Bahaa Nesim, 52, owner of Mister Fresh Grocery Store, went to work on Thursday, April 26 just as he had done every day in his neighborhood store at 7008 Bergenline Ave. in Guttenberg, not knowing it would be his last day of work – and of life. At 5 a.m., he was rushed to Palisades Medical Center with multiple stab wounds. Shortly afterward, alerted by a customer who entered the store around the time of the incident, North Bergen residents Jose Castaing and Liz Marie Velez were arrested in front of the store. Nesim died in the hospital at 5:45 a.m.
“It’s a tragic lose for the community” – A neighbor
Castaing and Velez have been charged with murder, felony murder, robbery, possession of a weapon and possession of a weapon for unlawful purposes, according to the prosecutor. They are currently being held on $1 million bail, cash only, at the Hudson County Correctional Center in Kearny.
Authorities found an undisclosed amount of cash inside the store, according to the prosecutor. Two knives believed to have been used in the alleged murder were recovered along with the blood-splattered clothes allegedly worn by the assailants.
A neighborhood reels in shock
Bahaa Nesim was also known as “Mister Fresh” and many in the community described him as a very helpful, caring store owner. The grocery store has now been converted into a shrine in memory of Bahaa Nesim. The store is adorned with writing from Nesim’s former customers and those that knew him well:
“RIP Freshly, miss you like crazy! You were my favorite man and always made me smile. Love Ashley.”
“Fresh, the best man ever. Your Colombian girl. Love you…”
“May God be with you and your family. Vandella.”
Few passersby who stopped to read the testimonials scrawled on the front of the store and security gate would comment other than to say that “it’s a tragic loss for the community.”
They were new in town
Castaing and Velez originated from Brockton, Mass. where they were once homeless, according to Luz Adorno, pastor of the Iglesia de Jesus Fuente de Vida at 538 West St., who was generous enough to take the couple into her home.
“I was shocked.” said Adorno. “Wow. They were actually in my house,” she told Enterprisenews.com, a local news website. “What if that could have happened with me? Wow, could I have been a victim myself?”
Adorno told Enterprisenews.com she believed Castaing was allegedly recovering from a prior drug problem. During their first court appearance at the Central Judicial Processing court in Jersey City, on April 26 at 3 p.m., the couple claimed to be taking various medications, according to published reports. Both defendants stated that they would need various kinds of medical attention and medication while they are in jail.
“We were trying to get him [Castaing] some help, trying to put him into a detox program,” said Adorno.
The last time Adorno said she spoke to the couple was on March 20, when Velez claimed she was leaving Brockton for an emergency. She said she believed Velez has a son who lives in New Jersey.
Adorno recalled that the couple had a “nice and calm” demeanor when they first moved into her home.
DeFazio said the case is still ongoing and has asked anyone with information about the alleged crime to contact the Prosecutor’s Office’s Homicide Squad at (201) 915-1345.
Vanessa Cruz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org