The memory of a North Bergen man who was murdered last month was cherished at a recent vigil by his family and a group of area residents – some of whom never knew the victim but mourned his loss nonetheless.
Activists Adela Rohena, Erik-Anders Nillson and Marimer Navarrete of Jersey City formed Citizens in Action after they learned that Martin Caballero, 47, of North Bergen, had been apparently kidnapped, carjacked, and murdered in Atlantic City two weeks ago.
On May 21, Caballero drove to Atlantic City to celebrate his daughter’s 22nd birthday. After dropping his wife off at the Trump Taj Mahal Casino, he was never seen again.
Last week, his body was found with multiple stab wounds to the chest on a desolate farm in Atlantic County. Craig Arno, 44, of Atlantic City and Jessica Kisby, 24 of Egg Harbor Township, have been charged with kidnapping, carjacking, and murder.
“I’ll try to live like you did, always optimistic and thinking that tomorrow will be a better day.” – William Cruz
Law enforcement officials have alleged that the pair approached Caballero when he was parking his car at the casino, drove to an ATM, took money out with his card, murdered him, and set his car on fire.
Arno and Kisby have pleaded not guilty and are being held in the Atlantic and Salem County jails, respectively (see sidebar).
20 years at local supermarket
Caballero worked as the dairy manager at the Stop and Shop in Jersey City near Pershing Field for the past 20 years. On Tuesday, June 8, concerned residents held a candle light vigil near the supermarket, at Central and Manhattan avenues, to remember a person whom many called a hard-working family man.
Navarrete said they wanted to do this for a community that has been “beaten and beaten” by violence.
“We are here mourning Martin, celebrating his life…and we are also calling for complete justice to the people who did this to Martin, this vicious attack,” said Nillson.
The group had asked for the Caballero family’s permission to host the vigil after giving their condolences at his wake and funeral, held this past Sunday and Monday. Caballero’s wife Libia Martinez, as well as his children Jessica Caballero and William and Nancy Cruz, attended the vigil.
As Caballero’s family stood embracing each other toward the back of the crowd, a group of 50 people held candles, listened to prayers, sang, and commented about how Martin Caballero would be missed.
Libia, speaking in Spanish and in tears, thanked the crowd for their prayers. Her son William did the same, saying that the remembrance meant a lot to their family. He read a letter he had posted on Facebook to Martin, who is his stepfather.
“Martin, it was difficult today to think of you; I’m sure tomorrow as well,” said William, translating the letter from Spanish.
He continued, “The silhouette of your hat backwards is unmistakable and unforgettable. Your voice, your smile, always brought a message of hope, and I know that someday I will hear that voice again. You left us without saying goodbye, but until then I guess it will be. I love you and I’ll try to live like you did, always optimistic and thinking that tomorrow will be a better day.”
Community comes together
Mayor Jerramiah Healy, a resident of Jersey City Heights, said that he and his family had known Caballero for years from buying groceries at Stop and Shop.
“It hits home, just like everything that happens here in Jersey City hits home,” said Healy. “People in the store knew him and everybody liked him. It is a totally unnecessary, great loss.”
Navarrete talked about Caballero to the audience. She said that he was born in Guyano, Puerto Rico, and that he would cheer for Argentina’s soccer team because his wife is Argentinian. He was also a Yankees fan.
Caballero served the U.S. Army in the infantry. After his discharge he enrolled into the New Jersey National Guard as a diesel mechanic, a job from which he retired after many years of service.
Rohena said that when a customer came to Stop and Shop, Caballero was “always working, all the time.”
Esther Winters addressed the Caballero family, saying that she hoped they would eventually find peace in their hearts and know that someday they would be reunited with Caballero again.
“My second wish is that I hope as a community that we don’t allow Martin Caballero’s name to go in vain, and that we stand together to find the things that perhaps we have the capability to do,” she said.
At the end of the event, fourth grader Janelly Chevres took the microphone.
“I’ve never known Martin, but after all of the things I heard, I think he’s a really good person,” said Chevres.
Her mother Janet said that it was important to come together as a community. She said that although she did not know him, she felt “broken and torn apart” for his family.
“Maybe he didn’t write a book, maybe he wasn’t a politician or an actor, but he left his mark here,” Navarrete said.
Tricia Tirella may be reached at TriciaT@hudsonreporter.com. AC kidnappers hit with even more charges
The two alleged captors of Martin Caballero appeared in court in Atlantic City Wednesday to face homicide charges.
Craig Arno, 44, of Atlantic City and Jessica Kisby, 24 pleaded not guilty to murder and felony murder, carjacking, and kidnapping, Prosecutor Ted Housel announced last week. Both were remanded to county jail, held on $2 million full cash bail.
The pair also face charges of aggravated arson and hindering apprehension in Gloucester Township for allegedly setting Caballero’s car on fire. Additional bail has been set at $75,000 for each defendant, said Housel.
During the hearing, Housel announced that Kisby has been transferred to Salem County Jail and that Arno remains in Atlantic County Jail.
Arno and Kisby have also been charged with the May 26 theft of a van from Arno’s Atlantic City residence.
Another case being handled by the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office alleges that Arno committed armed robbery at a Dunkin Donuts on May 20. – TT