Friends of Luciano Andia say they can’t understand why someone would hurt the 72-year-old grandfather who worked two jobs to provide for his family.
Andia, who lived on Wellington Ridge Loop in Cary, was found dead on May 9 near the Dollar Tree in Cary where he worked part-time. On May 10, Cary police arrested Dwight Anthony Blount, a 53-year-old ex-convict, for Andia’s death.
Blount is charged with first-degree murder for what investigators believe was an attempted robbery, said Wake County Assistant District Attorney Howard Cummings. Blount likely didn’t know Andia, Cummings said.
Meanwhile, Andia’s friends are struggling to cope with the loss of someone they described as warm and kind. Andia also worked at the American Sexual Health Association (ASHA) fielding phone calls from people needing resources and information.
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Coworkers launched an online fundraiser at www.gofundme.com/luciano to help Andia’s wife and two adult children pay for his funeral costs.
“He was just the greatest guy. He was so personable,” said Fred Wyand, communications director at ASHA.
Donors had given more than $7,700 by Thursday. Many of the donations came from customers and co-workers Andia knew from Dollar Tree, said Zoltan Borsodi, an ASHA employee who set up the fundraiser.
“Maybe 60 percent (of donations) are from Dollar Tree customers,” Borsodi said on Wednesday.
Andia “was always smiling, always happy,” when Borsodi saw him at the office most weekdays. He’s not surprised Dollar Tree customers found Andia endearing, as he did.
“They liked his attitude. He helped everybody around,” he said of the comments left of the fundraiser page.
Still, the fundraising effort has surpassed his expectations, Borsodi said.
At ASHA, Andia, who had a Ph.D in chemistry, helped the nonprofit raise awareness about sexual diseases and healthy sexual practices.
Phone agents often speak with strangers about sensitive subjects, Wyand said. That’s why ASHA seeks to hire “caring, empathetic people like (Andia),” he said.
“He was so good about connecting with people,” Wyand said. “He was just all about making their life better.”
First homicide of year
Andia’s death is the first homicide in Cary of the year. Of the town’s 15 murders since 2005, it’s the second one to be considered random where the suspect and victim didn’t know one another, according to Cary Police Chief Pat Bazemore.
The other seemingly random murder occurred last year when 58-year-old Wendy Jean Johnson was shot and killed outside her Cary apartment. Police charged Cary resident Daniel Scott Remington with murder after he confessed to killing Johnson in an attempt to rob her, according to a search warrant.
In seven of the 15 murder cases, the suspect and victim were family members. Three of the cases were drug-related. Two of the cases remain unsolved. And in one case, the suspect and victim knew each other but weren’t related.
While Cary police arrested Blount relatively quickly – shortly after 11 p.m. on Sunday at his home – they have declined to provide details of the investigation, referring questions to the Wake County District Attorney’s Office. Cummings declined to provide additional details because he said the investigation is ongoing.
This is the second time Blount, of 870 Buckingham Court in Cary, has been accused of murder.
Blount served almost 12 years in prison for second-degree murder when he lived in Durham in 1992. He was convicted in 1994 of bludgeoning a neighbor to death near his apartment on Fargo Street in March 1992 and was paroled from prison in 2005, state records show.
A 911 caller found Andia inside his Toyota Corolla, which was parked in a shopping center parking lot at the corner of High House Road and N.C. 55. The caller dialed 911 at about 7 a.m. that Saturday morning.
“He is laying out here in his car dead with his trunk open and some holes through the window,” the woman caller, whose name was not released, told the 911 dispatcher.
The woman who called 911 told the dispatcher that an adjacent Ford Explorer that also had holes in the windows.
Andia’s body was transported to the State Medical Examiner’s Office for an autopsy, police said.
Andia’s neighbors, like Natalia Semushkina, said they can’t believe something so horrible would happen to someone so nice.
She said Andia often left his condo early in the mornings to take his young granddaughter to school.
“He does not have a fancy car. He was not a rich guy. He just wanted to support his family, so I wonder why it’s happened,” Semushkina said. “It’s terrible.”
On holidays, Andia would sometimes bring Semushkina dishes that his wife had made, she said.
“I’ve enjoyed living next to (them) because they’re such a nice family,” Semushkina said.
Semushkina said her last interaction with Andia reflected the type of man he was.
About a week ago, she saw him hobbling through their condo parking lot and asked what was wrong. Andia said his back was hurting him, Semushkina said, and she recommended he see a doctor.
“He said ‘No, I need to take care of my family,’” she said.
Flowers now lay at the desk Andia used to sit at in the ASHA office in Research Triangle Park.
“This is something that we probably cannot ever process in our life,” Borsodi said. “It doesn’t make any sense.”
Wyand noted that Andia left his homeland of Venezuela years ago to escape violence. He can’t believe that Andia’s life ended the way it did in a town known for being safe.
“It’s one of the safest places in the country,” Wyand said. “I was just dumbfounded.”
Ron Gallagher contributed to this story.
Want to help?
Go to www.gofundme.com/luciano. Funeral services have been set for Friday, May 15, at 11 a.m. at St. Michael Archangel Catholic Church, 810 High House Road, Cary.