Alicia Restrepo knew this was the wrong time to have a baby. She was 24, living in hotel rooms, in love with a man with a dangerous past, and keeping her own secrets.
But sometimes, friends said, she let herself imagine it. Maybe her boyfriend, Robert, would weep when he held their child for the first time. Maybe her mother would be so overjoyed that she would finally forgive her daughter for all her mistakes. Or maybe, as Alicia’s belly swelled, she would simply pack up and take off, head for Florida, just her and the baby. Maybe they would make a new life far away in the heat and the light.
It was a fantasy. Instead, she bought tiny baby shoes and boxes of diapers for her friends whose children she cooed and babbled to, and she stayed in Boston. The summer slipped away, the nights turned raw, and the streets she traveled seethed with grudges, greed, and fury.
And so Alicia was sitting in the passenger seat of her white BMW on Charles Street in Dorchester on Oct. 15, just past 9:30 p.m., when the shooting started. Seven blasts, a neighbor guessed, close together. An explosion of shattering glass. The bullets tore through her torso and right leg, and she slumped in her seat. When police arrived, there was no one in the driver’s seat. Seven minutes later, Boston EMS pronounced Alicia dead.
Alicia was the last to die in the deadliest month Boston has seen in 2018. Eight people were gunned down on the streets of Mattapan and Dorchester in 11 days. Though officials say the killings appear unrelated, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh said many victims were “targeted,” and they all share the geography common to so many murders in Boston, where last year three-quarters of the city’s 57 homicides occurred in Dorchester, Mattapan, or Roxbury.
The victims in October’s killings ranged from the tragically unlucky, like the gas station attendant shot to death in an apparent robbery; to the allegedly criminal, like the man suspected in a February killing who was executed while he sat in a car on Columbia Road.
Then there was Alicia. Boston Police have not determined whether she was the accidental victim of bullets meant for someone else or the intended target. On some streets in Boston, riding in the wrong car, knowing the wrong people, or dating the wrong man can make you collateral damage. Or perhaps Alicia had put herself in some danger. She had found a way to make money for her and her boyfriend, but she didn’t like to talk about it. And she was afraid of her boyfriend, she had told police.
“I have to make a change,” she wrote on Facebook at the end of August. “Love is love & abuse is abuse.”
But she couldn’t stand on her own, she wrote a few days later — he was her “other leg.”
She dreamed of leaving, but without him she feared she was nothing.
* * * * *
As a teenager at City on a Hill charter school, Alicia was known by her classmates and teachers as a “phenomenal sweetheart,” smart and gentle and quick to laugh. She spoke of becoming a lawyer or running a business. She could imagine so many lives.
“Everybody at City on a Hill was going to be something greater,” said Taneajah Bell, who was friends with Alicia her freshman and sophomore years. “I knew she had a purpose. I knew she had a dream.”
But what Taneajah cherished about her friend was Alicia’s quiet wisdom. Taneajah had been badly bullied in middle school, she said, and when she started high school, she still struggled with thoughts of suicide. She didn’t like to talk about it, and Alicia never pried. Instead, she would jump on Taneajah laughing when they saw each other, or whisper to her from her desk: “Pick your head up. You’re good. Smile, smile.”
That was Alicia’s way her whole life, her big, cheerful smile always close, no matter what she was going through.
“She always delivered happiness,” said Alexa Castillo, 21, who knew Alicia later. “Even though she went through a lot of troubles — you couldn’t see it in her.”
Alicia graduated from City on a Hill in 2012, and headed to UMass Lowell to study political science. She got a job at the college bookstore and talked excitedly about her courses. In a video shot for a local newspaper in May 2015, she wore a blue UMass sweat shirt and laughed as she spoke about her anxiety at taking a class taught by the chancellor.
“I was a little scared,” Alicia said, eyebrows raised. “But he’s not intimidating. He’s, you know, someone easy to talk to.” She turned to the camera and grinned, her face expectant, school spirit personified.
But after three and a half years, she came home to Boston without a degree. She offered little in the way of explanation to her friends: She’d had a breakup, she said, and had nowhere to live. Sometimes she talked of returning to school, friends said, but her plans were vague.
At some point, she started dating Robert, friends said, and soon, he was the only thing she was sure of. Robert, whose last name the Globe is not publishing, did not respond to requests for comment.
Alicia’s friends worried about the way she was living.
“You’re going to end up in jail or dead,” one of her friends warned her, the friend said. But Alicia, so independent and stubborn and strong, brushed her off.
“I’ve got this,” Alicia insisted.
In the last years of her life, Alicia stopped talking much about her future at all.
* * * * *
The killings began in early October and continued one after another with a relentlessness that was at once breathtaking and random, until eight people were dead.
Officials say the killings appear unconnected, each burst of bullets the end of a different story. Had the victims not been shot to death so close together, the detectives would still have gathered around their bodies and searched for their killers, their families would still have grieved, their friends would still have lighted candles and written the names of the dead one last time. But the world at large may not have paused. They may simply have disappeared one at a time.
The first to die was Raymond Holloway-Creighton, 26 years old, the proud new father of a baby boy. He was shot once in the torso on Oct. 5, at 3:32 in the morning on Massachusetts Avenue, as he was returning from work, his family said. That evening, 22-year-old Gabriel Rodriguez was shot in the head on Emrose Terrace in Dorchester. A teenager was also shot, but survived.
