Mother, Daughter Murdered
at Boca's Town Center Mall (12/14/07)
By Jerome Burdi and Rachael Joyner
|South Florida Sun-Sentinel
A mother and her 8-year-old daughter were robbed and killed in a parking lot of the Town Center at Boca Raton, their bodies found by mall security early Thursday morning in an SUV that was left running, police said.
The bodies of Nancy Bochicchio, 47, and her daughter, Joey Bochicchio-Hauser, 8, were discovered in the south parking lot of Sears. The mall closed at 10 p.m. Wednesday.
Police had sought to beef up security during the holiday season.
"You try to plan the best you can for every situation, but how do you plan for random acts of violence such as this?" Sgt. Jeff Kelly asked. "Not knowing when it's going to strike, especially when the mall's closed."
At their home west of Boca Raton, where the two lived alone, neighbors were shocked and in disbelief.
"Why her? Who would kill a little girl like that," said Sandra Rossi, who went outside at 3 a.m. to find Buttonwood Lake Drive swarmed with police. "I can't believe this happened. I don't feel safe here anymore."
Police think the case could be connected to a carjacking about 7:30 p.m. Aug. 7 in the parking garage at Nordstrom department store in which a 30-year-old shopper and her 2-year-old son were abducted as she was putting her bags in the car. A man appeared with a gun and shoved it to the boy's head, his grandfather said. They then tied the woman.
"They made her go to the bank and had a gun to the baby's head," the boy's grandfather, Raymond Diiulio, said. The robbers took $600 then dropped the mother off, back in the garage.
"She didn't have any money. They brought her back to the garage and left her tied up," he said. "In hindsight now, it's a miracle to have this happen to them."
At St. Jude Catholic School, where Joey was a second-grader, the annual holiday concert Thursday night began on a somber note as about 400 students and their families paused in 60 seconds of silence for Joey and her mom.
"We were hit with a terrible tragedy last night," Principal Deborah Armstrong's voice wavered over the microphone. "We're hurt and we're saddened because we are missing part of our family, but we rejoice because we know that Joey and Nancy are with their maker."
Children were sent home from school with a note explaining what had happened.
"I used to wave to her mother every morning, except this morning," said Sky Mercede, whose daughter Michelle was in Joey's class. "I don't think it has sunk in yet."
At the Town Center mall, mothers with young children, teenagers, couples and senior citizens bustled in and out of the Sears store Thursday evening.
"I'm from New York. Nothing stops me from shopping," said Donna Stein of Great Neck, who was there with her parents, David and Pearl Stein of Delray Beach. "There are always muggings at the mall where I shop on Long Island, so I always try to park in the front."
Emily Green, 19, of Boca Raton, heard about the murders from friends who work at Stir Crazy restaurant at the mall.
"I heard that they couldn't get into work this morning because the police had the parking lot blocked," said Green, who came to shop for some holiday gifts anyway. "It upsets me because maybe it happened because a mother was trying to protect her child and resisted."
Nancy Bochicchio was making the final plans for Joey's eighth birthday party on Sunday, said Hank Matthews, a close friend and neighbor.
"I have birthday and Christmas presents for Joey in my house," said Matthews, holding back tears. "I just can't believe it."
The two were nice to strangers, a refreshing attitude in West Boca, said another neighbor, Karen Levine.
"She was the nicest, nicest little girl," Levine said, getting too choked up to talk.
"She said hello to everybody, everybody knew her," Levine said. "Even if she didn't know them. She was always saying hello to everybody who walked by."
Mall manager Joe Cilia said in a statement that he had given authorities videotapes from closed-circuit cameras.
Police did not say what was used to kill the mother and daughter or give details on what they were doing before they died, but Kelly said they were apparently shopping.
For the holiday season, Boca Raton police enhanced their presence including bicycle patrol in shopping areas and high-visibility marked units, Kelly said.
"On Black Friday weekend, historically one of the busy shopping weekends of the year at the Town Center Mall, there were no reports of auto burglaries, stolen vehicles or robberies," he wrote in an e-mail.
Police have started a "Gone in Four Seconds" initiative in which officers walk through parking lots, speak with shoppers and check parked vehicles for valuables left in plain view.
However, the city is battling an upsurge in crime. Home, business and auto thefts last year were up 4 percent in Boca Raton, records show.
Thieves prefer places such as malls, gated communities and office developments because many people there think they are immune from crime and don't always take proper precautions, police said.
The Town Center mall came into the national spotlight after March 23 when Randi Gorenberg, 52, a mother of two who lived in a $2.2 million home in the Boniello Acres community west of Boca Raton, was last seen leaving the mall at 1:16 p.m. At 1:54 p.m. gunshots were heard and her body was pushed from her Mercedes SUV west of Delray Beach.
Boca Raton Mayor Steven Abrams said shoppers should not jump to conclusions.
"You have to let the investigation take its course," he said. Shoppers should "go about their holiday shopping because the city has a beefed-up police presence at the mall and elsewhere and wants to ensure everyone's safety."
Police are asking anyone with information on this case to call 561-338-1352.
Staff Writer Rhonda J. Miller and Staff Researchers Barbara Hijek and William Lucey contributed to this report.
Jerome Burdi can be reached at email@example.com or 561-243-6531.
Palm Beach Post Staff Writers
Friday, December 14, 2007
BOCA RATON — A suburban Boca Raton woman and her 8-year-old daughter were found dead in their idling car early Thursday, apparently killed during a robbery at the Town Center mall.
Police found Nancy Bochicchio, 47, and Joey Bochicchio-Hauser inside a black 2007 Chrysler Aspen SUV, parked in a merchandise pick-up area on the south side of Sears, after mall security workers saw the occupied car with its engine running in an otherwise empty lot shortly after midnight.
Money had been taken, according to police, who spoke of a possible link to a robbery at the mall in August.
