Jury issues not guilty verdicts in 2011 Lawrence double murder

·2 min read

Sep. 20—LAWRENCE — A superior court jury acquitted a man charged with setting a Lawrence home on fire and then killing two people as they fled the blaze.

Waldos Rojas, 34, was found not guilty on two charges of murder, arson of a dwelling and illegal possession of a firearm, according to court records.

Rojas' defense attorney said prosecutors lacked forensic evidence.

Also, "there were no eyewitnesses to put him at the scene," said Boston attorney Aviva Jeruchim.

The charges stemmed from a 2011 double murder in Lawrence.

Rojas was accused of the shooting and killing of Daniel Diaz, 29, and Leyda Elizabeth "Eli" Hernandez, 23.

Rojas was on the run for more than 6 years before his 2018 arrest in Pennsylvania.

The state police Violent Fugitive Apprehension Unit, working with U.S. Marshals, tracked Rojas to his residence in Pennsylvania where he was arrested without incident, authorities said.

Both Diaz and Hernandez were shot in the head execution-style about 12:55 a.m. Oct. 17, 2011, becoming the city's seventh and eighth murder victims of that year.

Immediately after the murders, investigators were trying to determine if accelerant was tossed at the house. A lone gunman was suspected of the killings.

Hernandez's older brother, Dency Felix, who was also in the home, survived the blaze. He said he was sleeping on the living room couch when he was awakened by "15 to 20 gunshots," Felix previously told The Eagle-Tribune.

"I threw myself on the floor," said Felix, who then went to check on his 10-year-old daughter.

After making sure she was safe, Felix said he checked his sister's room, but she wasn't there. When he looked outside, Felix saw his mother's burgundy Ford Explorer also on fire.

"A few minutes later, a cop came up to me and broke the news about my sister," said Felix in a 2011 interview.

Despite the not guilty verdicts, Rojas remains in jail. Jeruchim said he has a pending criminal case involving an alleged assault with another inmate. He is being held at the Nashua Street jail in Boston, she said.

Rojas' trial opened on Monday, Sept. 12, in Lawrence Superior Court. The verdicts were handed down on Friday, Sept. 16, just before 3 p.m., according to court records.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney A.J. Camelio.

A spokesperson for District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett's office declined comment for this article.

Judge Janice Howe presided over the trial.

Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill.