Relatives seek clues in killing of mother

Police say they don't have suspects or motive for fatal shooting Tuesday

November 11, 1999|By Tim Craig | Tim Craig,SUN STAFF

Ruth Santiago was watching her favorite Spanish-language soap opera when two gunman burst into her two-story, brick rowhouse in East Baltimore Tuesday evening and fatally shot her and seriously wounded her live-in boyfriend, police and relatives said.

Santiago, 40, died in the living room of the home, in the 3300 block of McElderry St. in the Ellwood Park-Monument neighborhood, shortly before 8 p.m. Her boyfriend, Rafael Abreu, 51, remains in serious condition at Johns Hopkins Hospital with gunshot wounds to the chest and leg, said police spokeswoman Agent Ragina L. Cooper.

Police said yesterday they have no suspects or motive in the case and declined to release any details.

Based on information that Santiago's relatives say they've gotten from witnesses and police, she spent much of Tuesday working and returned home during the early evening hours. She and Abreu were watching television shortly before 8 p.m. when Abreu heard a knock at the front door. He looked out the window, saw no one, and then heard another knock a few seconds later.

The relatives were told that two men forced open the door and fired one shot, striking Abreu. Santiago, who was sitting on the couch several feet away, screamed and attempted to run toward the kitchen. One of the men then fired one shot, striking Santiago, and she collapsed. The men shot both victims again before fleeing out the front door into an alley next to Santiago's home.

Santiago was pronounced dead at the scene from gunshot wounds to the chest and leg, said Santiago's cousin Carmen Feliciano, of Dundalk.

It was second home-invasion-style killing in the city this week. On Monday, a gang of men mugged a 15-year-old boy, then burst into his Northeast Baltimore home and shot his father to death.

Police say the incidents are unrelated, and that it is unclear if Santiago, Abreu or her two sons, who were away from home at the time of the shooting, were the gunmens' intended target.

Neighbors said Santiago, whose nickname was "Cookie," had a crusade against the drugs and violence that were encroaching on her neighborhood.

"She was always devastated to see these problems right here," said Velma Vereen, a next door neighbor. "She used to tell all those [loitering] boys to get off her porch."

Santiago worked at a Northeast Market fruit stand, Dollar Bills store on Lombard Street and D. J. Jones clothes store on Eastern Avenue to pay for the house she bought three years ago , relatives said.

"She just loved that house because she did it all on her own," said Feliciano.

The Puerto Rican native's relatives spent yesterday cleaning up the blood-stained living room, hauling away furniture and asking who shot Santiago and why.

"She had no enemies in the world She was nothing but the cook of all cooks and the mother of all mothers," said her sister-in-law Ann Santana of the 7700 block of Eastdale Road near Eastpoint Mall.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

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