Investigators said they were looking for witnesses and surveillance video from the mall. Police did not say how much money was taken and have not said how the mother and daughter were killed.
At 9 a.m. Thursday, shoppers began to fill the mall, which was crowded throughout the day. Several people strolling out of Sears had no idea two bodies had been found nearby just hours earlier.
But on Buttonwood Lake Drive in the Hidden Lake community, where the mother and daughter had lived in a four-bedroom home for the past seven years, holiday festivities stopped Thursday night.
On most nights, the family's well-tended lawn displayed brightly lit white reindeer, penguins and a plastic Santa Claus.
On Thursday night, the house was dark. A welcome mat greeted visitors below the front door, where red plastic flowers and a shiny gold ribbon were tied to the knob.
Neighbor Mini deQuesada, an emergency room nurse at West Boca Medical Center, said that when she left for her night shift at the hospital, the holiday decorations in Bochicchio's front yard had been dark for two nights.
Not many in the neighborhood knew the family well. A neighbor said Nancy Bochicchio was always with her daughter. Wearing her Catholic school uniform, Joey Bochicchio often played in the front yard.
Her toys were piled high in the garage, so her mother parked the SUV in the driveway. They walked their dog, which resembled the one in the musical Annie, together most mornings, and Nancy was known for her annual garage sales.
Bochicchio, a stock analyst, had run her own business in recent years, according to state records.
Originally from New York, where she had lived in the Bensonhurst area of Brooklyn and on Long Island, she first moved into the house with then-husband Phillip Hauser, daughter Joey and her elderly mother more than seven years ago. The couple were divorced in September 2006.
Bochicchio's mother, who had been placed in a nearby assisted-living center, died on Easter Sunday in 2004. Bochicchio stopped putting up Christmas decorations for two years while she grieved her mother's death.
On Thursday, neighbors mourned the mother and daughter the same way.
One by one, the red, green and white lights twinkling in bushes and trees disappeared as neighbors remembered the family.
"I can't believe it," one neighbor said. "I don't feel like doing anything."
The neighborhood is devastated, said Staci Keller, president of the Hidden Lake Homeowners Association.
"Everybody is in such shock," Keller said. "Our prayers are with their entire family."
At St. Jude Catholic School in Boca Raton, Joey's classmates prepared for their annual Christmas pageant Thursday night. Students wore red Santa hats and filed onto the stage to tell their favorite Christmas memories.
As they faced the audience of more than 200, Principal Debbie Armstrong asked for a moment of silence to remember a mother and her little girl.
"We are going to dedicate the ceremony to Joey, her mother, her family, her friends and to all of those who knew and loved her," she said. "We're hurt. We're saddened. We're missing part of our family. We know Joey and her mother are with Christ."
After Thanksgiving, police had stepped up patrols in public areas and shopping centers, including Town Center, in an effort to combat crime. Police have been using uniformed officers in marked patrol cars, plainclothes officers in unmarked vehicles, bicycle patrol officers and other forms of surveillance.
Police reminded the public to be vigilant while shopping and to report suspicious activity. Anyone with information about the crime is asked to call (561) 338-1352.
The mall offers a shuttle service that starts two hours before the mall opens and ends an hour after it closes. Drivers who don't want to walk to or from the parking lot can call the service at (561) 368-6817.
Why are there no cameras in the
mall parking areas?
The tragic news that a mother and daughter were found dead in their car at Town Center at Boca Raton raises significant concerns about security at the mall parking lots. This is not the first time that questions have arisen as to what is happening in the parking areas at the mall.
In March, 2007, Randi Gorenberg was seen leaving Town Center. She was murdered less than one hour later in Delray Beach. Videotapes showed her exiting the mall but, as there are no cameras in the parking lot, do not show what happened when she entered her car.
In August, 2007, a women and her son were carjacked at gun point from the center and taken to a bank where the woman was forced to withdraw cash from the automatic teller. Police will tell you that being right off an interstate highway allows for easy get-aways and makes the mall a prime target for thieves.
Given this, WHY ARE THERE NO CAMERAS IN THE PARKING LOTS? There are numerous cameras throughout the mall and the parking lots needs to be under video surveillance as well. The mall owners, Simon, should at a minimum take this important step to protect customers. In addition, a complete evaluation needs to be quickly conducted and implemented to combat parking lot crime.
Call Simon at 368-6000 and let
them know that you are concerned. Mall management has cordoned off many
of the best parking spaces for valet and paid parking, forcing many
people to park far from the nearest entrance. Security needs to be stepped
up and not with a temporary band aid of a few more police during the
holiday season. While cameras and better security may not stop all crimes,
it should serve as a deterrent and provide evidence that may assist
in apprehending the perpetrators of these heinous crimes.
I agree with you Lori. I will certainly think twice about going to the mall alone. Like so many others I used to just run in and run out, but now I will wait until a friend can go with me. Valet parking should not be the answer. I want cameras!
Posted by: Linda Reichman | December 14, 2007 8:29 AM
We agree, Lori. We also need to get the Mayor and Chief of Police more involved.
Posted by: Laurie Kramer | December 14, 2007 10:14 AM
A few years back there was someone murdered in the parking garage at Aventura Mall. I think they installed cameras since then. Too late for that victim. I can't understand the lack of surveilance in mall garages. This would be the most likely place for crimes at malls.
Posted by: Worried Shopper | December 14, 2007 10:56 AM
I think cameras are very important, so the police can have idea who dit the violence. I never go shopping at night but when I hear some crime that happened at 1:00 pm I ask myself what shoppers are supposed to do? Be home in a cage? I am sure it is not the right answer, So I think there is not a safe place in Florida anymore. The government need to do something about gun control. I live in a gated community in Boca and last week I heard 3 shots in front of my house. I'm scared and think leaving Florida.
