10/23/2002

Sniper 'Imitator'? Cops Eye Suspects Motive in NYC Slayings

Larry Celona, Dan Kadison and William Neuman,The New York Post

Police were trying to determine yesterday if a Virginia man nabbed for allegedly shooting two men to death in The Bronx knew his victims or chose them at random - possibly in imitation of the Beltway Sniper.

When cops discovered the suspect, ex-Marine Roberto Mayen, came from Woodbridge, Va., they "notified the sniper task force down in Washington," said Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. He cautioned that there was no known link between Mayen and the Psycho Sniper, who has claimed at least four victims in Virginia.

Mayen's spree came to an end yesterday after he led Maine state troopers on a 20-mile car chase near the Canadian border.

The ex-Marine first caught the attention of cops at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, when he accosted a couple at gunpoint outside a grocery store in Fort Lee, N.J., and stole their silver 2001 Audi, Kelly said.

Mayen drove across the George Washington Bridge and into The Bronx, where he came upon Jos Robles, 35, sitting in his car in the Soundview section at 7:30 p.m., police said.

Kelly said Mayen got out of the Audi and blasted eight shots from a 9 mm handgun at Robles, hitting him several times.

He allegedly got back in the car and drove off, stopping 13 minutes later in front of a building in the Castle Hill section, where Kleber Valencia, 29, was waiting for his wife to pick him up so they could go to a party to celebrate the baptism of their 4-year-old daughter.

Witnesses said Mayen called Valencia over, perhaps to ask directions. After a brief exchange, Valencia turned around and Mayen shot him once in the back before racing off, cops said.

Police kicked off a citywide manhunt for the shooter. But Mayen headed north.

At 5 a.m., he crossed into Canada - but was seen speeding back into the United States two hours later, and was arrested. New York detectives flew to Maine to question Mayen, who had a 9mm gun in his car.

Mayen had apparently driven north recently in a silver Honda, which he ditched in Fort Lee. After fleeing the Bronx shootings he removed the licence plates from the Audi and replaced them with the Virginia plates from the Honda.

Both Robles and Valencia were livery cab drivers, but they did not appear to know each other.

Valencia's wife Zulieka, 27, said she found her husband in the street moments after he was shot and gave him CPR.

"He was hardly breathing but he had a good pulse," she said. "I was telling him to hold on, not to go. He tried to talk to me but he couldn't."

The couple, who had planned to celebrate their second wedding anniversary yesterday, had three children, the 4-year-old, a 9-year-old boy and a 7-month old daughter.

"Hes not going to be there for them," the widow said. "He tried to be the best dad and husband he could be."

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TRAIL OF MAYHEM:

* Woodbridge, Va.: Home of alleged shooter Roberto Mayen

* Fort Lee, N.J.: Mayen ditches 1997 Honda and allegedly steals a 2001 Audi

* The Bronx - Commonwealth Avenue and Westchester Road: Jos Robles shot dead in car. Later, at 2125 Randall Ave.: Kleber Valencia shot dead.

* Houlton, Maine: Mayen arrested

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