Suspect in Fort Wayne gas station clerk’s killing to have trial set later this month

Rivera (Courtesy of the Allen County Sheriff's Department)

The man accused to shooting a gas station clerk to death Thanksgiving night and stealing cigarettes will have his murder trial set later this month.

Victor M. Rivera, also known as Victor Esposito, will have a date set for his murder trial at 8:30 a.m. Dec. 20. An automatic plea of not guilty was entered on his behalf.

Answering only “Yes, sir,” to each of Allen Superior Magistrate Samuel Keirns’ questions, the 21-year-old requested a public defender Monday via a closed-circuit appearance on a television monitor from Allen County Jail, where he’s being held without bail on two counts of murder, one court of robbery resulting in serious bodily injury, a Level 2 felony, and an added charge of firearm used in commission of offense.

He requested a public defender.

Rivera, of the 5800 block of Kelso Lane, is a suspect in the Nov. 23 death of Jacob Walerko, 25, at the Meijer gas station on Lima Road. Walerko was pronounced dead inside the station, according to the Allen County Coroner’s Office.

According to a probable cause affidavit filed in Allen Superior Court, Rivera allegedly was seen on video pulling out a sawed-off shotgun and shooting Walerko in the head. Rivera reportedly then jumped over the checkout counter, stole a carton of Newport cigarettes and fled across the Meijer parking lot.

Several witnesses, including his mother, identified Rivera as the man seen in the surveillance photos. One witness reported seeing Rivera earlier yelling and making threats to the gas station workers about coming back and getting even because he did not get a job, the affidavit said. The witness reportedly said the man yelling had a tattoo on his face and positively identified Rivera from a photo array. Other witnesses said they received packets of Newport cigarettes from Rivera, according to the court documents.

When Rivera was taken into custody the day after the killing while walking in a north side trailer park off Washington Center Road, he allegedly had five packs of Newport cigarettes with him, court documents said.

Rivera had been released from prison in April after serving six months of a 2½-year sentence related to the neglect of an infant who suffered a skull fracture. He received days off for time served and for good behavior.

A Go Fund Me campaign to raise $10,000 for Walerko’s funeral expenses was at $11,680 Monday morning. His funeral was Saturday.