Posted by: HERALDA mOREIRA | December 14, 2007 11:07 AM
For one, there should be camera's outside of every mall. Secondly Mall Security is not around when you need them and they cannot enforce the law. I work in the mall, and when employee's leave late at night they (mall security is around, but are BSing with each other- we need to have police not mall security enforcing the law-when the mall closes.Store employers are not resposible for us once we leave the store-it then comes under mall security.It is vey sad that the world is so unsafe-Never leave a store alone-be aware of your surroundings-If something isnt right-dont try and be brave- Ask for help
Posted by: Rosemarie Tobia | December 14, 2007 11:32 AM
Why are there no police officers working details in the Town Center Mall?? Other malls have officers on details year round. Why is this not the case in Town Center Mall???
Posted by: Sandy slessiong | December 14, 2007 11:47 AM
Lori,Cameras are good to help catch the criminal vermin, but will not detur the criminal or criminals from killing you & your family.Criminals do not fear our laws, or respect human life.There should be at least 50 armed guards at the mall.If I was a woman walking to my car at night,I would have my gun in my hand & ready to use it when some coward criminal approached me.Lori get a gun, and at least you have a chance at defending yourself,unlike this nice mother & child that had no chance against the criminal.
Posted by: Joe Castellano | December 14, 2007 11:51 AM
I agree with you Lori. I usually go to the mall with a friend or my husband, but something can still happen even if your not alone. I am apprehensive about going to the mall now until they do something to increase the security and that includes after the holiday season.
Posted by: Michelle Klein | December 14, 2007 2:05 PM
Calling for cameras in the parking lot, I don't know. That's a slippery slope. Look in England. You now have no privacy, because there are cameras everywhere now. I'm not willing to give up all my privacy to ubiquitious cameras due to a knee-jerk reaction to tragedy. As for gun-control - that doesn't work, we have gun laws out the ears, criminals will get guns anyway. Now, think - had that woman had a gun in her posession, and knew how to use it, perhaps she'd be alive......
Be careful what you wish for. If all of you up here get your way, then only criminals have guns, and there are cameras everywhere recording your every move. Is that the kind of society we want ? We need better enforcement of existing laws, and we as a society need to start taking personal responsibility, and teach our children respect for life and law.
Posted by: Jeff | December 14, 2007 2:40 PM
Lori, I totally agree with you! Cameras need to be in the parking lots. Also, whenever I am at the mall, I see mall security talking on their cell phones at the end of the parking lot. Are they being trained properly? I can only hope so.
Posted by: Jill | December 14, 2007 3:07 PM
Why isn't the Mall parking lot lit with stadium lighting for employee protection. (Like University Commons on Glades Rd) We do not feel safe going to our cars and one Mall Shuttle for all the Mall employees is ridiculous!
Posted by: randi | December 14, 2007 3:09 PM
I hope they torture whoever did this- What a coward to go after 2 innocent lives. Carrying a gun will not make this world better, I beleive we the people need to step up and demand that these sick criminals do not deserve a fair trial or special mental therapy. Instead they deserve a slow painful public death, this would scare off anyone else who is planning a crime like this. Seriously, enough is enough-
Posted by: helen v | December 14, 2007 3:11 PM
In response to the person who sites England and wants to maintain his or her privacy instead of having security cameras... Who needs privacy in a public parking lot? I'd rather have security than privacy when in public! The only person who doesn't want cameras are the people who have to pay for them and the criminals. I won't be going to that mall EVER AGAIN until they install cameras.
Posted by: cathy | December 14, 2007 4:24 PM
It's a shame, the mall is cheap, i work at the Boca Mall and we are only allowed to park in distant specific areas and then expected to walk back to our vechiles late at night, we try not to be alone but sometimes, it happens. The mall offers no escorts at the late hours. It's a shame this all happened to this family. I bought mace today for my key chain, hopefully i won't have to use it.
Posted by: Jen Geiger | December 14, 2007 4:42 PM
This would be all good and make sense.........except for the fact this happened after the mall was closed completely negating the point.
"but how do you plan for random acts of violence such as this?" Sgt. Jeff Kelly asked. "Not knowing when it's going to strike, especially when the mall's closed."
Posted by: Huh? | December 14, 2007 5:19 PM
If your shopping area does not offer protection, STOP GIVING THEM YOUR MONEY!!! If I don't feel safe I don't go. No one will be responsible for you, except you.
Finish your shopping by Thanksgiving Day. You will save a fortune. Shop on-line, yes there are sales on-line. Much better than in the stores.
If the Malls want your business, your money, let them give you safety, if not, keep your money. You don't need them.
If the truth be told, you probably don't need any more stuff anyway! Stay home, stay alive!
Posted by: Taxpayer | December 14, 2007 5:27 PM
Definetly need camera's. I can't imagine a public place so big without them. I was at the mall that night with my family. Simon malls are cheap. Five very rich brothers who don't care about the merchants or their customers, only their pockets. I used to work in a mall of their's in New Jersey, they never cared about anyone. Get the camera's
Posted by: Lenore | December 14, 2007 8:15 PM
I would suggest that someone contact
SIMON and advise them
Posted by: Arie Ganger | December 14, 2007 9:23 PM
This is a frightening situation. A mom and her daughter killed on a holiday shopping trip. Town Center Mall, of all places should be able to afford the parking lot to be lit up like a Christmas tree at all times of the year! Why have these terrible acts of violence not been addressed before this defenseless child and her loving mom were killed in cold blood. Simon the property owner surely makes enough money to beef up security inside and outside the mall. This is a sad, sad time and I am grieving for that poor mom and her daughter.
Posted by: Barbara | December 14, 2007 9:57 PM
The animal that shot Joey and Nancy didn't just shoot them... He shot everyone who loves children and those who respect the lives of others. Joey and Nancy were angels and we were blessed to share time with them.
Posted by: Don Law | December 14, 2007 10:05 PM
Safety is not the issue,We are not letting the law known how we fell about their protections for the people .We only can trust the power of knowledge .I'm honestly and humbly saying we should not have to be scared of one or other.I lost the ultimate .A son ...I'm dissapointed with the system we are alone and paying a very high price for our freedom.
Posted by: renata deiser | December 14, 2007 10:57 PM
Ok, there are cameras in the mall parking lot. The police are looking at them. They are also looking at store footage to put together a timeline of events.
The mall security does a pretty good job and Boca Police Department patrols the area daily.
And a boycott of SIMON mall wouldn't hurt SIMON one bit. It would hurt me and my family, others that work in the mall, and the individual stores at Town Center.
This mall is probably the safest mall in South Florida. Random acts of violence can happen ANYWHERE.
btw, the police have video and a picture of this guy. They will get him.
Posted by: Kelly Koch | December 14, 2007 11:00 PM
Simon had better make immediate changes to their security to make customers stay safe. They need cameras that are monitored in the parking lots snd better lighting. The valets should not have the closest spots to the mall. I am not going to shop there until there are positive changes made. Police should be paid by Simon to patrol. They can pay the overtime like they do in Michigan when cops are needed for extra security. Simon has been noticeably quiet on what they are going to do to protect us. Stop shopping there until they act responsibly toward us, their customers.
I hope they catch this creep soon before he strikes again. Someone knows who this is and hopefully the reward money will convince them to turn him in.
God Bless the family of this woman and little girl.
Posted by: Sandi | December 14, 2007 11:23 PM
When the Palm Beach Sheriffs Office was in charge of the Town Center Mall it was suggested to the owners of the mall to install cameras. The answer was "cost too much money".
Posted by: Audio | December 14, 2007 11:40 PM
the person that committed these cowardly acts must be slowly tortured and i will sign up to do so if there are no takers-
Posted by: ed mallocci | December 15, 2007 12:29 AM
The Simon Company should have the entire mall assessed by a professional security company to obtain the correct installation of security cameras. There is a company based out of Boca Raton called TridentVirtualSolutions.com they provide a full assessment of every security scenario possible. This would be very beneficial to make sure that ALL the vulnerable areas of the mall are covered with security. Hopefully these useless pathetic poor excuse for human kind will be found and removed from harming any other women and children.
Posted by: Mother/Shopper | December 15, 2007 12:38 AM
My wife and daughter are the same ages as Nancy and Joey. The go to the Boca mall all the time. Not any more. With all the recent issues at the mall, it is ridiculous they have no security cameras in the parking lot - I will be personally contacting the Mall manager (Joe Cilia)regarding the lack of security on a property he is responsible for. Forget Simon - doesn't Joe Cilia have a budget for security - he is on the front lines managing a property where a woman was recently abducted and killed - shame on him for not taking the necessary action to protect his customers, our family members and particularly our children. It would be comforting to know the "animal(s)" who did this were in custody. Doubt that will happen since cameras apparently are not in the parking lot. This is precisely why a criminal would target this location - they can get away with it. Looks like this scum will get away with it too. Don't count on this story remaining in the headlines. The City of Boca and the mall will need to bury this story to protect mall revenues - for which the city ultimately collects significant tax dollars. Keep the pressure on - it's the only way we have a chance of returning to a safe mall in this community. Apparently Joe Cilia and/or Simon has not learned from past mistakes. Hopefully, with pressure applied by all of us, they will learn from this mistake. What a horrible tragedy - an eight year old girl going shopping with her mommy. It makes me sick.
Posted by: rich | December 15, 2007 4:29 AM
As a mall employee, the security is awful. They cannot be found when we have to arrive at work, hours before the mall opens up. We have to park on the top parking levels of the garage. The cameras and call boxes do not operate(I am told). It is a creepy feeling to be there alone, sometimes when it is still dark out. I guess something tragic has to happen on the parking deck before security issues are addressed. I spend my hard earn money just as much as the next person and should be allowed to park where I feel safe. I totally agree with Rosemarie.
Posted by: mall employee | December
15, 2007 9:00 AM
A Local man has seven different efforts he is trying to organize for one goal, but he can't do it alone:
1. Making color copies of reward posters and distributing them to local businesses/retail stores
2. Talking to local radio stations.
3. Speaking with Miami Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga to see about the possibility of getting the reward information as well as the suspect's likeness displayed on the Jumbotron at Dolphin Stadium, either at the next home game or other event.
4. Trying to attain the support of Boca Raton mayor Steve Abrahams to have residents and businesses in the Boca Raton area to lower their American flags to half mast.
5. Organizing a fundraiser for the immediate family members of Nancy and Joey Bochiccio.
5. Opening a bank account at Colonial Bank in Boca Raton in the Bochicchio family name.
6. Affixing magnetic reward signs on his car.
7. Converting the reward poster into a mobile sign/billboard that will be pulled around town
If you would like to offer any
assistance in this matter, please feel free to contact him at (954)214
- 1501 or (561)674 - 7599
Friends and families of the victims are doing everything in their power to keep the community aware about the crime.
One of these families is Sky Mercede and family, whose youngest daughter, Michelle, was a friend and classmate of Joey Bochicchio at St. Jude Catholic Church and School. Her father, local businessman Sky Mercede is geared up to do whatever he can to keep the community's attention on the case and bring the killer to justice. He hopes getting the word out to enough people will provide some sort of closure to the surviving members of the Bochicchio family and will hopefully lead to the arrest of the suspect.
"If we get the word out to
enough people, someone will recognize this guy and someone will come
forward and turn him in", Mercede says.
And with a 350-thousand dollar reward now offered for his arrest, they hope for even more leads. If you know anything that may be helpful in this case, you're asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1 (800) 458-TIPS.
Town Center at Boca Raton
We continue to sustain the substantial security presence we have at our property on an ongoing basis to maintain a safe and secure environment for our shoppers and employees. These efforts have been further augmented by the Boca Raton Police Department which is providing security patrols of our property throughout the busy holiday shopping season.