A day later, 67-year-old Jose Luis Williams died simply because he was the man behind the counter at Fabian Gas Station on Washington Street on Oct. 6, when police say someone apparently showed up to rob it. He was two days shy of his birthday.
Karim Blount, 42, was killed the next day, after an alleged fight with a woman, according to internal police documents obtained by the Globe. He was shot to death at around 2:30 a.m. on Oct. 7 on Mildred Avenue, after the woman had appeared at the Mattapan district police station to file a domestic violence report but then changed her mind. No arrests have been made.
Just before noon on the same day, 26-year-old Terrell White was shot to death on Itasca Street in Mattapan, in what police were investigating as a possible surge of violence related to a gang called Jr. Kaos, according to internal police documents and a person with direct knowledge who was not authorized to speak to the media. A 26-year-old man was arrested. He pleaded not guilty.
For three days, no one died. Then, at 2:08 a.m. on Oct. 11, 19-year-old Marlon Richardson was shot and killed outside his family home on Vinson Street in Dorchester.
The next night, 33-year-old Steven Wilson was shot to death as he sat in a car on Columbia Road. Eight months earlier, according to court documents, Wilson had been suspected of shooting another man to death. On Oct. 12 at 9:31 p.m., Wilson was shot repeatedly in the head and chest. He was dead by the time he made it to the hospital.
Finally, Alicia. Neighbors said that on the night of Oct. 15, her car was parked at the corner of Ditson and Charles streets for about two hours before she was killed. It was an area friends said she did not frequent — certainly not to sit in her car alone at night. In the last three years, the area has seen six other shootings, all nonfatal, including one of another woman, according to police statistics, and 15 other calls for shots fired.
What was she doing there? her friends wondered. Alicia had always hated to be alone.
* * * * *
A little more than a year before she was killed, Alicia appeared on her family’s doorstep at 2 in the morning, screaming in a mixture of Spanish and English that her mother didn’t love her. She pushed her mother, according to police documents describing the Aug. 7, 2017, encounter, and broke the screen door. Alicia was arrested; her mother took out a restraining order.
There were large swaths of her life that Alicia kept hidden, and different friends know different pieces of her story. Alicia’s family declined to be interviewed. But friends said that at some point, Alicia’s relationship with her mother ruptured because her mother could not accept Alicia’s lifestyle, though the friends were not sure exactly what she knew or how she knew it.
Alicia was selling her body, friends said. She had started years ago, before Robert. It was extra cash, fast. Friends said Robert liked the money she was making, the apartment in the Fenway and the car it financed, and she grew more entangled in a life that, by the time she died, she was beginning to see was destroying her.
“He manipulated her,” one friend said. “ ‘I love you,’ this and that. But in reality he loved the money.”
Robert had his own turbulent past. He had served time in the Suffolk County House of Correction after a shooting in 2010, according to court documents, during which he and a friend proclaimed their allegiance to a gang called “Homes Ave” before the friend opened fire on a group of men the pair had lured to a quiet area.
Alicia was deeply in love with him, friends said, and while the pair could seem happy at times, joking and calling each other pet names, they also fought viciously. In October 2017, Alicia was arrested for punching Robert in the head in the Back Bay. She smiled in her booking photo. But she told police she was afraid of him, according to the police report.
Still, she believed in the relationship.
“No one knows what I see:feel when I get sight of him & that feeling right there is perfection in itself,” she wrote on Facebook.
Early this summer, Alicia got pregnant, according to friends. She was scared, one friend said, but she wanted the baby. Suddenly — briefly — she considered truly leaving. She told one friend she would disappear to Florida. Her friend promised to visit.
But Alicia miscarried, her friends said, bleeding and sobbing in her bathtub. She accepted it as God’s way of telling her she wasn’t ready, but she mourned. And she stayed.
* * * * *
Boston police have not yet made any arrests in Alicia’s killing. Her body was cremated, and her family and friends lighted candles and held memorials, sending balloons and murmurs skyward: “Te quiero mucho. Por siempre, por siempre.” “I love you so much. For always, for always.”
What happened to the girl who beatboxed in Saturday school at City on a Hill? Who coached her friends through their breakups, loving and fierce, insistent that they deserved better. Who knew she had made mistakes, and was desperate to fix them. Who wanted so badly to hug her mother again.
Detectives will try to answer the questions left after Alicia’s death, and the deaths of the other seven people killed in October: Raymond, Gabriel, Jose, Karim, Terrell, Marlon, and Steven. They will study the wounds, interview the witnesses, make arrests or fail to make arrests, understand or wonder.
But so much will remain hidden to the outside world.
The path Alicia followed from her City on a Hill graduation, draped in a white gown, to her death on a Dorchester street, is obscured by the secrets she kept and the grief of the people who loved her, who want her to be remembered for the way she smiled and the mother she would have been.
The final gift her friends can give her is to tell her stories kindly: How she always forgave; how sometimes, she called just to ask for a prayer.
If you have information on Alicia’s killing, or any other killing, please call Boston Police homicide detectives at 617-343-4470. Leave an anonymous tip by calling the CrimeStoppers Tip Line at 1-800-494-TIPS, or texting the word “TIP” to CRIME (27463).