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Only Questions Remain for Family and Police 2 Weeks After Killings

June 28, 2005 – Two young men, friends from at least third grade, were shot down on St. Thomas' Veterans Drive on June 15 and two weeks later still no one – other than their killers or killer – has a clue why.
Leon H. Roberts and Tristan A. Charlier grew up together in Jamaica, Queens, N.Y. They had come to St. Thomas to attend a wedding. They were buried last week in graves only 50 yards from each other.
"They made it through the dangerous years, 17, 18, 19," Saman Dashti, Charlier's brother, said, earlier this week. They had learned their lessons, according to Dashti. "Machismo doesn't pay."
Jamaica, Queens is far from worst neighborhood in New York, Dashti says. "It's not exactly upper class, but you could say parts are middle class."
A couple of people were shot around here two months ago, Dashti said. One of them died.
"There's a lot of big buildings here…big apartment buildings." Dashti says, and depending on the season the streets can be filled with people – some looking for trouble. "You have be careful."
But Dashti says because Roberts and Charlier spent their lives negotiating the sometimes violent streets of Jamaica, Queens, they knew their way around.
"They had street smarts." Dashti said. "They wouldn't have been afraid walking around after dark, getting food," which is what they were reportedly doing shortly before they were gunned down.
The fiance of Roberts' cousin Virendra Sukhram, Cindy Custodio, doesn't understand what could have happened that night either, and, she says, neither does Roberts' family.
"They don't understand why this happened." Custodio, who is a graduate of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said.
In her study of crime, Custodio said she learned, "There's always a reason, whether it be sane or insane." But the experience she has been through with Roberts' death has changed her viewpoint.
There are only questions marks so far in the case of Roberts and Charlier.
Sgt. Thomas Hannah said this week the police are urging anyone with information to come forward. The police have some leads, but they need more, Hannah said, suggesting they needed a lot more. The police are frustrated. "We want to bring closure for the family as well as the citizens of the territory," Hannah said. "The more information we can get, the better it will be."
One police insider speculated that part of the problem in getting anyone to talk is the perception in the community that Roberts and Charlier were "bad guys."
But judging from how their friends and family talk about them – couple with the fact that neither one of them had any kind of police record – that is far from accurate.
They were both well-loved and respected.
"Leon was the only one of eight siblings who didn't have any children," Custodio said. "He was uncle to 21 children."
And, she said, his relationship with the children was deep and meaningful. At least one of his sisters relied on him everyday to help him with her children. And he did.
"He would drop everything on a dime to help out." Custodio said. "This is not just idealization about someone who has died. Leon was a really good guy."
In 1999 he pulled two of his nephews out of a burning house – saving them from death Custodio said.
Hundreds of people showed up last week to say their goodbyes to both of the men. Roberts' funeral was Thursday, Charlier's Friday.
"The church was full," Dashti said.
And according to Custodio hundreds of people showed up at the viewings for Roberts and for the funeral.
The Source has received a steady stream of e-mails from friends of the two young men – most expressing deep sorrow and grief at their loss. Some expressing anger and frustration at the lack of answers being provided by the V.I. Police Department.
No one in either of the families has expressed much anger publicly, however, only questions.
"We're a pretty religious family," Dashti said. "We say the part in the Lord's Prayer these days about forgiving us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."
Dashti says he doesn't want to get caught up in obsessing about or hating whoever took his brother's life – though he has his moments of struggling with anger.
But, he says, "Not knowing what occurred – that's what pulls at my heart.
"You can see Leon's grave from Tristan's," Dashti said. "the flowers and all."

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