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Stab victim left a trail of violence behind him.

Byline: Matthew Bruun

FITCHBURG - The man stabbed to death Tuesday night on a damp city street was no stranger to violence.

Israel Rodriguez Jr., 35, of 10 Winthrop St., was bleeding from multiple stab wounds when police received a 911 call just before 9 p.m. Mr. Rodriguez was on Second Street, near Water Street, where police found that all four tires on his black Ford Expedition had been flattened.

There were unconfirmed reports yesterday that Mr. Rodriguez was attacked after he was forced to stop and his tires were slashed.

There had been no arrests in the case as of late yesterday, and police had not identified any suspects or a motive for the attack, other than saying it did not appear to be random.

"There's no reason for police to believe any kind of stranger incident occurred here," Sgt. Glenn C. Fossa said yesterday. "We are looking at the social circles of Mr. Rodriguez."

Mr. Rodriguez had a record involving violent crime, but his cousin said in an interview yesterday that his troubled past was behind him.

"He was very quiet," Cesar Valentin said from his home on Winthrop Street. Mr. Valentin said he did not know why anyone would harm his cousin and suggested he may have been the victim of mistaken identity.

"He wasn't worried about anything," Mr. Valentin said. "Usually you can tell."

He also said he did not believe Mr. Rodriguez, who lived with him, was involved in criminal activity.

"I don't like problems," Mr. Valentin said. "If he sold drugs, he wouldn't be (living) here."

State and local police scoured the streets around the crime scene Tuesday night, cordoning off Second Street between Water Street (as Route 12 is locally known) and Water Street Lane. The Fire Department brought auxiliary lighting to the scene as detectives assigned to Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr.'s office joined Fitchburg investigators.

A police dog also was used and a representative from the medical examiner's office was called in. Sgt. Fossa said an autopsy was to be conducted yesterday.

In February 1997, Mr. Rodriguez was sentenced to 5 to 7 years in state prison, after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit murder.

He had been charged with murder in connection with the April 15, 1995, stabbing and beating death of 36-year-old Heriberto Torres.

Mr. Torres suffered 20 stab wounds and facial injuries after being chased outside a Water Street bar around 1:30 a.m. Mr. Torres had been chased from the bar to the corner of Third and Middle streets, where he was found on the ground with stab wounds. He also had been beaten with a stick and kicked repeatedly.

Mr. Rodriguez was fatally attacked one street away from where the 1995 crime occurred.

The murder charge against Mr. Rodriguez, who lived on Water Street when he was arrested in January 1996, was dismissed the day he pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge.

Also charged in Mr. Torres' killing was Andre Rosado, who also received a 5- to 7-year sentence for conspiracy to commit murder.

In 1998, Mr. Rodriguez, accompanied by correction officers, took the witness stand during a civil trial in U.S. District Court in Worcester involving a suit brought against members of the Fitchburg Police Department accused of violating the civil rights of a group of young men arrested in front of 110 Green St. in October 1993.

A jury acquitted the police in that case.

In 1993, Mr. Rodriguez was treated for a gunshot wound to the elbow. He told police he had been at a party when an argument broke out and shots were fired.

Mr. Valentin, the victim's cousin, said Mr. Rodriguez had kept his nose clean since getting out of prison.

Mr. Rodriguez collected Social Security income for a disability and did not work, Mr. Valentin said.

He said he was close to his cousin and was confident he would have told him if he was involved in any dangerous activity.

He said Mr. Rodriguez's troubled past did not reflect the man who shared his home for the past 18 months.

"That died out years ago," he said.

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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Feb 7, 2008
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