Moved by the horror that has swept this city, hundreds of residents and businesses are raising money for the family of Juan Delgado, the 12-year-old boy who was killed, dismembered and encased in concrete.
As of Friday, more than $1,600 had been raised for the Juan Delgado Memorial Fund, set up by police at California State Bank in La Habra. Students at Washington Middle School, where Juan was a sixth-grader, are inviting the public to help the effort by participating in a carwash on campus April 4.
"This is such a terrible thing that we all just want to do something to help [the boy's family] cope with the grief," said Cher Abellano, who has been collecting money from a number of Whittier businesses for the family. "Everybody is so disturbed that we just want to help."
John Samuel Ghobrial, a one-handed drifter known around town as a panhandler who dished out candy to children, has been charged with Juan's murder.
Ghobrial's immigration attorney, Joseph Rose, said his client fled Egypt after Muslim extremists pushed him from a train in 1991, severing his left arm. Ghobrial arrived in the United States through Mexico in March 1996 and was granted asylum.
Rose said Ghobrial, an Egyptian Coptic Christian, was being pressured by the Muslim extremists--fellow army men--to convert to their religion. "He was harassed, and when he refused to convert, they threw him off the train," Rose said.
He added that he was stunned to find out that Ghobrial is the main suspect in the Juan Delgado murder. Ghobrial "was always a very gentle, very simple person," Rose said. "I have absolutely no idea how a man with only one arm could do such a thing."
Police say Ghobrial most likely killed the boy alone.
The investigation is ongoing, however. Officers this week combed through trash--picked up from Ghobrial's neighborhood--in search of the victim's missing pelvis, but found nothing.