HOLIDAY SAFETY TIPS
1. When parking, lock your car and take your keys with you.
2. Do not leave valuables in plain view in your car. Lock all packages in the trunk.
3. When shopping after dark, ask a friend or family member to accompany you.
4. Park in a well-lit area.
5. Have your keys ready in your hand when leaving the shopping center to return to your car.
6. Look inside and under your car before getting inside. Lock your doors promptly.
7. Keep valuables and money in a pocket or small purse with a strap that can be worn across your body.
8. Keep your purse closed and secured. Do not put it down anywhere.
9. Be discreet when paying for merchandise if you are carrying a large sum of cash.
10. Stay alert to what is happening around you. If you notice anything that appears suspicious, report it immediately to mall security or a store employee.
-- Joe Cilia
By KEVIN DEUTSCH and MICHAEL LaFORGIA
Palm Beach Post Staff Writers
Saturday, December 15, 2007
BOCA RATON — A woman and her young daughter found sprawled in an idling SUV outside the Town Center mall early Thursday were bound and shot to death, police said Friday.
The gunman fired from point-blank range, according to a source close to the investigation.
The killer remains at large, but police suspect he is the same man who carjacked and kidnapped a woman and her son at gunpoint in a Town Center mall parking garage this summer.
Boca Raton officials are offering $350,000 - likely the largest bounty in state history - for information in the case, which began just after midnight Wednesday with a macabre discovery.
Security guards patrolling the empty parking lots at 6000 W. Glades Road found the bodies of Nancy Bochicchio, 47, and Joey Bochicchio-Hauser, 8, in a black 2007 Chrysler Aspen parked in the mall lot. More than 16 hours passed before police, who initially termed the find a "suspicious death," announced they were homicide victims.
Boca Raton Mayor Steven Abrams said Friday that police should have released the information sooner.
"I believe the police department should have provided more details," Abrams said.
Police believe the double-homicide is linked to an Aug. 7 carjacking and kidnapping at Town Center, in which a man held up a 30-year-old woman and her 2-year-old son at gunpoint in the Nordstrom parking garage about 6:30 p.m. In that incident, the robber held a gun to the toddler's head and made the woman withdraw $600 from an area bank before taking her back to the parking garage, according to a relative of the boy.
"It was pretty scary," the relative said. "Now, she's terrified all over again. We don't want this guy going and looking for her. This guy's still roaming around. To her, it was a pretty scary thing. It was surreal. She just wants them to catch the (expletive)."
A composite sketch released Friday by police was based on the woman's description of the carjacker in the Aug. 7 robbery and kidnapping.
Police spokesman Sgt. Jeff Kelly said chances are "very good" the gunman in that crime killed the mother and daughter during the "late afternoon or evening Wednesday."
"The (forensic) evidence they found from the first scene is similar to evidence found at the second scene," Kelly said.
The "person of interest" in the killings is described as a white or Hispanic man, 18 to 25 years old. He stands between 5-feet-10 and 6 feet, has a medium build and could have a ponytail. The composite shows him wearing dark sunglasses and a drawstring hat.
After this week's slayings, police increased after-hours patrols at the Town Center mall.
As investigators continued to track leads Friday, some wary shoppers posted notes on Internet message boards calling on patrons to boycott the Town Center mall during the holiday season. Some patrons are angry that police did not publicly state that the people found dead had presumably been killed - and that they were a mother and young daughter - until more than 16 hours after the bodies were discovered.
Police did not immediately say the Bochicchios were homicide victims because they were trying to notify the woman's ex-husband of the deaths, as well as investigate whether he had any involvement in the crime, Abrams said.
He has been eliminated as a suspect, Abrams said.
"The police have only the best motivations," Abrams said. "Their motivation is a desire to solve the case."
Abrams said the mall also has increased its security presence. He said he has visited the mall since the killings and will continue to shop there.
"The police presence is very apparent," he said. "We have patrol cars in every quadrant. We have patrol cars driving the circumference road there."
Still, some shoppers were uneasy.
Gloria Lozano Figueroa, 38, whose daughter attended St. Jude Catholic School with Joey Bochicchio-Hauser, said police should have been more vocal about vigilance at the mall after the August incident.
"Who are we trying to protect? The Boca mall sales? And at what cost?" said Figueroa, who regularly shops at the mall but now says she will stop until security is improved and authorities disclose more information about crimes on mall property.
"I can assure you that had I known about earlier robbery incidents, I would not have taken my kids trick-or-treating there," she said.
Kelly, the police spokesman, said his department responded to the killings properly.
"People are used to what they see on CSI," Kelly said. "In real life, it's much different. We have to be very exacting and deliberate.
"There's nothing worse than putting out information and then having it proven wrong. You can't do that in this line of work. You have to go with the facts that you find and investigate because there are no witnesses."
Kelly said shoppers should feel confident that officers patrol the area around the Town Center mall 24 hours a day.
"Who can predict to an exact science where a tragedy's going to happen?" Kelly said. "You can't." He said people should be vigilant wherever they go, not just the mall.
"You always have to think safety," Kelly said. "You always have to be aware of your surroundings. That's the society we're living in today."
Both shoppers and mall employees were oblivious to Wednesday's killings when they occurred.
Caryn Brown, a clerk at the Hallmark gift store, two stores down from the Sears entrance inside the mall, said she was working until 10 p.m. Wednesday but heard nothing about the deaths until Friday morning.
"They say it was a robbery, but if it was a robbery, then why didn't they target older, wealthy women who walk to their car by themselves?" she said. "I think that it was a direct assault on these people because robbers wouldn't kill a kid for the heck of it. ... The whole thing doesn't make sense."
Stacey Comora, 23, a Florida State University student on winter break, said the killings changed her perception about shopping at the mall.
