After nearly two years of grieving, months of legal preparation, and a two week trial, on Friday the family of slain 6-year-old Dominick Andujar may finally learn whether the man accused of killing their loved one will be brought to justice.
Early Thursday morning, the family sat huddled close to one another in a Camden County courthouse listening to closing arguments in the case. The victim's uncle, Peter Burgos, couldn't seem to put himself at ease as he tapped his foot incessantly throughout the presentations; anxiety clearly showing on his face.
Tissues handed out to the family were put to use as tears began to stream down the faces of cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents of the deceased while they listened to assistant prosecutor Christine Shah recount the gruesome details of Andujar's murder.
On September 2, 2012, Osvaldo Rivera allegedly entered a home on the 900 block of Ware Street in Camden, N.J. and attempted to sexually assault 12-year-old Amber Andujar. When Amber's younger brother Dominick rushed in the room to try and save her, Rivera allegedly cut both of the children's throats with a knife he'd taken from the family's kitchen.
Dominick was killed in the attack. His sister, Amber, survived.
Rivera faces a total of 11 charges, the most serious of which include multiple counts of murder in the first degree, attempted murder, and aggravated sexual assault. Rivera pleaded not guilty. If convicted, he will face life in prison.
"We just want to tell everybody to keep us in prayer, because it's kind of a big day tomorrow. You never know what could happen," Peter Burgos said.
Under New Jersey law, murder must be a purposeful and knowing act.
Early on in the case, Rivera's actions were linked to his reported admitted use of "wet," a combination of marijuana and PCP. The drug is known to incite erratic, and sometimes violent, behavior.
Neither the defense nor the prosecution, however, mentioned Rivera's supposed use of the drug in their final arguments.
The defense instead referenced the accused's supposed consumption of malt liquor beverages as proof of his intoxication on the day of the assaults, while Shah argued that Rivera -- who allegedly ran a lengthy distance and jumped over a fence to flee the crime scene -- could not possibly have been intoxicated, making his acts both knowing and purposeful.
Shah's nearly 45-minute closing left even a few of the jurors -- who are supposed to refrain from showing any emotion -- in tears.
The Burgos family said they were very pleased with Shah's representation of them.
"Christine did a really great job. You know, she was very, very thorough and we feel like she had our best interest at heart," Burgos said. "She defended us well. She defended Dominick well."
The now 13-year-old Amber Andujar sat through portions of the final arguments on Thursday. Part of the case will rest on the jury's perception of her eye witness testimony. Amber's grandmother, Naomi Burgos, said the teen has been in good spirits.
"Amber is handling herself very well. We’re just so proud of her. She’s really strong," she said.
Peter Burgos said the legal process has taken an emotional toll on some of his loved ones as they've tried to move forward with their every day lives.
Late Thursday afternoon, the family consoled one another with hugs and exchanged words of encouragement as they exited the courthouse with plans to go home, sleep, and pray.
"We’ve been here once or twice a month trying to get things together. So we’re tired, but we all still have to kind of move forward while this is going on," he said.
"We have our own families that we still need to take care of. So, we just process it with each other and then we work on the next day. Hopefully we can make it one more day and hopefully, tomorrow, everything is resolved."
The jury began deliberations Friday morning.