always be open."

* Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to call the Martinsburg Police Department at 304-264-2100 or Berkeley County Crime Solvers at 304-267-4999.

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