"This morning, when my mom
found out I was coming to this mall, she said, 'Listen, you have to
be very careful,' and to park where there's valet," Comora said.
"I just never thought this would happen here. I mean, this is Boca.
These things aren't supposed to happen here."
By JEFF OSTROWSKI
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 15, 2007
BOCA RATON — The slayings of a mother and daughter this week at Town Center at Boca Raton made Ailyn Pardo think twice before taking her own daughter to the popular shopping mall.
Although Pardo decided to take 5-year-old Fabiola to Town Center late Friday afternoon, she made a point to park near one of the entrances. And she planned to leave before dark. "You've got to be careful," she said.
The double shooting at Town Center shone a light on an uncomfortable truth about American commerce: Mall parking lots are dangerous places, a fact mall owners would rather not advertise to their customers.
Town Center General Manager Joe Cilia on Thursday called the killings "isolated," but Boca Raton police said they were investigating similarities between the latest attack and an August carjacking in which a woman and her young son were kidnapped at gunpoint in a parking garage at Town Center.
Mall parking lots draw criminals for obvious reasons. Thieves are likely to find female shoppers who are burdened with bags and fumbling for keys, and perhaps talking on cellphones. And the plentiful exits and proximity to major highways provide easy escape routes.
"The most dangerous place in malls for years has been the parking lots," said Erik Gordon, a retail expert and professor at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J. "These are just very, very hard areas to guard."
Gordon and others say shoppers must beware of the potential hazards in parking lots, but they also note it's not in malls owners' best interests to stoke fear.
"It's hard from a marketing point of view to make the biggest change, which is for shoppers to be alert," Gordon said. "That requires the malls to say, 'Our parking lots are dangerous.' "
The news of this week's slayings reminded shoppers of that point. Alejandra Montano of Coral Springs shopped at Town Center on Friday, and she planned to be vigilant when she left.
"I also know to be very careful, always alert, aware of my surroundings," Montano said. "When I head toward my car, I always keep my keys in my hand so I can get into my car right away."
That's not the sort of attitude a chic mall like Town Center normally would create, but it's wise for shoppers to take their security into their own hands, say mall managers and security experts.
Malachy Kavanagh, spokesman for the International Council of Shopping Centers, acknowledged that mall parking lots can be a magnet for robbers and carjackers.
"It's like Willie Sutton said: 'Why do I rob banks? That's where the money is,' " Kavanagh said. "During this time of year, a lot of people are going to shopping centers. They're preoccupied with shopping and carrying bags, and it does attract criminals."
That reality runs counter to the feeling of safety created by high-end malls such as Town Center, whose top-shelf tenants include Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, Cartier, Montblanc and Tiffany & Co.
Christina Almeida, manager of Blue Fish Activewear at Town Center, said there's a fine line between being careful and being paranoid. As Almeida was leaving the mall Thursday night, a shopper warned her, "Don't leave alone." And one of her employees was afraid to come to work.
"If you tell everybody that it (crime) happens, it's going to be a mess," Almeida said.
Town Center officials wouldn't offer details on what security measures they've taken since the killings, but numerous security guards and Boca Raton police officers were walking through the mall and patrolling the parking lot Friday.
Town Center is owned by Simon Property Group, which also owns Boynton Beach Mall, Palm Beach Mall and Treasure Coast Square.
Officials at The Mall at Wellington Green, owned by the Taubman Co., and The Gardens Mall, owned by The Forbes Co., say they have done nothing different since the Town Center slayings, but they stressed that security is always atop their minds.
At Wellington Green, there are call boxes in the parking lot, and General Manager Dorian Zimmer said mall employees urge shoppers to ask security guards to escort them to their cars if they feel uncomfortable.
"It's something we think about all the time," Zimmer said. "You always have to stay on top of security."
Gary Frechette, security director at The Gardens, said the mall always steps up security from early November through early January.
Retail experts say there's little reason to think the killings at Town Center will hurt sales at a time when the economy is suffering jitters. On Friday evening, Town Center's parking lot was packed, and stores bustled with shoppers.
"I don't think it's going
to have as much of an effect as general fears about job security and
mortgage resets," said Gordon, the retail expert. "People
will be shocked and scared for a day or two. But people get over these
things very quickly."
By DIANNA SMITH, SUSAN R. MILLER and WILL VASH
Palm Beach Post Staff Writers
Saturday, December 15, 2007
BOCA RATON — Joey almost lived to see her ninth birthday.
Twenty friends and a disc jockey were expected to be at Boca Raton's swanky Café D'Angelo restaurant this afternoon, where a family friend was going to dress as Santa Claus and surprise Joey Bochicchio-Hauser with fun birthday gifts.
Her mother planned every detail, dedicating herself to it just as she did with everything else in her daughter's life - ballet classes, golf lessons, her class at St. Jude Catholic School.
Nancy Bochicchio lived for her daughter, her friends say.
This week, they died together.
Their bodies were found early Thursday in Nancy Bochicchio's black 2007 Chrysler Aspen SUV parked in a merchandise pickup area on the south side of Sears at the Town Center mall. Police say they were killed during a robbery.
Bochicchio called her friend David Stewart on Wednesday to ask what he wanted for Christmas. Stewart, of Boca Raton, lured Nancy to Florida from New York many years ago with a finance job she couldn't resist. The two had known each other for 24 years.
Bochicchio, who worked as a stock analyst, told Stewart she was Christmas shopping and planned to stop at the mall.
"What do you want?" she asked.
"I said, 'I don't want anything,' " said Stewart, who added that Bochicchio loved to buy presents. "But I guarantee she walked out of the mall with 50 bags that night."
When Stewart tried to call her on her cellphone later Thursday, he said a man answered the phone in Spanish but hung up after hearing Stewart's voice. On Friday, the phone went straight to voice mail, with Bochicchio's voice promising to call you back.
