CORAL GABLES (CBSMiami) – Robert James, 77, who died Friday after being robbed and beaten in his Coral Gables office, was planning on quitting his job and retiring next week, according to his long time roommate, Fransesco Giordano.
“Everybody loved Bob. I can’t think of a better person,” Giordano said Monday.
James died allegedly at the hands of Jose Rojas, who now faces two charges of first-degree murder, two counts of armed kidnapping, and one count of attempted robbery.
Giordano may have been the last person to hear and speak to James just before he died.
“The last words I had to hear,” Giordano said. “He couldn’t speak. He could hardly say a word.”
“He said, ‘I’m so weak. We just got robbed. Call the police,'” Giordano said of his final phone call with James. “And then I heard a woman screaming in the background. I heard the whole thing. I heard the whole thing live.”
Coral Gables officers were called to the office building at 801 Monterrey at about noon Friday, after getting calls from people in the building who had heard screams for help.
They found two scenes when they arrived; the bodies inside suite 205-B, the offices of the adjusters firm, and at the end of a bloody trail from the building, a man dressed in bloody clothes at a Sedano’s supermarket down the street.
Police took that man, now believed to be Rojas, into custody.
According to Rojas’ arrest affidavit, officers found the bodies of Frances Venezia and Robert James bound with duct tape around their hands and feet. Duct tape was also around their mouths with what appeared to be rags.
They also found and air soft pellet gun and a broken wooden mop handle, according to the report.
Rojas reportedly told detectives he stopped at a store on the way to the office building to pick up the items he used to torture Venezia and James. According to the arrest affidavit, Rojas arrived at the building and waited for Venezia and James to arrive.
Rojas admitted to police he bound them in duct tape and forced Venezia to call her financial institution and write him a check from her checking account, according to the report. He also reportedly admitted to striking Venezia over the head with the mop handle after she and James began to yell for help.
Rojas then told the detectives he didn’t remember what happened next, according to the report, but he did remember there were pools of blood around the office and on his clothes.
The sister of Rojas, Vivian Otero, said his family is “devastated” by the shooting and called Jose “a good husband and wonderful father.”
“We are devastated by the horrific tragedy that occurred on Friday,” Vivian Otero, Rojas’ sister told CBS4’s David Sutta. “My brother Jose is a good husband and wonderful father who has never been a violent man. All we know is that he was going through difficult times and we will continue to support him.”
Otero continued, “Our deepest condolences go out to the victim’s families and we will keep everyone who has been affected by this tragedy in our prayers. We ask the media to refrain from seeking out his family at his residence. Please have some sympathy for his children during this troubling time. Please keep everyone in your prayers.”
Jose Rojas, who is charged with two counts of first degree murder, two counts of armed kidnapping and one count of attempted robbery, was denied bond Sunday morning. During the proceeding Rojas, who wore a padded vest worn issued to those on suicide watch and did not make any comments.
When CBS4 asked Otero what Rojas was going through in regards to her saying he was dealing with “difficult times,” she couldn’t say exactly.
“All I can tell you is his family, his family had issues with their health,” Otero said. “They had health issues and then he was struggling. But we don’t know much else because he really didn’t talk about anything. He couldn’t find a job.”
While police have not officially confirmed the name of the office manager, CBS4 sources have independently confirmed it to be Robert James.
Neighbors of Rojas, who is married and has children, said he was always nice and couldn’t believe he was accused of killing two people.
“It’s like he just snapped, he lost a screw or something,” said Victor Smalley, a neighbor of Rojas. “I’m worried about the family, that must be really hard. How do you tell your kids that ‘hey, your dad is a murderer’.”
Venezia opened the business in 1998 and operated it with a partner. She has two children and an ex-husband, Pietro Venezia, who was charged with the murder of a tax collector in North Miami in 1993 and who fled to Italy. He was tried there after Italy refused to extradite him, and sentenced to 23 years in prison. It’s not known if he is still in custody there.
Rojas is listed as an employee of an associated company run by Venezia at the same address, and his brief biography indicates he is a computer expert.
Police described the murder scene as very violent and the crime was done by someone filled with rage. CBS4’s David Sutta said Venezia and Rojas didn’t get along, which my have contributed to some sort of buildup last Friday.