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Brooklyn burglar convicted in stabbing death of popular chef; set apartment ablaze to try and hide the crime

2019-09-20

A Brooklyn burglar who broke into the home of a popular chef, stabbed him 31 times and set a fire to cover up the murder was convicted of the grisly crime, prosecutors said Friday.

Romulo Heras, 61, was asleep in his East New York home when Jakheem Scott climbed through the kitchen window on Jan. 22, 2016, and slit his throat.

Surveillance video caught Scott, then 17, leaving with Heras’ first-floor apartment on Logan St. with a laundry bag filled with the victim’s items, but not before he set fires in the bedroom and living room to cover up the crime, prosecutors said.

Firefighters found Heras’ body after they put out the flames. Scott fled to Virginia after the crime, and was caught four months later.

“A beloved family man and popular chef was senselessly and brutally murdered in his home,” said Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez. "This verdict is a small measure of justice for Romulo Heras’s wife, children and grandchildren. This defendant has now been held accountable for this terrible crime.”

Heras was a nighttime sous chef at Cornelia Street Café in Greenwich Village. He was home alone in the apartment. His older daughter had gone to class, and his wife had taken their 6-year-old daughter to school.

Detectives said Scott had been checking other apartments in the building, listening to see which ones might be empty.

Heras was an immigrant from Ecuador who worked as a dishwasher and later in kitchens to support his mother and sister before becoming a citizen.

He worked at the Cornelia Street Café for 20 years.

Scott, meanwhile, had 19 other arrests on his record and lived just a few blocks away. He was linked to four more area burglaries, including one in 2011, when he was just 12, police said.