She was feisty, Stewart said, calling her "one tough girl from the Bronx."
"I guarantee you she told those guys she'd kill them," he said, referring to the killer.
Bochicchio would've done anything to protect her daughter, said a longtime family friend in New York named Lauren.
"She was a good spirit, she would help anyone," Lauren said. "She always saw the best in a person, and she did an incredible job parenting her daughter. They were the best of friends."
Friends say Joey hadn't seen her father - Phillip Hauser - in a few years, but he had recently contacted Joey and her mother. Stewart said Bochicchio talked about love letters he mailed this year from New York and she was considering reuniting with him. The two divorced in 2006.
She expected to see him after the holidays.
"She was happy to hear he wanted to be a part of their lives," Lauren said.
Timmy McCurdy, an investor at Café D'Angelo, met Bochicchio not long after Joey was born. McCurdy is also from New York and the two had mutual friends, so Nancy and her family would eat at whatever restaurant McCurdy was working at the time.
McCurdy, who planned to dress as Santa today, still has the suit in his car. He last talked to Bochicchio on Tuesday, when she called to remind him of the party.
"The last thing she told me was, 'Timmy I love you,' " McCurdy said.
McCurdy said Joey acted much older than other 8-year-olds. She was mature, smart and didn't eat the typical hamburger and French fries meal. She liked clams, oysters and mussels, and every year, Joey made sure to give McCurdy her school picture. The most recent one sits behind the bar in Café D'Angelo, where Joey's big smile reveals a missing front tooth.
At St. Jude Catholic School on Friday, classmates and parents created a memorial in front of the school, at the base of a small statue of St. Francis of Assisi.
Principal Debbie Armstrong said that members of the Catholic Diocese's crisis intervention team were at the school to help. She talked with Joey's second-grade classmates on Friday.
"That was a little difficult for me," Armstrong said. "It's been a tough day for all of us."
Armstrong said Joey had a lot of "New York" in her. She once showed up to class with a do rag on her head and Armstrong had to explain to her it wasn't appropriate for school.
"She had a tremendous sense of humor," Armstrong said.
News of the deaths overshadowed the school's annual Christmas concert Thursday night, where Joey would have sung Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman with her classmates. A minute of silence was observed before the festivities began.
Hank Matthews, who lives near the Bochicchios in the Hidden Lake Community of Boca Chase, planned to be at Joey's birthday party today.
Joey's dog, Lindsay, often played with Matthews' dog, and it was during these play dates that Matthews got to know his neighbors.
Joey was especially close to her grandmother, friends said.
After her grandmother died in 2004, Joey invited Matthews to a birthday party for her grandmother, and he said he was puzzled because he knew the grandmother was gone.
But Joey told him if she continued
to celebrate her grandmother's birthday every year, "my grandmother
will know I still love her," she said.
By Stephanie Horvath, Jaclyn Giovis
and Lisa J. Huriash |South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Don't linger. Watch for suspicious people. Stay alert.
Days before Christmas, shoppers were paying closer attention to those safety rules after a woman and her young daughter were found bound and shot to death in a Town Center at Boca Raton parking lot early Thursday.
And they weren't the only ones being more vigilant. In the wake of the killings, some law enforcement agencies and mall management companies ramped up their efforts to help customers feel secure during the busiest shopping season of the year.
But while people were shocked by the double homicide at what's regarded by many as a safe and affluent mall, it wasn't going to change their holiday shopping agendas.
"We're not scared to go out," said Philip Williams, who was at the Mall at Wellington Green on Friday with his sons, Anthony and Wyatt, to take a photo with Santa. "Just keep my eyes open. Don't take for granted this peaceful place we've gotten used to around here."
That peace was shattered Thursday morning when Nancy Bochicchio and her 7-year-old daughter, Joey, were found dead in their SUV, the engine still idling.
Most malls already had increased security for the holiday season. But the killings prompted even more. The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office sent a mounted patrol and a canine unit to the Mall at Wellington Green to assist uniformed and plainclothes officers who normally patrol there.
At the Town Center mall, about a half-dozen police cars and several security cars dotted the parking lot. Boca Raton police said more officers were patrolling Town Center and other shopping plazas.
"It's the holiday season. Since this horrible crime happened we want people to feel they can safely go shopping," said Boca Raton Officer Sandra Boonenberg.
Malls and stores also were trying to make their customers feel safe. Retailers don't need fear to slow down what was already predicted to be the worst holiday shopping season in five years. The deaths have prompted Pembroke Lakes Mall to consider additional off-duty police officers, general manager Jim Ralston said. The mall has already increased its outdoor lighting and installed a security camera system that monitors parking lots and common areas.
Area mall managers said foot traffic at the malls is better than expected, and they're hopeful that the tragedies at Town Center won't keep people from doing their last-minute holiday shopping.
"I would hope that this is an isolated incident," said Melissa Milroy, marketing manager at The Galleria mall in Fort Lauderdale. "I would hope that it doesn't discourage people from going out."
But the news of the homicides likely will hurt the Town Center this shopping season.
"I guarantee that this story of a woman and her daughter found dead in their car is going to impact sales," said Chris McGoey, a national security and crime prevention expert.
Still, shoppers continued to hit the stores at most area malls Friday with few reservations.
"I've got other stuff on my mind," said Genevieve McBryan, at the Sawgrass Mills mall in Sunrise. "I don't think any one incident is going to stop me from coming to the mall. I'm not going to hide in my house."
Others said they already take routine precautions, like being aware of their surroundings, not carrying too much cash or valuables and not being distracted while walking to their cars. As Ukeylla Christian walked into Sawgrass Mills on Friday, she talked about how she'd fight a purse snatcher for her Louis Vuitton handbag.
"The economy is bad and people are desperate at this time," said the Pembroke Pines resident, who only shops during the day. "It makes me more cautious."
