Dominick Andujar would have loved the North Camden park dedicated in his memory.
There were smiles, tears, and the joyous sounds of children playing in the hot sun Tuesday as the Dominick Andujar Park on York Street officially opened at a site where the youngster once played. The park has been revived with new blue and green equipment, a soft rubbery surface, and a basketball court.
“He would have loved it. He loved to play,” said his mother, Debbie Burgos. “It’s so great to see his memory will forever be remembered.”
Dominick was just 6 years old when he was slashed to death on Sept. 2, 2012, while trying to defend an older sister, Amber, from a sexual assault. His intervention allowed the injured girl to flee the house and seek help from a neighbor.
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His killer, Osvaldo Rivera, was sentenced in 2014 to life in prison for the attack on Dominick, followed by an additional 35 years for the assault on Amber. Authorities said Rivera lived in the neighborhood and had broken into the Ware Street house where the Andujar family resided. At the time of the crimes, Rivera told police, he had been smoking marijuana laced with PCP.
Dominick, who believed he was a superhero, was widely credited with saving Amber. The attack occurred on her 12th birthday. The boy had awakened to screams and found his sister under attack in the living room of their home. He fought. Rivera took a butcher knife from the kitchen and slashed the throats of both children.
Amber, now 20 and the mother of a toddler, Noah, said she remains proud of the brother she dubbed “my lil hero.” She said the park dedication for Dominick was a fitting tribute.
“I’m just very excited. It will mean a lot,” she said.
Among those who attended the dedication were Terry King, a homicide investigator in the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office, who worked the case, and Christine Shah, an assistant prosecutor who handled the trial. Both called the day bittersweet.
“He is in fact the true definition of a hero,” said King. “It was just miraculous what he was able to do.”
Shah noted the gravity of the day.
“It’s a sad day. Kids aren’t supposed to die,” Shah said.
With a ceremonial snip of a green satin ribbon, Burgos — joined by Amber and two other daughters, Tiarra and Amy, and a host of officials — officially opened the park with applause and cheers of “Dominick.”
In the next construction phase at the park, a T-ball field will be added to an adjacent overgrown lot, said Danielle Denk, program director for the Trust for Public Land. There will also be a “walk of courage,” a pathway with paw prints (Dominick loved The Lion King) and words in Spanish and English that defined his life -- such as bravery, courage, and family, she said.
“He exhibited tremendous courage, which will never be forgotten,” said Mayor Vic Carstarphen.
After Dominick’s death, his mother picked up his school journal, in which he wrote a sentence every day. The last entry caught her eye: “I am a superhero. I save people.”
“My heart is sad, but I feel joy,” Burgos said. “He’s shining down on us.”
The Trust for Public Land spearheaded the park project as a safe place for families and children. There are two playgrounds for toddlers and older children, outdoor cardio fitness equipment, including ellipticals and stationary bikes, and a path for walkers and joggers.
The park is part of the 10-minute walk campaign, a nationwide initiative that seeks to ensure that all residents in the 9-square-mile city of 70,000 have safe, easy access to green spaces and a high-quality park within a 10-minute walk of their home by 2050. Philadelphia has also joined the program.
Plans are underway to create a park in memory of another victim, Shaline Seguinot, 13, who was raped and killed in North Camden in 1995, said Sister Helen Cole, a Catholic nun and activist. The case went unsolved for five years until her assailant, Miguel Figueroa, was found living in Florida under an assumed name. He is serving life in prison.
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