This week's killings certainly weren't the first time violence has touched local shoppers.
In March, Randi Gorenberg was last seen on a security camera, leaving the Town Center mall 38 minutes before gunshots were heard and her body was pushed out of her SUV west of Delray Beach. Her killing remains unsolved.
Last Christmas Eve, a gang fight led to gunfire at the Boynton Beach Mall, killing one man and sending customers diving for cover.
In 2004, a Hialeah couple were found dead inside their running pickup truck in front of a Pembroke Pines Target.
For Susan Edwards, news of the double homicide hit particularly close to home. The Parkland resident was a victim in 2000 of the infamous "Rolex Bandit" who robbed more than 40 women at Boca Raton shopping centers, including Town Center, threatening to shoot them if they didn't give up their jewelry.
After the robbery, Edwards and a handful of other victims walked the parking lot and handed out fliers to warn shoppers. She said officials with Simon Property Group, which manages the mall, responded to her request for more security by distributing vouchers for valet parking to her and several other victims. She still thinks the mall's security is woefully inadequate.
"It's only money that is going to make them change their ways," Edwards said. "People are not going to stop shopping there. Within three months it will all be forgotten."
Retail security experts say shoppers often can prevent incidents by being more alert. Carjackers strike when shoppers aren't paying attention to their surroundings or talking on their cell phone. And often, a carjacker will strike just before a person enters or exits their vehicle, McGoey said, noting that 98 percent of the time the victim doesn't see the perpetrator.
"Be alert," McGoey said. "It's like going to the jungle. You've got to pay attention to what's around you."
Shoppers should visualize a 25-foot circle around them at all times, and pay attention to who comes into the circle, said Gary Frechette, director of security at The Gardens mall in Palm Beach Gardens. If someone or something looks suspicious, shoppers should avoid walking into the situation.
"There's no need to be paranoid or scared, but you do need to be aware," he said. Simon officials declined to comment, aside from a written statement by Joe Cilia, the Town Center mall manager, promising beefed-up security.
"We will also sustain the substantial security presence we have at our property on an ongoing basis to maintain a safe and secure environment for our shoppers and employees," Cilia wrote.
Staff Writers Nancy L. Othón and Rachael Joyner and Staff Researchers Barbara Hijek and William Lucey contributed to this report.
Stephanie Horvath can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 561-243-6643.
By Marc Freeman, Luis F. Perez
and Rachael Joyner |South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Boca Raton - A day after a single mom and her young daughter were found shot to death in a mall parking lot, a shaken city offered a $350,000 reward but officials also criticized police handling of information surrounding a previous attack that may be linked to the crime.
The deaths of Nancy Bochicchio, 47, and Joey Noel Bochicchio-Hauser, 7 — discovered tied up and shot in their idling SUV early Thursday morning at Town Center at Boca Raton — broke the peace of the holiday season and thrust the victim's church and school into mourning.
Mayor Steven Abrams on Friday announced the reward to assist Boca Raton and other law enforcement agencies in solving "this appalling crime." Authorities added police patrols at the mall and released a sketch of a suspect: a man between 18 and 25, close to 6 feet tall, wearing a hat and possibly with a ponytail.
At the same time, the mayor raised questions about how police publicized an Aug. 7 carjacking in the parking garage near Nordstrom department store at Town Center — an incident that police on Thursday said may be connected to the Bochicchio slayings.
In the August case, a 30-year-old shopper and her 2-year-old son claimed they were abducted at gunpoint, tied up and robbed at 6:34 p.m. as she was putting bags in her vehicle.
The following day, the police issued a one-paragraph news release saying detectives were investigating an "alleged armed robbery that was reported to have occurred" at the mall. Local newspapers did not report it.
"In retrospect, the Police Department should have provided more detail," Abrams said. "But police would tell you the more detail you provide, the more difficult it is to solve the case."
Police Chief Dan Alexander could not be reached for comment, despite attempts through the mayor's office and by phone through the Police Department.
The mayor said the Bochicchio shootings spurred police to take a second look at the unsolved Aug. 7 case.
Other city officials echoed the mayor's sentiment.
"The public should be made aware of incidents that occur in our community so that they take the proper safety precautions," said Councilman Peter Baronoff.
A businessman said he is raising money for another reward.
"If we all work together as a community, we can help the police help us," said Fred DeFalco, who said he already has commitments of $10,000 with hopes to raise $100,000 by Christmas Eve.
Gigi Copa of Deerfield Beach said she was in the mall Aug. 7 and saw police respond to the carjacking report. Copa recalls being stunned when she couldn't find a mention of it in the newspapers or on TV.
"I thought they didn't want a bad reputation for a Boca mall," Copa said. "I'm so aggravated now."
In the homicide investigation, police are following leads throughout the state and are working with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, U.S. Marshals, the FBI and the Palm Beach County and Broward Sheriff's offices.
Mall security discovered the victims in their black Chrysler Aspen in the south parking lot of Sears. The mall closed at 10 p.m. Wednesday; the bodies were found after midnight.
"It's very, very haunting," said Cathy Strauss, a neighbor of the Bochicchios who also works at Town Center. "As I drive on my street where they lived, the holiday decorations, left dark on their lawn, are too real, too heartbreaking, not to feel pain, a void and anger. I have to question how this could have happened."
The victims lived in a two-story home on Buttonwood Lake Drive in one of the Boca Chase neighborhoods west of Boca Raton. Nancy Bochicchio, a self-employed business owner originally from New York, divorced her husband, Phillip Hauser, in December 2006 — three years after the couple separated, according to court records.
Hauser, who has a Tobyhanna, Pa., address, lost all parental rights and had not visited his daughter since the separation, according to court records. Hauser could not be reached for comment, despite attempts by phone.
Staff Writers Nancy L. Othón and Matthew Strozier contributed to this report.
Marc Freeman can be reached at email@example.com or 561-243-6642.